Petersburg is a small, vibrant town with about 3,000 permanent residents, located on the northern tip of wooded Mitkof Island in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. The charm of this quaint, coastal town is derived from its friendly people and the surrounding Alaska wilderness. Here, you can relax away from the crowds, as the town is not a port of call for large cruise ships, which are unable to navigate the Wrangell Narrows, a winding, scenic waterway between Mitkof and Kupreanof islands. Lovely, hospitable Petersburg is a traditional fishing community that proudly celebrates its Norweigian heritage and still makes its living from the sea, with commercial and pleasure boats dominating area waters.
Petersburg is known for providing a variety of outdoor activities, including fishing, hunting, berry picking, biking, hiking, birding and beachcombing. Reel in salmon at Blind River Rapids fishing area, hike the Ohmer Creek Trail – which also offers fishing opportunities via access to the creek and adjacent ponds – walk the beaches of Sumner Strait, or explore the muskegs. There are many adventures to be had on the Mitkof Island roads, an intricate road system consisting mainly of old logging roads, which are gravel-surfaced and not maintained in winter months. Take your own vehicle or rent one and drive to the largest temperate rainforest in the world, where you’ll find stands of virgin old-growth Sitka spruce and western hemlock.
Lodging in Petersburg is very reasonably priced, with a wide variety of accommodation options ranging from hotel rooms to bed and breakfasts to guest houses. There are also RV parks in the area offering full-service sites and properties with additional amenities, including showers and laundry facilities.
Petersburg was built by generations of Norwegian fishing families. Before the Europeans arrived, the area was used as a summer fishing camp by the Kake Tlingit people for an estimated 2,000 years. The Sons of Norway Hall, built in 1912 and a National Historic Site since 1984, is still a center of town activity today. In the summer months, Norwegian dancers perform while visitors enjoy a wonderful buffet complete with Norwegian pastries, pickled herring and fish cakes. Next door to the hall is the Bojer Wikan Fishermen’s Memorial Park, a commemorative memorial for those who lost their lives at sea. The center of the park contains a nine-foot-tall bronze sculpture of local fisherman Bojer Wikan, who, along with his crew members, were all lost at sea. The Clausen Memorial Museum is the best place to learn more about Petersburg’s colorful history.
The Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area contains over 400,000 acres of untouched beauty. Home to the LeConte Glacier, North America’s southernmost tide water glacier, it calves off bright blue icebergs regularly, and is a short boat ride away from Petersburg. The protected waters of the bay at the LeConte Glacier serve as a breeding, birthing and rearing site for harbor seals.
Unique, locally owned and operated businesses feature quality merchandise, including local Alaska art, authentic Scandinavian gifts, and many other items designed to help you take memories home from your travels. From galleries to outfitter stores, Petersburg has a lot to offer. Enjoy some fresh local seafood or a cup of java and while taking in the wide range of public art. You’ll find artistic designs stamped into the concrete of the sidewalks and Rosemaling, a Norwegian flower painting, on the fronts of retails stores and residences. The influence of local artists and crafts people is seen in the murals, totems and sculptures along downtown streets.
All five species of Alaska salmon can be caught in the waters around Petersburg. Fish from shore, rent a motorized skiff, join one of the many charter operators, or stay at a fishing lodge. Crab, halibut and rockfish are also plentiful just a short boat ride from town.
Wildlife sightings are plentiful around Petersburg. For bird lovers, eagles are regularly seen in the trees and on the beaches, as are over 240 species of birds that have been recorded on the 210-square-mile island. Mitkof Island is also home to healthy wolf, black bear, deer and moose populations. Sea lions and seals are often seen in the harbor and the surrounding waters. Orca whales can be spotted swimming off the shores of the island and, during the summer months, hundreds of humpback whales live and feed about 40 miles north of Petersburg where Frederick Sound joins with Stephens Passage. At the Petersburg Marine Mammal Center, located in the back of the Viking Travel Building, information and an interactive whale-learning display can be found. This display includes videos on whales and marine mammals of Southeast Alaska.