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Sitka, AK

Sitka is a city on the Pacific Ocean coast of Baranof Island in Alaska, the largest state in the United States of America. Originally settled by Tlingit Indians, Sitka also has a history as a Russian settlement. Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska, established in 1799 by Alexander Baranof of the Russian American Company. In 1867 when Russia sold Alaska to the U.S., the transfer ceremony took place on Castle Hill at Sitka on October 18, a day celebrated as Alaska Day. Sitka attracts now about a quarter million visitors a year. 

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough is the largest incorporated city by area in the U.S., with a total area of 4,811 square miles (12,460.4 km2), of which 2,870 square miles (7,400 km2) is land and 1,941 square miles (5,030 km2) (40.3%) is water. As a comparison, this is almost four times the size of the state of Rhode... Read more

Sitka, AK

Destination:
Sitka is a city on the Pacific Ocean coast of Baranof Island in Alaska, the largest state in the United States of America. Originally settled by Tlingit Indians, Sitka also has a history as a Russian settlement. Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska, established in 1799 by Alexander Baranof of the Russian American Company. In 1867 when Russia sold Alaska to the U.S., the transfer ceremony took place on Castle Hill at Sitka on October 18, a day celebrated as Alaska Day. Sitka attracts now about a quarter million visitors a year. 

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough is the largest incorporated city by area in the U.S., with a total area of 4,811 square miles (12,460.4 km2), of which 2,870 square miles (7,400 km2) is land and 1,941 square miles (5,030 km2) (40.3%) is water. As a comparison, this is almost four times the size of the state of Rhode Island.

Sitka displaced Juneau, Alaska as the largest incorporated city by area in the United States upon the 2000 incorporation with 2,874 square miles (7,440 km2) of the incorporated area. Juneau's incorporated area is 2,717 square miles (7,040 km2). Jacksonville, Florida, is the largest city in area in the contiguous 48 states at 758 square miles (1,960 km2).

Port

Sitka is the 6th largest port by value of seafood harvest in the United States. The port has the largest harbor system in Alaska.

During Russian rule, Sitka was a busy seaport on the west coast of North America, mentioned a number of times by Dana in his popular account of an 1834 sailing voyage Two Years Before the Mast. After transfer of Alaska to U.S. rule, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company began tourist cruises to Sitka in 1884. By 1890, Sitka was receiving 5,000 tourist passengers a year.
 

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Sitka, AK: Port Information


Cruise ships dock at the pier (floating dock) which is six miles away from the downtown.
Free shuttle buses are available to and from the center. The ride takes about 15 minutes.
The drop point is near Harrigan Centennial Hall. The visitor center is available nearby.

Besides, cruise ships can anchor offshore and transport their passengers ashore by the tender boats.

Get around Sitka, AK


  • By foot. The downtown area of Sitka can be explored by foot. A walking map, with two suggested loops, one westward to the Sitka Channel, the other eastward to the Alaska Raptor Center, may be obtained from the Summer Information Desk in the Harrigan Centennial Hall near the Crescent Harbor Lightering Facility.
  • Community Ride (907) 747-7103. Founded by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Sitka Community Ride has been serving Sitka’s Community since 2002. Operates three bus lines -- Green, Red, and Blue -- M-F 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. Holidays Observed: New Years Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Alaska Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day.
  • On/Off Bus~Visitors Shuttle, 907-747-7137. Runs only on days when there is scheduled to be at least 1000+ passenger cruise ship in port. May-Sept. Shuttle operates 9 am until ship's last tender. Stops every 30 min. at Crescent Harbor Shelter, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Sitka Nat’l. Historical Park, Alaska Raptor Center, a downtown stop by Random House, the Tribal Community House, O’Connell Bridge docking area. 
  • Hank's Taxi & Tour Service, 907-747-8888, (Email: hank@hankstours.com). Operates 4 AM-12 AM.
  • Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop, 805 Halibut Point Rd. downtown, across from Harrigan Centennial Hall, 907-747-6317, (Email: yellowj@ptialaska.net). Full-service bike shop with daily or weekly bicycle rentals.
  • Esther G Sea Taxi, 907-747-6481, cell phone (907) 738-6481, Email: alaskadavey@gci.net. Over twenty years of experience. Marine transportation to remote locations for hiking, biking, camping, and kayaking. Captain Davey Lubin.

