Sitka is located on the west side of Baranof Island, it is serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway and 2.5 hours flying time from Seattle, WA.
Visitor Information: Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau; 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 Milepost 0.6 Halibut Point Road), and gift shops. Laundry may be done at the Super 8 as they allow the public to use their facilities. There are 2 additional laundromats: one 1 mile and the second 1.5 miles from downtown. Shopping and services are also available along Sawmill and Halibut Point roads.
RV camping in the Sitka area at the Sitka Sportsmans RV Park, located a block from the ferry terminal on Halibut Point Road. It is open year-round with 16 full-service ocean front sites; phone 907-623-7740; www.rvsitka.com. The municipal Sealing Cove RV Park, adjacent to Sealing Cove Boat Harbor on Japonski Island, is open April 1–Sept. 30; first-come, first-served. A dump station is located at the city’s Waste-water Treatment Plant on Japonski Island.
The U.S. Forest Service’s Starrigavan Recreation Area is at Milepost 7.1 Halibut Point Road. This recreation facility is gated at night; access varies depending on daylight hours. If you are arriving late evening or early morning, contact the Sitka Ranger District during business hours for gate schedule; phone 907-747-6671.
The Sitka Library is conveniently located near Harrigan Centennial Hall at the waterfront. Tables with plug-ins for electronics, nice views, restrooms and helpful staff make this a good stop for visitors.
- 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.
- The Naa Kahidi Native Dancers perform regularly during the summer at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tribal Community House at 200 Katlian St. The tribal house is built in the style of a Tlingit clan house and boasts the largest hand-carved house screen in the Pacific Northwest, as well as large, carved exterior house panels. For dance performance schedule go online or phone (907) 747-7210.
- 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 located on Raptor Way, 0.7 mile south on Sawmill Creek Road from downtown. This unique facility treats injured eagles, hawks, owls and other birds. The Raptor Center is open daily in summer. Tour the outside displays and enjoy views of eagles inside the building through one-way glass. Informative guides are on site. Large group tours may be possible with advanced notice.