Petersburg, Alaska, is an incredible place surrounded by beauty and adventure. We’ve spent years traveling to this fishing village and have experienced everything from the Friday Night Community Bingo to the stunning LeConte glacier. In this article, AlaskaExplored will share our experiences in Petersburg, Alaska, the places to go, the places to eat, and what to do while you are there. So if you’re planning your next Alaska Adventure or just curious about Petersburg, you’ve come to the right place.
Article Overview: Petersburg, Alaska: Everything you need to know.
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Petersburg, Alaska: What to Expect
I’ve been traveling through and staying in Petersburg, Alaska, for eight years. Working for National Geographic has allowed me to extensively explore Petersburg and its surrounding areas.
This small town is a proper commercial fishing village. The economy, culture, and history are all fishing. Petersburg is called “Little Norway” due to the century-long history of Norwegian immigrants establishing roots.
Walking around the harbor and main street in Petersburg, Alaska, I am reminded that nearly everyone in this community is a cannery worker, a deckhand, or a fisherman. If they don’t work in the industry currently, they did at some point. That fishing culture is in Petersburg’s DNA. The food, the clothes, and the art are all products of the commercial fishery. Petersburg with no fishing would be like having Nashville with no music. This fact can be confirmed by looking at the feet of everyone in Petersburg, who all wear XtraTuf boots, the traditional foot attire of deckhands.
What Makes Petersburg, Alaska Special
There are several small villages scattered across Southeast Alaska. What makes Petersburg, Alaska, so special? The short answer is: there are no large cruise ships.
While vacationing on a giant cruise ship may be entertaining for everyone onboard, it’s often a very different experience for the people on land at each port. Many small towns with deep harbors, capable of allowing giant cruise ships to dock, have altered over time to accommodate the cruise guests. Many small businesses within walking distance of those harbors have been sold and reimagined strictly for the disembarking tourists. Creating a sort of authenticity vacuum, leaving cruise ship guests traveling Alaska the unique experience of never actually experiencing Alaska.
Petersburg is unique in that there are no large cruise ships. You will frequently see small cruise vessels like the National Geographic Sea Lion or National Geographic Sea Bird docked in the harbor. But nothing like the floating cities of the modern cruise ship industry. This has allowed Petersburg, Alaska, to remain independent and unique. The shops are locally owned, and the whole place feels like a community you are visiting rather than a destination created for tourists’ brief excursions.
How to get to Petersburg
Petersburg is NOT connected by road to the lower 48 or the rest of Alaska. You’ll have to ferry your car from the mainland if you are driving. You can get to Petersburg on the Alaska Marine Highway, and there are daily flights with Alaska Airlines.
Over the years, I’ve arrived in Petersburg by plane, seaplane, salmon troller, and jet boat. No matter what form of transportation you take, the views and experience of arriving in this place are magic. Weather will affect your ability to access the city significantly. I have spent more nights stuck in Petersburg waiting on a weather window for our sea plane to get out than just about any other location in Alaska.
Flying into Petersburg, Alaska, is an adventure unto itself. The arrival into the Petersburg Aiport on a 737 can often be a harrowing experience. The plane will make extreme banks, and winds can be fierce. Often you will look out the window and see the tops of the trees closer than you would like. In the winter, this experience gets even more dramatic. Expect frequent cancelations and budget for extra nights spent in a hotel waiting to get out.
You can fly to Petersburg on Alaska Air Flight #64. Flight #64 is part of the Milk Run, a combination of shorter flights, all on the same plane, from Seattle to Anchorage. When I fly to Petersburg, the plane usually stops in Ketchikan and Wrangell before landing in Petersburg. Think of it as a long bus ride rather than a traditional flight. It is common to see passengers asked to move seats to accommodate the high school sports teams flying between games in different towns in Southeast Alaska.
Boating into Petersburg is easy too. The harbor is fantastic. Check-in with the harbor staff when you arrive. They stand by on VHF Channel 16, CB-9 or call (907) 772-4688.