What to see in Sitka, AK


  • Sitka National Historical Park, 106 Metlakatla St., 907-747-0110. No food service or lodging in this park.
  • Visitor Center open year-round: 8 AM-5 PM. Closed on Federal holidays during the winter months. Wheelchair accessible. The Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, totem poles, and museum exhibits are located in the building. Exhibits depict traditional Tlingit life. A short video reviews Sitka's history.
  • Russian Bishop's House open mid-May through September daily 9 AM-5 PM. Ranger-led tours are offered every 30 minutes. October through mid-May open by appointment only. This original log structure built in 1843 is one of the last remaining buildings from the Russian colonial period. Not wheelchair accessible.
  • Park Trails open mid-May through September daily 6 AM-10 PM; October through mid-May daily 7 AM-8 PM. Free. Walk in a temperate rain forest under towering trees, observe migrating salmon, explore the intertidal zone, and study wildlife. A pleasant walk through the Alaska woods with interesting totem poles interspersed. The Village Watchman, the Raven in Human Form, the Raven and a Bear are some of the figures displayed.
  • Alaska Raptor Center, 1000 Raptor Way, 1-800-643-9425. May-September Su-F 8 AM-4 PM. Bald eagles and other raptors from all over the Western United States are treated at this 17-acre facility bordering the Tongass National Forest. See the eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls up close.
  • Castle Hill, Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site, also National Historic Landmark. American flag raising site. In 1867 when Alaska was transferred from Russia to the U.S., the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag officially raised here. In 1959 when Alaska became the 49th State, the first 49-star American flag was officially raised here. Once the site of a two-story log mansion known as Baranof's Castle, which overlooked Sitka Sound during the Russian fur trading era. A fully accessible walkway leads visitors to the top of the hill and provides outstanding views of downtown Sitka and waterfront. Interpretive panels provide opportunities to learn more about the history of this site.
  • St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral, 240 Lincoln St., 907-747-8120. National Historic Landmark. Constructed 1844-1848, the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel was the principal representative of Russian cultural influence in the 19th century in North America, as the Seat of the Russian Orthodox Diocese of North America, and then as the Seat of the Diocese of Alaska. Although the original was burned down in 1966 and reconstructed, the artifacts inside including the icons were largely preserved from the fire.
  • Sitka Historical Society Museum, 330 Harbor Dr. (downtown), Phone: 907-747-6455.
  • Saint Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge (by boat tour) St. Lazaria is a rugged island with limited and difficult access -- ideal for birds to inhabit and to nest. On the island, one can find Fork-tailed Storm-petrels, Leach"s Storm-petrels, Thick-billed Murres, Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Pigeon Guillemots, Glaucous-winged Gulls, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Black Oystercatchers
  • Mt. Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano that looks like Mt. Fuji, looms in the background and dominates views to the west.
  • Sheldon Jackson Museum (State Cultural & Historical Museum), 104 College Drive (Pleasant walk along Lincoln St. passing Crescent Harbor. Museum is on the former Sheldon Jackson College Campus.), 907-747-8981. Summer: 9 AM to 5 PM daily. Closed holidays. Winter: 10 AM to 4 PM Tues thru Sat. Closed holidays. Offering a superb exhibit and collection of Alaskan Native cultural and historical artifacts. The Rev. Dr. Sheldon Jackson was the moving force behind the construction of the Sheldon Jackson Museum and the collector of many of its artifacts. If there were a museum for museums, the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka would be part of the collection. It is the oldest museum in Alaska and is in the first concrete building in the state. Construction began in 1895 and it has been occupied since 1897. The building was placed on the National Historical Register in 1972. While the building may be as old as some of the items in its collection, its exhibits reflect recent renovation and a dedication to professional museum standards. The Museum's collection has been called a jewel in the crown of Alaska ethnographic collections.
  • Fortress of the Bear (Brown Bear Education and Viewing Center), 4639 Sawmill Creek Road (Five miles from downtown out Sawmill Creek Road. Take a taxi OR take a tour.), 907-747-3032. Summer: 9:00-5:00 every day. Winter: 10:00-3:00 Fri. thru Sat. Fortress of the Bear is a non-profit education and rescue center with a three-quarter acre habitat for orphaned Brown Bear cubs complete with covered viewing areas. Also home to the Sawmill Farm. The Fortress has two resident brown bears and may have additional cubs or other bears as rescues occur. Bear cubs are usually housed temporarily at the Fortress until permanent homes are found.  
  • Sitka Sound Science Center, 834 Lincoln Street (1/2 mile from downtown), 907-747-8878. Located on the waterfront on the way to the Sitka National Historical Park. The Science Center operates an educational fish hatchery and the Molly Ahlgren Aquarium.   

