Article Overview: Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Prince of Wales Island in Alaska is the fourth largest island in the United States and is one of Alaska’s true treasures. This island is often overlooked by visitors to the state because it is challenging to access and scarcely populated. These are two reasons why this magical place has so much to offer. A boaters paradise with fishing, hunting, petroglyphs, paddling, and more, Prince of Wales Island has something for every outdoor enthusiast heading to Alaska.
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My Experience on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
No place in Alaska feels more like home to me than the small fishing village of Port Protection on the north end of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. I’ve spent more years of my career working in this small community than anywhere else. My son was two weeks old when I first traveled to Port Protection. He’s now halfway through elementary school. I’ve made lifelong friends in this remote spot of the island.
Table of Contents: Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Table of contents
- Why Trust Us When Reading About Prince of Wales Island?
- My Experience on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Where is Prince of Wales Island, Alaska?
- How to get to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- The Villages of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Best time to Visit Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Where to Stay on Prince of Wales Island, AK
- Facts of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Prince of Wales Island, Alaska Map
- More Alaska Articles
Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Where is Prince of Wales Island, Alaska?
Prince of Wales Island is located in the Southeast region of Alaska, roughly 600 miles North of Seattle. The Tongass National Forrest, the largest US National Forest, covers most of the island. The nearest major cities in the region are Juneau, Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg. The only incorporated town on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska is Craig.
When imagining the size of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska think of Delaware. It’s slightly smaller. While few people visit Prince of Wales Island each year, plenty pass by it. The island is on a major throughway for cargo, ferry, and cruise ships. While working on the POW, one of my favorite pastimes is spotting giant cruise ships with my binoculars while drinking a beer on the porch. I use an app that looks at AIS (Automatic Identification System) data that gives me the vessel names and stats. I’m a bit of a boat nerd. Think of it as birding but with boats and beer.
How to get to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Getting to Prince of Wales Island can be tricky, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “It’s not the Destination, It’s the journey.” That rings true when getting to this magical Alaskan Island. Whether you arrive by seaplane, fishing boat, or ferry, travelers have already made a significant commitment to getting there.
Flying to Prince of Wales Island, AK
You will first need to get to Ketchikan. Alaska Airlines has daily flights from Seattle. Once in Ketchikan, you can fly to Klawok, where there is an airstrip, or charter a seaplane to access the rest of the island. Island Air Express services the airstrip in Klawok. The flight is roughly half an hour, and bookings can be made easily on their website.
Chartering a seaplane may be pricier, but it will allow you to access more of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Every time I have flown to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska it has been on a seaplane which is thrilling and sometimes a bit terrifying. No matter what, you are guaranteed to have an adventurous tale and some epic photos to accompany it.
Here are two charter operations that can get you where you want to go on the island: Alaska Seaplanes and Taquan Air. Alternatively, there is an airport in Petersburg and multiple charter airlines that can also get you to POW.
Driving/Ferry to Prince of Wales island, ak
Prince of Wales Island, Alaska is not connected to the mainland by road, so you must ferry your car if you are driving. You will first need to get to Ketchikan. Most likely on the Alaska Marine Highway System, a ferry service operated by the U.S. state of Alaska. The Ferries leave from Bellingham, Washington; Prince Rupert, and British Columbia, Canada. Check out their site for more up-to-date information and a full list of ports.
Once in Ketchikan, you will drive to the Ketchikan Terminal (3501 Tongass Avenue Ketchikan, Alaska), where you will board the ferry, operated by the Interisland Ferry Authority. They offer daily service from Ketchikan to Hollis, the only city the ferry services on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. The voyage takes three hours and leaves Ketchikan at 8 am. The ferry is $52 for adult passengers, $28.50 for seniors, and $23.50 for children. While on board, you can have a meal in their cafe or enjoy the scenery on your voyage to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
The Villages of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Prince of Wales Island’s true magic is the diversity of its villages. I have been fortunate to travel to a few of these spots, but all of them are on my bucket list. Each location has something unique to offer. When traveling to these villages, be prepared before your arrival. Don’t expect to show up without a local contact and have a place to stay or anything to eat. Either make arrangements with a lodge or a local contact or be self-reliant. Most of these locations won’t have reliable cell coverage, publicly accessible internet or electricity, and some won’t have any access to a road system or public drinking water. With that being said, let’s check out the Villages of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
The largest city on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska is Craig; with a population of over 1,000. The city is connected to the island’s road system and has everything you would expect from a town; a grocery store, coffee shop, a couple of restaurants, lodging options, hardware store, and bars. The city has two harbors and a busy fishing industry. The Klawock Airport is nearby, connecting this city to the mainland. While this town has all the necessities you need, I would consider it your hopping-off place for your Prince of Wales Island Alaska adventure, not your destination.
Hollis is the only city on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska that the InterIsland Ferry connects to the mainland. So if you’re bringing a car to the island or arriving by ferry, this will be your entry point. There are shuttle and taxi services in Hollis that can get you to Klawok, Craig, and Coffman Cove.
This small community has everything you need for a well-curated Alaska adventure. There are a plethora of fishing charters and guided fly fishing trips. Coffman Cove has lodges, rental properties, skiff rentals, a restaurant, and a grocery store. There are also some excellent paddling opportunities to be had in the area. The city has compiled a great PDF with all the necessary resources to plan your visit.
