Ninilchik is on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula on the Sterling Highway, 61 km (38 miles) southwest of the Kenai, and 100 air miles southwest of Anchorage.
Before the arrival of Europeans in Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula was used by Dena'ina Athabaskan people for hunting and fishing.
The first people who would permanently stay in the village moved there from Kodiak Island in 1847, before the Alaska Purchase. They were a Russian, Grigorii Kvasnikov (Anglicized to Kvasnikoff), and his Russian-Alutiiq wife from Kodiak Island, Mavra, and their children. The original village is located at the mouth of the Ninilchik River. A small harbor has been constructed near the mouth of the river. The name 'Ninilchik' is used today, however, to refer to the original village as well as the community that has grown up around it, extending several miles north, east, and south. Residents of Ninilchik sometimes refer to the original village as 'Ninilchik Village'.