Where to Eat in Petersburg, Alaska
Restaurant options in Petersburg, Alaska, are undeniably few. The staples have been there for years and are dependable regardless of the season. Other restaurants seem to come and go or are only open in the summer months. Be sure to check the hours of operation at the establishment. Many restaurants have unusual hours and days that they are open. I’ve spent plenty of hungry Sundays in my hotel room because I didn’t make it to El Zarape before they closed. Here is a list of the main joints you must know about when visiting Petersburg, Alaska.
- El Zarape: The most reliable joint in town. Nothing fancy here but good burritos and a small salsa bar. They recently started serving breakfast and beer. Address: 114 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 518-1611
- Salty Pantry: Arguably the best food in town. They mainly serve breakfast and lunch but are frequently open for dinner on Monday nights. Address: 14 Harbor Way, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-2665
- Pappa Bear’s Pizza: This simple pizza joint is conveniently located on the main drag. Address: 219 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-3727
- Inga’s Galley: This outside seating-only establishment is seasonal. They offer an eclectic menu ranging from curries to burgers to samosas. They also serve wine and beer and have firepits during the colder months. Address: 104 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-2090
Where to Drink in Petersburg, Alaska
Petersburg, Alaska, has two traditional bars and two member-only bars (Elk’s and Moose). I’ve spent my share of time playing shuffleboard and listening to live music in these bars. The bars close well after midnight and will reopen before noon the next day. The transient population of hard-working and thirsty deckhands keeps Harbor Bar and Kito’s Kave busy most nights. Both bars rock pool tables, while the Harbor Bar also has a shuffleboard. They also both have an adjoining liquor store.
- Harbor Bar Address: 310 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-4526
- Kito’s Kave Address: 200 Chief John Lott St, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-3207
Where to Stay in Petersburg, Alaska
Full disclosure, I’ve only stayed at the Tide’s Inn in Petersburg, Alaska. In the last eight years, I’ve probably spent 100+ nights in Petersburg, all of which have been at the Tides. It’s easily accessible from the Harbor, and you can walk to all the bars and restaurants. Here is a list of the most common lodging options in Petersburg.
- Tides Inn Offers clean, simple rooms near the Harbor. The staff is always nice. The hotel offers free wifi and rental cars as well. Address: 307 1st St, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-4288
- Scandia House Address: 110 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-4281
- Nordic House Address: 806 S Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-3620
- Waterfront B&B Address: 1004 S Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK Phone: (907) 772-9300
Adventures near Petersburg, Alaska
- LeConte Glacier: LeConte Glacier is the southernmost tidewater glacier of the Northern Hemisphere. I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Le Conte Glacier onboard a friend’s sailboat while filming a hundred-year-old fishing boat navigating the icebergs in the bay at LeConte’s base. It’s a magical place. Most of the glaciers I’ve experienced have been from the air. Being able to take a boat right to their base is worth it.
- Charter Fishing: Sport fishing is the biggest draw for tourists traveling to Petersburg. The fishing in the area is world-class. Anglers come from all over the world to catch their Alaskan salmon and halibut. There are plenty of charter companies to choose from. Questions to ask yourself before picking a charter: do I want a guided trip or self-guided? Do I want a complete package including three meals a day and lodging? Do I feel comfortable driving a rental boat amongst the busy commercial fleet in these waters? Fishing licenses can be bought at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=license.main. Be sure to print your license and take it while on the water!
- Indigenous Adventure Charters: Offers full trips ideal for halibut fishing at $300/day per person and half-day trips for $200/day per person Phone: (907) 518-4054
- Magic Man’s Charters: Offering full-day charters starting at $300/day per person and a half-day rate at $175/day per person. Phone: (907) 772-9255
- Petersburg Sportfishing: Address: 130 Scow Bay Loop Road, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (435) 764-1310
- Whale Watching: Whale watching is a popular activity in many coastal communities. I have traveled all over the world, and I would have to say that the waters in this region offer some of the best opportunities to see whales. Most tour companies in Petersburg and Wrangell offer whale-specific tours or a combo of LeConte Glacier and Whale watching.
