Port Nikiski is the center of the Cook Inlet oil industry and offers a complete range of services for its residents and visitors. Port Nikiski is also the portal to the Captain Cook State Recreational area, and it is at the western end of the Swanson River Canoe Route that moves for 80 miles through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Port Nikiski enjoys a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. Temperatures range from an average high of about 13°C (55°F) in July/August to an average low of about -10°C (13°F) in December/January. Most of Port Nikiski's 24 inches of precipitation comes from September through December. Humidity ranges from above 80% in August to about 66% in May.
The Kenai Peninsula is known as "Alaska's Playground," and lovers of the outdoors will find many opportunities for fun. Water sports like kayaking and canoeing, rafting, and short cruises offer tremendous views of glaciers and local wildlife. There are also plenty of chances for lovers of camping, hiking, biking, horseback riding, golfing, and sightseeing by air.
About 20 kilometers (13 miles) northeast of Port Nikiski, the Captain Cook State Recreation Area covers about 3,460 acres that run along the Kenai Spur Highway 6. Named for Captain James Cook, who explored what is now Cook Inlet in 1778, this relatively uncrowded recreation area contains beaches at Cook Inlet, lakes and rivers, and forests. From Cook Inlet shores, visitors can get magnificent views of the Alaska Range volcanoes. The mouth of the Swanson River at Cook Inlet is rich with rainbow trout and red and silver salmon that attract many anglers.
The Captain Cook State Recreation area offers many things to do. During the summer, canoeing and boating are popular on Stormy Lake, as is ice fishing in the winter. The beaches on Cook Inlet are great for beach-combing (especially for agate hunters), bird and wildlife watching, and berry picking. Visitors may see a variety of wildlife that includes wolves, moose, coyotes, and bears on land. Beluga whales, beaver, muskrat, and harbor seals are abundant at the coast. Bird watchers will likely catch bald eagles, trumpeter swans, sand hill cranes, loons, and a variety of bird species.
While visiting Captain Cook State Recreation Area from Port Nikiski, visitors should pay close attention to the tides when walking on the mudflats, as they move very quickly and can be dangerous. Campers and hikers should be aware of bears and keep camps clean. There are no lifeguards on duty, so swimmers should be very careful in entering the cold waters. Finally, boating is discouraged in Cook Inlet, and boaters should watch carefully for swimmers in Stormy Lake.
Just 1.6 kilometers (one mile) north of Port Nikiski is the North Peninsula Recreation Area where swimmers will likely prefer a visit to the Port Nikiski Pool. Located at mile 23.4 of the Kenai Spur Highway, the facility offers a big heated pool and waterslide, hot tubs, and picnic and playground facilities outside. Open year-round, the recreation area also offers fitness equipment, an ice-rink, multi-purpose field, running and fitness trails, racquetball courts, a skateboard park, and a community center.
Visitors to Port Nikiski may want to stay about 12 kilometers (almost 8 miles) to the northeast - between Port Nikiski and Captain Cook State Recreation Area - at Daniel's Lake Lodge Bed and Breakfast. Located in a secluded cove on the shores of a rarely-visited lake, the log cabins have private baths. There are also boats and canoes, a lake-side hot tub, kitchens, and laundry.