Petersburg Cruise Port

Port of Petersburg: An Overview

Take a snapshot of Petersburg, Alaska, and show it to your friends. They'll probably think it's a picture of a Norwegian coastal village. That's because the fishing town's Norwegian roots are readily apparent. They show through in the town's neat, white houses -- some located on piers and pilings -- which are decorated Scandinavian-style with carefully tended window boxes full of flowers. Scenic tableaus of brightly colored fishing shacks, surrounded by boats in the harbor behind and set against glacier-covered mountains, are as common there as in the Old Country.

Petersburg, located on Mitkof Island in Frederick Sound, was founded in 1890 by Norwegian immigrant Peter Buschmann, who came to the area to open a fish cannery. Many of the 3,030 locals still make a living fishing for salmon and halibut in the fish-rich waters. The town has several fish processing operations -- some small and family-owned and others that are larger.

It's a town where everyone knows your name. The toy store on Sing Lee Alley (a tiny street on the water) even has a chalkboard where local children's birthdays are posted each month. Four blocks of Nordic Drive make up the main drag, where you'll find family-owned businesses that include grocery and hardware stores. Beyond that are residential neighborhoods, rain forests and water.

And despite all the blond Alaskans of Norwegian descent you'll meet there, a federally recognized Tlingit tribe also lives in the community. About 7 percent of the residents are of Native American heritage.

Petersburg is an isolated place with its nearest big neighbors -- Juneau and Ketchikan -- each about 150 miles away (10 hours or more by ferry). Not surprisingly, the main attraction for cruise-ship visitors is the surrounding natural scenery and wildlife. The town is only 25 miles from the calving LeConte Glacier, the southernmost saltwater terminating glacier in North America. And hundreds of humpback whales make the Frederick Sound their feeding grounds every summer.

Since only small cruise ships can visit (the harbor is not deep enough for the big ones), you won't encounter crowds in Petersburg. What you will find are friendly locals, cheerfully welcoming visitors to their remote Alaskan outpost.

Port Facilities

Head to the wooden boardwalk of Sing Lee Alley for quaint little shops and small-town, seaside ambience.

Don't Miss

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.

Getting Around

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.

Food and Drink

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.

Good to Know

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.
  • Petersburg: American Spirit
    An experienced fisherman told us tons about the Alaskan fishing industry. Petersburg is a darling little town. Our evening entertainment was the amazing Leikarring Dancers - middle school children doing traditional Norwegian folk dances. They ... Read more
  • Petersburg: Marco Polo
    A truly remarkable city which was well beyond our expectations. Yes we would have liked longer but I would think it would have worn us out completely. ... Read more
  • Petersburg: Seabourn Quest
    St. Petersburg is a must see. The city is truly beautiful (reminded us of both Paris and Venice); the treasured historical sites are truly a wonder. I was not able to list the Kiel Canal since it's not a port. This is an OMG experience! Skip Kalmar ... Read more
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    Butterfly farm with transfer to/from Orient Bay Beach. Butterfly farm was fantastic. Great for small children. Beach was beautiful with lots of people but not overly crowded. Chairs were provided. Encountered locals trying to rip off ... Read more
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    Ian White
    A small port founded by Norwegian immigrants. Interesting small local shops and a great book store close to the moorings. ... Read more