11 Things To Do In Petersburg, Alaska (That Don’t Suck)

Petersburg, Alaska, is one of the most beautiful hidden gems of Southeast Alaska. Not many visit it during the annual tourist season and even those who do visit might not know what to do when they arrive.

It is the crown jewel of Mitkof Island in the Alexander Archipelago and is home to just over 3,000 year-round residents.

The town and surrounding area are filled with a lot of fun activities. People who live in Petersburg might tell you that it’s boring, but don’t believe them.

Just because it’s a common opinion, doesn’t make it true. People thought I Dream of Jeannie stopped being good after Tony and Jeannie got married. They were wrong about that and they’re wrong about Petersburg, too.

So, without further ado, let’s get into some of the best things to do in Petersburg!

1. Go on a Fishing Charter

If you’ve never gone fishing before or if you have and didn’t catch anything, a fishing charter is a great opportunity to catch your first.

An experienced captain and crew will take you out on a boat, let you use their high-quality equipment, and help you reel fish that might be a little too heavy or difficult for a beginner.

I know a talk about them a lot, but a fishing charter is definitely worth it. They’ll also make sure you don’t accidentally catch too many fish of one kind, since Alaska changes the restrictions every year to preserve fish populations.

2. Visit the Garnet House

Remember when I called Petersburg the “crown jewel” of Mitkof Island? It was actually a clever joke about the city’s garnet mine. I didn’t say it was funny; I just thought it was clever.

Transportation from downtown to the mine site is provided and everyone who takes the tour is guaranteed to receive at least one piece of garnet. If you don’t have time for the tour, you can buy some loose pieces in the gift shop.

The Bella Vista Mine has pieces of Almandine garnet which are a dark red color and can be as wide as one inch in diameter. It is only open from July 1st to September 1st, however.

3. Enjoy Norwegian Culture

Petersburg is rather unique among Alaskan towns, as it was founded by an immigrant from Norway named Peter Buschmann. Most other settlements were started by the Tlingit, the Russians, or the Americans.

It is the home of the world-famous Little Norway Festival, which celebrates Norway’s Independence Day and actually lasts longer than the festivals held in Oslo!

The historic Sons of Norway Hall downtown is over 100 years old and offers tours filled with dancing and the finest Norwegian cuisine in America.

4. Visit Sandy Beach

A few miles from downtown is beautiful Sandy Beach, which is not related to Sandy Beach in Juneau or any of the other dozens of places with that name in the world.

It features beautiful petroglyphs, which are rock carvings that were created by the Tlingit people thousands of years ago.

There are also covered shelters with picnic benches, a children’s play area, a sand volleyball court, and a hiking trail. I don’t recommend swimming, however, as the water is glacial runoff and is extremely cold!

5. LeConte Glacier Tours

Speaking of fridgit water, you may want to go see one of the reasons for the cold. The nearby LeConte is the southernmost tidewater glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are several boat tours from downtown that provide amazing, close-up views of the glacier, ranging from four hours to half-day or longer.

If you’d like to actually walk on the glacier, there are helicopter rides available as well, although you should definitely be prepared for some cold temperatures, since you’ll be standing on ice!

6. Boat Tours

In addition to the glacier and charter fishing, there are several other boat tours available in town.

An all-day boat tour of Fredericksburg Sound is available, which will give you the chance to see humpback whales, the beautiful Brother Islands, and the famous Five Finger Lighthouse.

Five Fingers Lighthouse in Frederick Sound

It’s also a great opportunity to see The Devil’s Thumb, the infamous mountain whose unique geography has made its north face completely unclimbable, even to the greatest mountain climbers of our age.

7. Enjoy the Views at Outlook Park

If you’d like some great views without a boat road, Outlook Park is an amazing location to see some of the great sights near the island.

Telescopes and binoculars are available here, which gives you the chance to get a closer look at the glacier, the Devil’s Thumb, and many other great places if you don’t have time to take a boat tour.

You can rent a bicycle in town or, if you prefer, you can simply walk about a mile and a half to the Park.

8. Eagle Roost Park

If you’d prefer less of a walk, one of my favorite parks happens to be just on the outside of town. Eagle Roost Park is aptly named because of the many bald eagles that make their homes in the nearby trees.

There is also a viewing platform that gives some amazing views of the Wrangell Narrows, the 35-mile winding channel that separates Petersburg from nearby Kupreanof Island.

There are also picnic tables and benches if you’d like to pick up some food from one of the stores in town and have a lovely picnic while taking in the picturesque scenery.

9. Clausen Memorial Museum

The Clausen Memorial Museum offers amazing insight into the history of the town and the island in general.

It has many artifacts left by the early Tlingit settlers from Kupreanof Island who used the area now known as Petersburg as a summer fishing ground.

In all, there are over 5,000 exhibits and 45,000 photographs at the museum, as well as many pieces of regional artwork that have been loaned by their various partners.

10. Marine Mammal Center

Have you ever wondered about marine mammals and wished you knew more? The Petersburg Marine Mammal Center is just the place!

Located right in the heart of downtown, you can watch videos about the local marine life, as well as experience the famous interactive whale exhibit.

If you’re interested in humpback whales, this is an amazing place to learn about them and a great place to visit before or after taking a boat trip to go see some in the local waters!

11. Hiking, Camping, and Rental Cabins

There are about 20 rental cabins operated by the United States Forest Service in the Petersburg area, some more easily accessible than others.

We chose to rent an Airbnb while is Petersburg so we could be sure of where we were staying and what amenities. While we had a great experience, the house we rented is no longer on the market so unfortunately I can’t pass on the recomendation.

There are also several campsites available nearby, although as with the rest of the Tongass National Forest, you should be wary of bear activity, of which there is almost always some.

There are several trails in the area as well, including the Hungry Point Trail that starts at the baseball field down at Sandy Beach. It is a wooden boardwalk that is wheelchair accessible and is only 1.5 miles in length.

For a more difficult hike, the Raven’s Roost Trail is about four miles long and has muddy portions that can be difficult to traverse. There is a cabin at the end of the trail where you can spend the night if you don’t want to rush and make it a day hike.

12. Rent a Car or Bicycle

If you want to explore Mitkof Island on your own, there are bicycle and car rentals available downtown.

Alternatively, you could also bring your own car on the Alaska Marine Highway from Skagway, Juneau, or Bellingham, Washington, although that is a longer and more expensive plan.

The Mitkof Highway extends about 32 miles from the city center, giving you many great opportunities to view 70 different types of wildlife, including birds, sea creatures,
and seabirds.

The Sandy Beach area is about three miles from town, which makes a bike ride a much faster option than walking.

Getting To Petersburg, Alaska

Petersburg is actually one of the easier island destinations to reach in Southeast Alaska since it is served by Alaska Airlines.

It is part of the Anchorage – Juneau – Seattle route that also stops in nearby Wrangell, which makes flying in very convenient.

For those wishing to come by boat, the state ferry system, The Alaska Marine Highway Service, also offers regular service to the town.

Final Thoughts

Petersburg is unique in many ways, including its Norwegian influences, a mine that contains garnet instead of gold or silver like others in the region, and the ability to fly in on Alaska Airlines.

Most of the activity here is focused on fishing and enjoying nature, but there are a lot of other things to enjoy as well.

Whether you fly or take a boat to town, Petersburg can’t wait to welcome you on your next Alaskan independent travel adventure!