Head to the wooden boardwalk of Sing Lee Alley for quaint little shops and small-town, seaside ambience.
A must-do photo stop is the giant model of a Viking ship
in front of Sons of Norway Hall (23 Indian Street on a wooden dock near Sing Lee Alley), which dates back to 1912 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's used in the annual, four-day Little Norway Festival, when locals celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day (May 17, 1814).
Nature and wildlife
are the big draws of Petersburg. If you want to book your own fishing excursion, kayak tour, whale-watch or flightseeing trip, the place to contact is the Viking Travel agency on the corner of Nordic Drive and Sing Lee Alley (800-327-2571). For information on outdoor activities or to pick up hiking trail maps, head to the Visitor Information Center -- operated by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce -- at the corner of First and Fram Streets (open Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.).
Stock up on gifts at the shops on Sing Lee Alley
. You'll find the work of local artists, as well as art and craft supplies at the Party House, 14 Sing Lee Alley (907-772-2717). WildCat Quilts, in the other half of 14 Sing Lee Alley (907-772-4848), sells quilted table runners and wall hangings. Purchase smoked salmon and halibut (or have them shipped home) at Tonka Seafoods at 22 Sing Lee Alley (888-560-3662). Sing Lee Alley Books, at 11 on the same street (907-772-4440), has a great collection of books on natural history and Alaska.
To learn about seafood processing
, visit Tonka Seafoods (22 Sing Lee Alley, 888-560-3662). Tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and are repeated at 3:30 p.m. if there's a crowd. The smoking and canning process is detailed on the free 20-minute tours.
The Clausen Memorial Museum
, at Second and Fram Streets, is the place to learn about the town's history. The collection includes obsolete fishing gear, old nautical equipment and outlawed fish traps. (Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Join a ranger-guided walk to Sandy Beach
(information available at the Visitor Information Center in town), located three miles southeast of town on Sandy Beach Road. Despite its name, the beach is not for swimming, but it does offer, at low tide, the remains of ancient Tlingit fishing traps and petroglyphs on nearby rocks. Beachcombing is also a favorite activity there. You can find shells, driftwood, buoys and more, or observe the skittering crabs (a great activity with kids).
Just within walking distance on the edge of town, on North Nordic Drive, Eagle Roost Park
is a city park with picnic tables, grassy areas and nice views. It's also home to the local bald eagle population. You'll see them roosting on trees and on the water, looking for discarded fish parts from the nearby cannery.
By Taxi: If you need a cab, try Midnight Rides (907-772-2222) or Viking Cab (907-518-9191). It's a pretty sleepy town, so taxis aren't readily available unless you call.
Renting a Car: There's an Avis car rental desk at the Tides Inn (307 N. First Street, 800-665-8433), which is within walking distance of the cruise ship docks.
On Foot: Petersburg's docks and tiny downtown area are easily explored on foot. It can be fun to wander the docks and watch fishermen cleaning their vessels.
Dining options are few in tiny Petersburg, and most of them offer some form of seafood -- the local specialty. Because many food items have to be flown or shipped in from other parts of the country, prices can be on the high side.
If seafood's your thing, it doesn't get much fresher than Coastal Cold Storage, which is both a restaurant and a seafood processor. In addition to fish dishes like halibut bites, the small menu also includes sandwiches and wraps. (306 N. Nordic Drive; open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 877-257-4746.)
For a quick bite, try Papa Bear's Pizza for burger baskets, wraps and, of course, pizza. Try the crab bait pizza, which comes loaded with everything but crab: pepperoni, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, Italian sausage, black olives, pineapple and bell peppers. (219 N. Nordic Drive; open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 907-772-3727.)
Where You're Docked
The small ships that visit use various docks within walking distance of the town center. There's not much to do near the pier except watch the comings and goings of the fishing fleet, take in the view and scan the waters for seals and other marine animals.
Watch Out For
Items you think are made in Alaska should be stamped "made in Alaska". Otherwise, they may have been made in China or elsewhere.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
U.S. dollars are used, and ATM's are available at First Bank and Well's Fargo Bank on North Nordic Drive.
English is the most widely spoken language.
Pick up locally made items like knitwear, quilted products and canned, smoked salmon.