What to do in Sitka, AK


  • Call of the Wild Adventures, 907-738-2458. Go saltwater sport fishing with a friendly local instead of with an over-priced 'monster' lodge.
  • Harris Aircraft Services, 400 Airport Road, Phone: 907-966-3050, (e-mail: info@harrisaircraft.com). A floatplane flightseeing trip is a good way to get an overview of Baranof Island.
  • Sitka Tribal Tours, 200 Katlian Street, Sitka, Alaska 99835 (907) 747-7137. Tribal Tours provides a variety of cultural coach tours including a 2.5hr cultural tour and 3.5hr cultural tour w/Alaska Raptor Center. Both tours feature authentic Tlingit native dance performed in classic clan-style house with cedar fire pit.
  • New Archangel Dancers (Russian Dance Performance), Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Drive (Downtown Sitka on the waterfront.), 907-747-5516. Summer: varied times during cruise ship visits. Enjoy a half hour performance of lively, traditional Russian folk dances. The New Archangel Dancers mission is to promote and encourage interest in Alaska's Russian History and culture through sharing of ethnic folk dance and song. These were evident in Sitka during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Dancers have performed in Japan, Canada, Mexico, and Russia, and are considered by many to be Ambassadors for Sitka and Alaska. 

What to eat and drink in Sitka, AK


Eat

There are a nice mix of restaurants in Sitka including Mediterranean, Mexican, Japanese, and Chinese. Despite the town being relatively small, there are about 17 restaurants and a dozen or so other places serving food. The only franchises are McDonalds and Subway.
  • Ludvig's Restaurant, 256 Katlian St., 907-966-3663, Tu-Sa 12 PM-9 PM. Mediterranean. 

Drink

  • Ernie's Old Time Saloon, 130 Lincoln Street, 907-747-3334. Chips, peanuts, pool table. Live music F, Sa nights. Hours: M-Sa 8 AM-2 AM, Sunday Noon-2 PM. Cash only.
  • Pioneer Bar, 212 Katlian Street, 907-747-3456. Maritime-themed bar.  
COFFEE
  • Highliner Cafe, 327 Seward Street backside of Seward Square Mall. Internet cafe with gourmet espresso drinks and freshly roasted coffee, full line of bagels, freshly baked breakfast stuffed croissants, Scandinavian cookies, other pastries.
  • Channel Club, 2906 Halibut Point Rd, 907-747-7440, 5 PM - 9 PM.

Shopping in Sitka, AK


  • Russian and native handicrafts are featured products.
  • Russian-American Company-Random House (Russian and Native Art), 134 Lincoln Street (Downtown Sitka), 907-747-3354, 9 AM-6 PM. Museum-quality Russian lacquer boxes and matryoshka nesting dolls are two highlights of our shops. As direct importers, we also offer a large and affordable selection of unique Russian folk art and handicrafts, such as amber jewelry and Zhostovo floral painted trays, brooches, boxes, porcelain and hair clips. Authentic Russian lacquer boxes, handcrafted from papier mache and hand painted by the specially trained artists of Fedoskino, Palekh, Mstera, and Kholui. The Russian American Company is an authorized dealer of contemporary Faberge jewelry. Also, offer a large selection of Alaskan Native Art - Ivory, whalebone, baleen baskets, scrimshaw, totemic plaques, and masks.  
  • Island Artists Gallery, 205 Lincoln St, ☎ (907)747-6536. Open year round. Sitka's local artist co-op. 25 different artists offering a wide selection of locally produced art.

Safety in Sitka, AK


Alaska enjoys a comparatively low crime rate and is generally a safe place to travel.

While Alaska is wild and beautiful, it does not tolerate fools easily. It is quite possible to get lost, cold, wet, and even die. The state's populace varies between extremely friendly to tourists to openly hostile. A common bumper sticker says: "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot 'em?" Many Alaskans are understandably tired of those people from the "lower 48" who head North to live out ill-conceived — and sometimes fatal — fantasies of living off the land.

