Wainwright sits on a wave-eroded coastal bluff of a narrow peninsula that separates Wainwright Inlet from the Chukchi Sea. The winter temperatures range from 8 degrees to 30 below zero. The summers range from 30 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Wainwright is about 70 miles southwest of Utqiaġvik, and it is the third largest village in the North Slope Borough.
The inlet was named in 1826 by Captain F.W. Beechey for his officer Lieutenant John Wainwright. The present village was established in 1904 when the Alaska Native Service built a school here. The community was incorporated as a second-class city in 1962.
In early summer, the community gathers for Nalukataq, the feast that follows a successful whaling season. At this festival and on other occasions, villagers perform traditional Iñupiat dances. Other activities include boating, snowmobiling, hunting, camping, smelt fishing in the spring, and Native arts and crafts.