Sitka is located on the west side of Baranof Island, it is serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway and 2 hours flying time from Seattle, WA.
Visitor information: Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau at Box 1226-MP, Sitka, AK 99835; phone 907-747-8604.
Sitka was originally occupied by Tlingit Indians. Alexander Baranof, chief manager of the Russian–American Co. built a trading post and fort (St. Michael’s Redoubt) north of Sitka in 1799. Indians burned down the fort in 1802, but Baranof returned in 1804, and by 1808, Sitka was capital of Russian Alaska. Salmon was the mainstay of the economy from the late 1800s until the 1950s, when the salmon population decreased. A pulp mill operated at nearby Silver Bay from 1960 to 1993.
Services in Sitka’s downtown area include restaurants, drugstore, clothing and grocery stores (grocery store also at Mile 0.6 Halibut Point Road), and gift shops. Hotel/motel and bed-and-breakfast accommodations are available. There are several RV parks in the Sitka area. The Sitka Sportsmans RV Park, and the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds: the large Starrigavan Recreation Area on Starrigavan Bay, which has camping and picnicking; and a smaller, more primitive campground at Sawmill Creek. The municipal Sealing Cove Campground, adjacent to Sealing Cove Boat Harbor on Japonski Island, is open April 1–Sept. 30. Shopping and services are also available along Sawmill and Halibut Point roads. Dump stations are located at the Waste-water Treatment Plant on Japonski Island. Laundry may be done at the Super 8 as they allow the public to use their laundry facilities. There are 2 additional laundromats: one 1 mile and the second 1.5 miles from downtown.
- Take a walking tour of Sitka’s historic landmarks: St. Michael’s Cathedral (1844); Building 29 (Tilson Bldg.), built in 1835; and the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB) Hall, built in 1914.
- Visit Castle Hill (Baranof Castle Hill State Historic Site), where Alaska changed hands from Russia to the United States on Oct. 18, 1867.
- The Sitka Pioneers’ Home at Lincoln and Katlian streets was built in 1934 on the old Russian Parade Ground. Totem Square, across from the Pioneers’ Home, contains a Russian cannon and 3 anchors recovered from the Sitka vicinity.
- Sitka Lutheran Church contains artifacts from the original 1843 Finnish Lutheran Church.
- Sitka Summer Music Festival, an annual event featuring the best in chamber music, takes place in June; visit website for details.
- Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tribal Community House is a modern rendition of a northwest coast tribal clan house. Native culture exhibits and Tlingit dance performances.
- Sheldon Jackson Museum contains some of the finest Native arts and crafts found in Alaska, many collected between 1888 and 1900.
- Sitka National Historical Park has a free self-guiding trail past the park’s totem pole collection to the Fort Site. The park’s Visitor Center houses an exhibit of Tlingit and Russian artifacts.
- Visit the Russian Bishop’s House, built by the Russian–American Co. in 1843 for the first Russian Orthodox bishop to reside in Alaska.
- Visit the Alaska Raptor Center. This unique facility treats injured eagles, hawks, owls and other birds. Programs are presented for tour groups and visitors may tour the outdoor pens on their own.