- Seek Alaska Tours: Offering a Whiskers and Whales tour of Frederick sound Address: 314 Sandy Beach Rd Suite 1533, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (907) 518-0265
Things to do in Petersburg, Alaska
- Hiking: There are several good trails in and around Petersburg, Alaska. The scenery is remarkable, and the chance of seeing wildlife is high. The city creek trail takes you along the shore on an easy walk. If you want something more adventurous, try the Three Lakes Trail.
- The City Creek Trail: is a mile long and runs from Sandy Beach Park to City Creek.
- Raven’s Roost Trail: The trailhead is across the street from the City Creek Trailhead. Raven’s Roost is a 4.4-mile out-and-back that crosses a muskeg.
- Hungry Point Trail is located in town and is easily accessible to nearly anyone. Hungry Point Trail is a 1.5-mile loop trail behind the baseball field, primarily paved or on a boardwalk.
- Three Lake and Ideal Cove Trail: For the more adventurous, check out this 6.2 miles long trail outside of Petersburg that promises excellent views, good exercise, and isolation from most hikers. The trail connects the Sand, Hill, and Crane Lakes.
- Little Norway Festival: I have been dying to attend this festival for years. The stories I’ve heard and the picture I’ve seen make it seem unforgettable. Unfortunately, I usually miss the festival by a few days. It’s on my bucket list for sure. This annual festival started, in 1958, celebrating the signing of Norway’s constitution. In Petersburg, they block off North Nordic Drive, setting up booths and food stalls. The festival includes a parade, a walk/run race, a pageant, style shows, and dedications. The Festival dates are customarily the third weekend in May, coinciding with May 17th. Check out the festival’s facebook page for more information.
Shopping in Petersburg, Alaska
There aren’t many shops in Petersburg, which might be part of its charm. This is a community that serves its citizens, not a city that reinvented itself for the tourism industry. The few existing shops are fun, quirky, and undoubtedly local. These shops tend to be a bit pricey. The high prices are often blamed on their remote location and the difficulty in getting goods, but it is more a side effect of limited competition in the local marketplace.
- Lee’s Clothing Inc: Lee’s is a dangerous store. From the moment you walk in their welcoming front door, you are enticed to purchase nearly everything. This store is meticulously curated for the people living in and visiting Petersburg, Alaska. Wool sweaters, rain gear for deckhands, XtraTuf boots, cute kids’ clothing, and salmon-themed T-shirts; this store is a must-go place for necessities you may have left behind and gifts to give those back at home. Address: 212 S Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (907) 772-4229
- Sing Lee Alley Books: Located on the historical Sing Lee Alley between Kito’s Kave and the Nordic House, this quaint bookstore is a cozy place for all book lovers. They have a selection of Alaska-themed and authored books and a children’s section. They have the standard best sellers and a wide variety of cookbooks too. This is also an excellent place to source some gifts. Address: 11 Sing Lee Alley, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (907) 772-4440
- Kinder Komfort: This tiny toy store looks fantastic. I’ve been trying to go there for years. unfortunately, their hours of operation are sporadic, and I’ve never been able to go inside. Judging by what I’ve seen through the window, it looks fun. They have a red board outside the shop with the names of local kids and their birthdays, so neighbors know when to celebrate. Just a bit of Peterburg’s small-town charm. Address: 15 Sing Lee Alley, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (907) 772-4100
- Hammer & Wikan Hardware: This hardware is a gem. It has all the standard supplies you would expect and commercial fishing gear, clothing, toys, firearms, fishing licenses, cookware, and more. If you need something, go to Hammer & Wikan; they will probably have it. They also own one of the local grocery stores and a convenience store. The original store opened in 1921 and was founded by two Norwegian immigrants. Address: 218 N Nordic Dr, Petersburg, AK 99833 Phone: (907) 772-4811
Petersburg, Alaska Facts
- Population: 3,170 (2020)
- Area: 46.0 square miles (119 km2)
- Located 700 miles north of Seattle and 690 miles south of Anchorage