Sitka is a small yet lively town in Southeast Alaska that is full of surprises. Just when you think that you have seen all there is to see in this remote city, you stumble upon something that will instantly catch your attention. This is the case for the best restaurants and a few of the premier shopping outlets. They simply spring up out of nowhere, making for an interesting and exciting stay. There are a couple of great museums, and the scuba diving and sea kayaking in Sitka is marvelous. The calm, protected waters make these two sports very popular among both tourists and locals. Much of the land in Sitka is protected, further adding to the glorious experience of touring the city. The Sitka National Historical Park is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon or even longer, and the scenery is wonderfully picturesque. The hiking trails are great. In Sitka, your eyes will be opened to one of the top wonders of the world.
From an historical point of view, Sitka is perhaps the richest city in all of Alaska. The struggles and battles between the native Alaskans and the invading Russians proved to be an incredible story that will never be forgotten by either side. In the 18th century, Russian soldiers enslaved the Aleut people, but it was the Tlingits who came to their aid and battled the Russians. Eventually, many of the Aleuts went free, and the citizens of Sitka were able to maintain their freedom and way of life. Soon after, cultures blended and created a more subtle conflict in the region. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska and the Russians left the state, but many of their customs remained. Today Sitka is a warm and friendly place, full of aesthetic beauty and fun-filled sites. The inhabitants are typically a happy bunch, and are accustomed to treating tourists with the utmost respect and kindness. The old churches and cathedrals provide a glimpse into the past, and the rich heritage and fascinating sites add to the lure of this culturally diverse town.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Sitka. Once off the ship, you can walk to downtown Sitka or arrange for the Visitor Transit Bus to take you to your destination.
Perhaps the best way to travel around the city of Sitka and the surrounding area is via the Visitor Transit Bus, which makes a continuous circuit of popular travel sites from May to September, Monday-Friday from 12:30pm-4:30pm, with added morning hours when cruise ships are in. For $7.00 a day, you can ride the buses to your heart's content. Sitka Tribal Tours offers culturally authentic tours, giving you the opportunity to experience Alaska uniquely. Call 888/270-8687 for reservations. If you would like to rent a car, contact Avis (800/331-1212) for details. In addition, Southeast Diving and Sports (907/747-8279) located at 105 Monastery St., has daily, weekly, and monthly rates available for bicycle rentals.
The Sitka National Historical Park is located at 103 Monastery St. (907/747-0110) and is a combination historical center, information center, wildlife haven, and beautiful landmark. The region is glorious, and there is a trail all the way to the Sitka Sound that is great fun to walk. There is a series of hand carved totem poles along the way, created by natives nearly a century ago. A Tlingit fort once stood halfway down the trail, but it was destroyed during the 1804 battle between the Tlingits and the Russians. Once you get to the Indian River, the gorgeous landscape becomes even more picturesque. As you stand on the bridge, you can gaze down at the sparkling river and see the spawning salmon glistening in the water.
St. Michael's Cathedral can be found on Lincoln Street (907/747-8120) and was originally constructed out of logs between the years of 1844 and 1848. In 1966, a fire raged through Sitka and destroyed the church, so it was rebuilt, but this time not out of wood. The citizens of Sitka held their beloved House of God in such high esteem that they rushed into the blazing building to save the icons, relics, religious objects, and other historical items from burning in the fire. Ten years later, in 1976, an exact replica of the original structure was erected.
The Sheldon Jackson Museum is located at 104 College Dr. (907/747-8981) and features a fantastic collection of artifacts from old Alaska. The collection was started in 1888, and both the architecture of the building and the contents inside are spectacular. There is a gift shop as well, which sells authentic art created by the natives.
Sea Kayaking and Diving
The protected waters and pleasant conditions make Sitka the perfect sea kayaking destination. Baidarka Boats is located at 320 Seward St. (907/747-8996) and is the oldest and most esteemed sea kayaking company in Sitka. The guided excursions are great, and they have tours available for everyone from first time kayakers to expert sea adventurers. Their shop is full of top-notch gear, and the instructional seminar is both informative and helpful. Scuba diving is quite popular in Sitka because of the abundance of marine life in the area. The waters in this region are a sparkling, clear blue, which enable you to see everything around you. Typically the wintertime is the best for diving in Sitka, because of the decreased plankton in the water. However, do not let this discourage you from a fantastic dive if you happen to be here in the summer. A great company to contact is Clay's Dive Shop, which is located at 246 Katlian St. (907/747-7871).
The Channel Club is located at 2906 Halibut Point Rd. (907/747-9916) and features the best seafood in Sitka. The steaks are great as well, and the atmosphere is a casual and pleasurable dining experience. This is the place to come for dinner after a long day of outdoor adventure. The portions are large and the food is delicious, and if you are a fan of fine salad this is the spot for you. Bayview Restaurant can be found at 407 Lincoln St. (907/747-5440) and from the dining room you have a wonderful view of the harbor. The menu is large, and specialties include the clam chowder and the various tasty Russian entrees.
The Sheldon Jackson Museum Gift Shop is located at 104 College Dr. and carries wide array of crafts and items from all over the state. The art is all of good quality and there is a good chance that you will find something that will look perfect in your living room. The Sitka Rose Gallery (888/236-1536) can be found at 419 Lincoln St. and features exquisite jewelry and paintings. Fairweather Prints is located at 209 Lincoln St. (907/747-8677) and offers its patrons some wonderful clothing options. The shirts, jackets, and dresses with handcrafted Alaskan designs are a pleasant addition to any wardrobe. Fairweather Prints carries a nice selection of paintings and ceramics as well.