Petersburg sits on the northwest tip of Mitkof Island where the Wrangell Narrows meets Frederick South and is one of the hidden gems of Southeast Alaska. This busy little town, an active fishing port, is decorated by weathered boathouses on the waterfront, freshly painted homes along Nordic Drive and the distinctive Devil's Thumb peak and other snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Because Petersburg is not a deep-water port the majority of visitors arrive by the State ferries and a number of small cruise ships, eliminating the large cruise ship crowds.
Petersburg is the youngest community along the Inside Passage founded by Peter Buschmann in 1897, but boasts of having the largest home-based halibut fleet in Alaska, some say the world. More than $40 million worth of seafood is processed annually through three canneries and two cold-storage plants. Several of the canneries sit above the water on pilings overlooking three boat harbors bulging with vessels and a constant flow of barges, ferries and floatplanes.
While you are there, head to Sing Lee Alley, the center of old Petersburg. Much of the street is built on pilings over Hammer Slough.
The Sons of Norway Hall (on the National Historic Registry) built in 1912, is a large white building sitting on pilings with colorful rosemaling, a flowery Norwegian art form, covering the window shutters. Next to the hall is The Fisherman's Memorial Park, which commemorates people in the fishing industry and those lost at sea. Hammer Slough itself provides photographers with colorful images of Petersburg.
Clausen Memorial Museum contains an interesting collection of local artifacts and relics, most tied in with the history of fishing in Petersburg. The largest king salmon ever caught, at 126 pounds, is on display along with a giant lens from the old Cape Decision Lighthouse.
The town has several day use parks including Eagle's Roost Park that lives up to its name as you can often spot eagles perched on top of trees. Sandy Beach Recreation Area features a mile-long boardwalk trail out to Frederick Point and Tlingit petroglyphs that can be seen at low tide. The U.S. Forest Service offers interpretive walks.
Le Conte Glacier lies 25 miles east of Petersburg and is the southernmost active tidewater glacier in North America. Day cruises to view the glacier at close range and flightseeing excursions over the glacier and area are favorite ways to experience Le Conte. Kayaking around Petersburg is superb with rentals and guided tours available. The paddle to Le Conte takes three to four days. Other glaciers in the area include the Patterson and Baird Glaciers near Thomas Bay, 20 miles from town.
If you happen to be in Petersburg in mid-May, you can partake in the 4-day Little Norway Festival. Featuring Norwegian costumes, a parade, games and dances, the festivities include a smorgasbord, shrimp feeds, Vikings & Valkyries, pastries and fun. The old-fashioned 4th of July is celebrated in a big way with a parade, races, log rolling, egg tosses, street fair with arts and crafts and ending the evening with a wonderful fireworks display across the Narrows from town.
There are numerous hiking trails in and around Petersburg that take you through rainforest, muskeg, alpine meadows, across streams and often provide spectacular views of Petersburg, Frederick Sound and Wrangell Narrows. The U.S. Forest Service has information on trails and other outdoor activities.
Location: Petersburg is located on the northwest end of Mitkof Island, where the Wrangell Narrows meet Frederick Sound. It lies midway between Juneau and Ketchikan, about 120 miles from either community.
Access: Scheduled daily jet service from major Inside Passage communities with connections to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Seattle. Schedule air taxi and air charter. Alaska state ferry with connections to all Inside Passage cities, Bellingham, WA and Prince Rupert, BC. Small cruise ship. No road access.
Accommodations: Two hotels/motels, 15 bed and breakfasts, 1 hostel, 5 restaurants, gift and variety shops, hardware, marine centers, food and most supplies.
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