Petersburg popular with small ships

Petersburg AK

Petersburg is an island community that has three beautiful harbors which attract the smaller cruise ships, private yachts and pleasure boats to town in the summer months.

Small cruise vessels can take their passengers to destinations that the larger ships cannot reach, and Southeast Alaska is home to two communities that are popular with these ships.  

Petersburg, situated on the north end of Mitkof Island, is home to about 2,800 Alaskans. Shallow waters around the island prevent large cruise ships from docking in Petersburg, so smaller cruise ships take advantage of the opportunity to visit a vibrant community originally settled by Norwegian immigrants more than 100 years ago.

Five ships will call 51 times next season.

“The cruise industry brings so many new faces to our community each summer,” said Mara Lutomski, director, Petersburg Visitors Information Center. “They are only here for half a day, but many of them return for a longer stay and tell their friends and family what a wonderful place Petersburg is to visit.”

The Petersburg Harbor lacks a dock dedicated for cruise ships, which share available space with the commercial fishing fleet. At the peak of the cruise ship season, careful planning and scheduling are important to meet the needs of both industries.

A new cruise ship dock would allow more small cruise ships to visit Petersburg and create long-term, stable economic growth. “Having cruise lines with small ships coming into Petersburg is really important to our local economy,” said Dave Berg with Viking Travel. “They provide opportunities for employment of guides, security, day labor and transportation companies.”

Petersburg does not currently receive revenues from the state’s commercial passenger vessel excise tax, also known as the cruise ship head tax. A new cruise ship dock is estimated at approximately $11 million dollars, a price tag far higher than Petersburg could pay for without some sort of government assistance.


Petersburg’s top five attractions

Cruise ship passengers may find they have more choices for shore side adventures than time after stepping off the ship in Petersburg. Here are five in no particular order.

Touch a glacier – Visit LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in the northern hemisphere. Massive icebergs calve off the glacier, providing a remarkable experience for young and old.

Fishing – All five species of pacific salmon and halibut are easily available by signing up with one of the many fishing charter operators in Petersburg.

Hiking – The Borough of Petersburg encompasses two million acres of rainforest. Miles of hiking trails lead visitors to glacier carved lakes, mountain streams, wildlife, beaches and waterfalls.

Wildlife viewing – The Petersburg area is teaming with wildlife. It is possible for visitors to see whales, harbor seals, birds and bears all in one day! 

Downtown attractions – Stroll through downtown Petersburg and visit art galleries, dine on fresh seafood and find unique local and Native artwork. Be sure to see the fish canneries and commercial fishing fleet.

Cruise visitors important to Wrangell

bear viewing in Wrangell AK

Visitors can get up close and personal with the wildlife at Wrangell’s Anan Bear Viewing and Wildlife Observatory.

Another favorite destination for small cruise ships is a community located on the northwest corner of Wrangell Island. Wrangell is slightly smaller than Petersburg, but it packs the same punch for cruise ship visitors looking for that unique Alaskan experience.

Five ships will make 29 calls this season.

“The cruise industry is an important part of our island community’s visitor industry,” said Carol Rushmore, Economic Development Director, City and Borough of Wrangell. “Wrangell welcomes the cruise ship passengers that visit us each summer from around the world and we look forward to increased cruise visitation and new opportunities.”

The Wrangell Port has undergone extensive improvements, creating enough space to accommodate the increasing number of small cruise ships and passengers, making it a top destination.


Wrangell’s top five attractions

Wrangell is the third largest city in the United States by land area with 2,500 square miles of land, so it’s a little tough to narrow the list down to just five, but here they are in no particular order

Fishing – Wrangell is another fisherman’s dream destination. Halibut and the five species of pacific salmon are yours for the catching in the pristine waters surrounding Wrangell.

Muskeg Meadows Golf Course – Golfers will love this scenic and surprisingly challenging USGA-rated course. If golf is not your thing, just take a stroll around the property to see birds and other wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, if you decide to hit the links, be sure to ask about the “Raven Rule” before teeing off.

Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory – The largest pink salmon run in Southeast Alaska draws more than cruise ships visitors, it also attracts a large number of black and brown bears from mid through late summer that come to feast on the salmon. This is so popular during the peak season (July 5 – August 25) that tickets should be reserved six months or more in advance.

Petroglyph Beach and State Historic Park – The stories and culture of ancient Alaska Natives are etched onto this rocky beach about a mile from Wrangell. Replicas of several designs are made for visitors to make rubbings on. Please tread carefully while visiting to protect this unique historical site.

Chief Shakes Island and Tribal House – Continue your immersion into Alaska Native culture with a visit to this fully restored recreation of a traditional Tlingit tribal house and the hand-carved totem poles.



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