A visit to Craig (pop. 1,400), on the western coast of Prince of Wales Island, gives you access to water-based recreation activities, as well as the allure of the Tongass National Forest, which encompasses the entire island. As the largest town on the Prince of Wales, Craig offers lots of options for lodging, meals and charter boat rides, making it a convenient home base for tourists.
Like many little towns in Southeast Alaska, the community of Craig developed around plentiful natural resources – mainly fishing and timber – which made living in remote Alaska possible (and for some, profitable).
Originally called “Fish Egg,” Craig started attracting more seasonal and permanent residents around 1908, when a fish curing plant and cold storage facility were built. Craig Millar, whose family had developed several fish salteries around Prince of Wales Island, was put in charge of the operation, and the community later took his name.
Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the timber industry was the community’s main economic driver, as huge Sitka spruce and hemlock were harvested. Although that industry died away in the early 1990s, it left a legacy of old logging roads that are worth exploring.
Commercial fishing is the main economic driver today, which is evident by all the activity at the dock in summer. Salmon runs are robust, particularly for Kings, and the location on the western side of Prince of Wales Island means Craig fishermen are in the right spot to get to them first. In addition to the salmon catch, shellfish harvesting and groundfish catch put Craig among the top 100 fishing ports in the country.
Craig offers groceries, apparel, fuel and gear you might need, as well as a laundry, restaurants, lodging and charter boat services. It’s even got a community aquatic center if you feel like taking a dip.
Things to do in and around Craig:
Visit during 4th of July for a festive parade, rubber duck race and fireworks show.
Take a fishing charter in search of trophy-sized King salmon and feisty silvers along with monster halibut, rockfish or lingcod. Once out on the water, you’ll also likely see humpbacks and other marine life like seals, sea lions and sea otters.
Take a boat tour to find of seabirds like blue heron, cormorants and rhinoceros auklets (rare in other parts of Southeast Alaska).
Hike the steep Sunnahae Trail (2 miles round-trip) for stunning views on a clear day, or the Graveyard Island Trail (1.5 miles round-trip), a level, hard packed gravel trail lined with trees that starts at the Craig Cemetery and winds along the coastline.
Take a drive along the Craig-Klawock Highway, a designated Scenic Byway.
Check out the nearby Tlingit village of Klawock. There you can visit Klawock Totem Park and watch carvers at work, or tour the second oldest fish hatchery in Alaska, which enhances local salmon runs.
Rent one of 20 public use cabins and get out into the Tongass National Forest. There are several dotting the island, some accessible by car, others by boat or charter plane.
Visit the Dog Salmon Fish Pass wildlife viewing area, about two hours from Craig, to safely watch black bear feast on salmon.
Explore El Capitan, the largest of 500 caves on Prince of Wales Island. It’s also about two hours from Craig.
Be sure to fuel up in Craig before heading out around Prince of Wales Island. Not every community has a gas station.
The Craig Community Library offers free wi-fi and public computers.
Regular floatplane service into Craig is available from Ketchikan.
Wheeled plane service is also available into Klawock, just 7 miles to the north. Regular flights come from Ketchikan and Sitka.
The Inter-Island Ferry runs daily year-round between Ketchikan and Hollis, on the eastern shore of Prince of Wales Island. The trip takes 3 hours. Craig is a 29-mile scenic drive from Hollis. (You can fly into Ketchikan or arrive there by ferry on the Alaska Marine Highway System, from Bellingham, Washington or Rupert, British Columbia).
If you want to explore Prince of Wales Island by car, you can bring your own vehicle on the ferry or rent one when you get to Hollis.