Hydaburg’s population is just under 400, the southernmost city on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Connected by the road system, Hydaburg has all the conveniences you would expect. Visit the totem park or the native carving shed to experience the local Haidi culture.
Located off the Clarence Straits in Kassaan Bay, Kassan is a Haida village rich in history dating back to the protohistoric times. The city’s name comes from the Tlingit language, meaning “pretty town.” With a small population of roughly 60 residents, Kassaan is a unique place to visit. It’s located on the road system, so it’s relatively easy to access if you’re already on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.
If your road tripping from Craig to the north, I recommend stopping here to have the context of the native history of the land you are on. The most notable attraction is the Kasaan Totem Historic District and Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House, where guided tours are available by contacting OVK at 907-542-2230.
I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the years in Point Baker. This small fishing community of fewer than 15 residents has a lot of heart and independence. There is a state dock with a store, restaurant/bar, and fuel, but in recent years the sale of fuel has halted, and the store is only open for a few hours a week. I’ve never seen the bar/restaurant open to the public. The Calder Mountain Lodge operates within the community but essentially keeps to itself, offering self-guided fishing and hunting. If passing through on your fishing boat, this is a quaint place to stop and tie up for the night, but nothing beyond the state dock is accessible to the public. There are no roads, boardwalks, or even footpaths. It is home to one of the only floating post offices in the United States.
Klawock is home to the only paved Airport on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. This city has a population of roughly 720 residents and is home to the oldest hatchery in Alaska. Klawok has gas, a grocery store, and lodging. Totem Park is one of the main attractions in the community. The park feature 21 totems total, comprised of both replicas and originals from the former village of Tukekan . If you want to hike, check out either the One Duke Trail or the Swan Song Trail.
The small village of Port Protection is an isolated community only accessible by water. The lack of road may be the most defining part of its character. This place can be brutal sometimes, and you must be self-reliant to call it home. There is a state dock, fuel for sale, and a small store. The community has its own water system and a boardwalk, but there are no public spaces and no cell phone service, and the boardwalk is just a means for locals to access each other and the docks more easily. If you visit Port Protection for the day, you’ll be greeted by a welcoming community, but I recommend keeping your wandering isolated to the public docks and local store. Let this tiny community have its quiet peace.
Thorne Bay is one of the larger towns on Prince of Wales Island Alaska, with nearly 500 residents. When entering the town, you will be greeted by the world’s largest tree grapple, a relic from when it was the world’s largest lumber camp in the 60s-70s. Today, Thorne Bay has all the conveniences you may need: a grocery store, gas station, two harbors, liquor store, skiff rentals, hardware store, library, and City Water and Sewer in their downtown area. You will find a lovely sandy beach just north of town to relax. For fishing and crabbing adventure, check out the self-guided fishing trips offered by Alaskan Escapes.
Whales Pass is the northernmost town on the Prince of Wales Island road system. This small town has roughly 86 residents. Whale Pass was originally a logging camp, and in 2017 the residents voted to make their community an incorporated second-class city. Whale Pass is known for its trout fishing, and several salmon and halibut charters operate in the area. The Whale Pass Lodge is also a great retreat while adventuring in and around the island.
Best time to Visit Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
The summer months in Alaska are always the best months for a visit, that goes for the entire state. From late May to early September the weather tends to be much milder, although August and September usually has more rain. But the days are long and warm.
The winter months on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska can bring heavy snow and wind, but compared to the rest of the state the weather is pretty mild. The days get short and it’s still not super pleasant to be out and about in it.
For a full guide on traveling to Alaska in August Check out our article: Alaska in August: Plan Your Epic Trip Now!
Where to Stay on Prince of Wales Island, AK
With so many villages to visit on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska it can be difficult to plan your visit. Cruising around the island on your boat is the best way to visit these marine communities, but since most of us don’t own a boat, organizing a trip through one of the many lodges on Prince of Wales Island, AK may be the way to go. Here are a few lodges we would recommend.
- Alaska’s Boardwalk Lodge, 1 Cook’s Cove, Thorne Bay, AK 99919
- Shelter Cove Lodge, 703 Hamilton Dr. Craig, AK 99921
- Sure Strike Lodge, P.O. Box 987 Craig, AK 99921
- Calder Mountain Lodge, PO Box 89 Point Baker, Alaska 99927
- El Capitan Lodge, PO Box 1174, Craig, AK 99921
Facts of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
- Prince of Wales Island, AK is 2580 square miles. Manhattan is 22.8 square miles.
- The islands population is estimated to be 4,400 people.
- Prince of Wales island, Alaska is the 4th largest island in the United States, behind only Puerto Rico, Kodiak, and Hawaii (Big Island)
- POW is roughly the size of Delaware and covered by over 90% of the Tongass National Forest.
Prince of Wales Island, Alaska Map
Prince of Wales Island, AK FAQ’s
Absolutely, there is world class fishing on Prince of Wales Island, AK.
It depends where you are trying to get to on POW, but for the most part, you have to either fly or take the ferry boat.
The summer months, from late May to early September, is a perfect time to visit Prince of Wales Island.
There are many communities on POW: Hollis, Craig, Port Protection, and Whales Pass are just a few of the communities on Prince of Wales Island.
While much of Prince of Wales Island, is remote, there are some areas of the POW that offer accommodations; such as Hollis and Graig.
Prince of Wales Island, is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Hunting, Fishing, Boating, Hiking, Kayaking, can all be done on Prince of Whales Island, Alaska.