Be prepared for the trip you plan. Do your homework, and plan on being self-sufficient. Consider using a guide, or checking out local conditions with locals before jumping in the kayak, and heading for yonder point that looked so nice on the map. The water in Alaska is so cold, falling overboard can be fatal within minutes. More importantly, self-rescue becomes impossible often within seconds, especially around glacier-fed rivers. Treatment for hypothermia is required reading before doing any water sports, even during warm weather.

A word about bears: There's an old joke about how to determine if you are in bear country in Alaska. Take out a map of the state and make a circle around the downtown area of Anchorage. If you are outside the circle, you are in bear country. Although a humorous way of phrasing it, this is absolutely true. Assume bears are present in any area of Alaska, even if you do not see them. Both black and brown bears are present in Alaska. Polar bears are also present in the far north but you probably won't be going all the way into their territory. If you do, it would be wise to make peace with whatever higher power you may believe in before walking around anywhere without a very large gun. If you see large claw scratches on a tree you are in a bear's territory. Never leave food, water, or garbage unattended outdoors or it may attract a bear. Bears are wild animals and their behavior can be capricious. Never approach a bear. Never run from a bear as it will see you as food and it can run faster than you. If you encounter a bear you should stand your ground. Make lots of noise and wave your arms. If you have any metallic objects bang them against one another. In most cases, even when bears charge humans, they do not attack. But if you run towards one, surprise it while it is eating, run from it, or get anywhere near a cub, the chances of an attack are greatly increased. While it is amazing to see bears, the safest thing for you and for them is to observe them quietly from a distance and never approach them closely. Keep in mind that if you leave food or garbage out and a bear eats it, even if you don't see it happen you have endangered the bear's life. Studies have shown that the previously employed tactic of trapping and relocating bears that have become habituated was not effective: the bears either returned to the same areas eventually or sought other sources of human foods. So now "trouble bears" are killed by park rangers or law enforcement agencies instead.

Moose are even more common in most areas of the state, and are just as dangerous, and attack humans more frequently than bears. Moose may be herbivores and seem like slow-moving, lumbering animals, but they have sharp hooves and can strike with surprising speed and accuracy. Moose are not territorial, but they do have a strong desire to defend their "personal space" especially mothers with calves. Signs that indicate a moose is agitated include the laying back of their large ears, lowering the head, snorting and stomping their hooves. Unlike with bears, it is wisest to simply run if a moose acts aggressively towards you or charges. They just want you to leave them alone, so keep your distance. Be aware of moose as well when driving. Every year's dozens of moose are killed and many humans injured or killed by collisions between vehicles and moose. The long legs make it dangerous as often the bumper of the car will strike the moose only in the legs and its enormous body will impact the windshield, so slow down if moose are present and be aware they sometimes get "spooked" by cars and will suddenly sprint in unpredictable directions.

Language spoken in Sitka, AK


English is the official language. 

LOCAL TIME

6:32 pm
August 24, 2019
America/Anchorage

CURRENT WEATHER

14.41 °C / 57.938 °F
light rain
Sun

12.86 °C/55 °F
light rain
Mon

12.64 °C/55 °F
moderate rain
Tue

13.26 °C/56 °F
light rain
Wed

13.55 °C/56 °F
sky is clear

LOCAL CURRENCY

USD

1 EUR = 0 USD
1 GBP = 0 USD
1 AUD = 0 USD
1 CAD = 0 USD

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Latest travel blogs about Sitka, AK



Photo by: USDA Forest Service Alaska Region/flickr/CC BY 2.0

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Sitka  is a beautiful port of call greeting all the adventurers discovering The Last Frontier. The city lies on Baranof Island and the southern half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean. Sitka has a long and eventful history. It attracts many tourists from all...

In Sitka (the city in Alaska , where Russia sold Alaska to America) we boarded a catamaran and went to watch wild animals. The main purpose of our trip were the sea-otters. Exactly because of their fur Russia colonized Alaska, and when each one of the otters were killed, sold it to...
In almost every town in Alaska that I've visited, there was something connected with Russia. This can be a church, or cemetery, or just a store with Russian dolls: I used to think that only Russia has 'Soviet streets', it turned out that in the USA there are also 'American streets': Also in...
On October 18, 1867, in Sitka Russia sold Alaska to the USA for a half of cent per one hundred square meters. On the morning of that day 250 U.S. and 80 Russian soldiers gathered on the Castle Hill - small hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Double volley was given by cannons in honor of the...

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