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Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska Visitor Guide

Sitka, Alaska is a picturesque coastal community located on Baranof Island in the southeastern part of the state. Known for its rich Tlingit and Russian heritage, Sitka offers a unique blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. In this guide, you’ll find information on Sitka’s latitude and longitude, directions from Anchorage, things to do, history, famous people, RV and camping information, and annual festivals and events.

Sitka is located at approximately 57.0531° N latitude and 135.3300° W longitude.

Getting to Sitka from Anchorage

Like many Alaskan coastal communities, Sitka is not accessible by road. The most common ways to reach Sitka from Anchorage are by air or sea.

By Air

Several airlines offer flights from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) to Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport (SIT), often with a layover in Juneau or another city. The total travel time varies depending on the layovers, but it generally takes around 3-5 hours. Flight schedules may vary, so it’s essential to check with the airlines for current availability and prices.

By Ferry

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) provides ferry service to Sitka from various Alaskan ports, including Juneau or Ketchikan, which are accessible from Anchorage by air. Ferry schedules and trip durations vary, so it’s recommended to check the AMHS website for more information.

Things to Do

Sitka offers a variety of attractions and activities, including outdoor adventures, wildlife viewing, and cultural experiences.

Sitka National Historical Park

Visit Sitka National Historical Park to learn about the Tlingit and Russian history in the area. Explore the park’s scenic walking trails lined with totem poles, and visit the visitor center to view cultural exhibits and enjoy educational programs.

Fortress of the Bear

At Fortress of the Bear, observe Alaskan brown bears in a natural habitat-like setting. This bear rescue and rehabilitation facility offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about these magnificent animals up close.

Alaska Raptor Center

Visit the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation center for injured birds of prey. Take a guided tour to learn about the center’s work and see eagles, owls, and other raptors up close.

Sitka Sound Science Center

Explore the Sitka Sound Science Center, an aquarium and research facility showcasing local marine wildlife. Visitors can observe and learn about salmon, sea stars, anemones, and other marine animals native to the region.

Detailed History

Sitka’s history is characterized by its indigenous Tlingit roots and the Russian occupation in the 19th century. The area was originally inhabited by the Tlingit people, who called the region “Sheet’ká.”

Expanded History

Russian explorer Alexandr Baranov arrived in the late 18th century and established a trading post, which would eventually become the capital of Russian America. In 1867, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia, and Sitka remained the capital until 1906 when it was moved to Juneau.

Today, Sitka is a bustling community with a deep connection to its Tlingit and Russian heritage. The city’s economy is primarily based on fishing, tourism, and forest products.

Famous People from Sitka

One notable person from Sitka is Benny Benson, who designed the Alaska state flag at the age of 13. Born in Chignik, Benson was sent to the Jesse Lee Home for Children in Sitka, where he entered and won the contest to design the state flag in 1927.

RV and Camping Information

There are a few RV and camping options available in Sitka:

– **Sitka Sportsman’s Association RV Park**: This RV park offers 16 RV sites with water and electrical hook-ups, restrooms, showers, and a dump station.

– **Blue Lake Campground**: Situated near Blue Lake, this campground features tent camping sites, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are no RV hook-ups available, but the campground can accommodate small RVs and campers.

Annual Festivals and Events

Sitka hosts several annual events that celebrate its unique history, culture, and natural surroundings:

– **Sitka WhaleFest**: Held in November, this event celebrates marine life with educational presentations, wildlife tours, and cultural performances.

– **Sitka Summer Music Festival**: This classical music festival takes place in June and features renowned musicians from around the world performing in Sitka’s stunning surroundings.

– **Alaska Day Festival**: Celebrated in October, the Alaska Day Festival commemorates the transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. The event features historical reenactments, parades, and other festivities.

Visitors to Sitka, Alaska can experience a vibrant coastal community with deep-rooted Tlingit and Russian cultural heritage and stunning natural surroundings. From the totem poles at Sitka National Historical Park to the wildlife at Fortress of the Bear, Sitka offers a range of attractions and activities for those seeking an authentic Alaskan experience. Whether you’re visiting for a few days or planning an extended stay, Sitka provides a captivating and immersive experience for travelers looking to connect with Alaska’s rich heritage and pristine landscapes.

Baranof Castle Hill

Visit Baranof Castle Hill, a National Historic Landmark and the site of the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States in 1867. The hill offers panoramic views of Sitka and its harbor.

St. Michael’s Cathedral

Explore St. Michael’s Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church located in downtown Sitka. The cathedral, built in 1848, features Russian religious artifacts and icons and is a symbol of Sitka’s Russian history.

Hiking and Outdoor Recreation

Sitka’s beautiful surroundings offer numerous opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and outdoor recreation. Some popular hiking trails include the Harbor Mountain Trail, Indian River Trail, and the Gavan Hill Trail. In addition, the nearby Tongass National Forest provides countless opportunities for exploration and adventure.

Fishing and Boating

Enjoy fishing and boating in Sitka’s coastal waters and rivers. The area is renowned for its salmon and halibut fishing, with numerous guided fishing tours and charter services available. Wildlife viewing and sightseeing boat tours are also available, offering the chance to spot whales, sea otters, and other marine wildlife.

Sheldon Jackson Museum

Visit the Sheldon Jackson Museum, which showcases an extensive collection of Alaskan Native artifacts from various indigenous cultures, including Tlingit, Inupiaq, and Yup’ik. The museum offers a unique opportunity to learn about Alaska’s diverse indigenous heritage.
Here are more attractions and activities you can explore in Sitka:

Sea Kayaking

Paddle a sea kayak through the pristine waters surrounding Sitka, navigating among the islands, coves, and shorelines of the region. Guided kayak tours are available for various skill levels, providing a unique opportunity to experience the area’s wildlife, including sea otters, harbor seals, and seabirds.

Bird Watching

Sitka is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, with over 280 bird species recorded in the area. Visit the Alaska Raptor Center or explore various birdwatching hotspots, such as the Starrigavan Recreation Area, and the trails around Sitka National Historical Park.

Tide Pooling

Explore Sitka’s intertidal zone at low tide to discover a fascinating array of marine life, such as sea stars, hermit crabs, seaweed, and anemones. Sandy Beach and Halibut Point Recreation Area are popular locations for tide pooling.

Art Galleries and Studios

Discover Sitka’s thriving arts scene by visiting local galleries, studios, and gift shops featuring the work of talented Alaskan artists. From Tlingit carvings to contemporary paintings and sculptures, Sitka’s art scene showcases the region’s diverse cultural influences and natural beauty.

Guided Historical Tours

Take a guided walking tour of Sitka’s historic downtown to learn more about the city’s history, architecture, and landmarks. Local guides share stories and insights about Sitka’s Tlingit, Russian, and American influences, providing a deeper understanding of the area’s past.

Culinary Experiences

Sample the local flavors of Sitka by visiting its restaurants, cafes, and seafood markets. The city boasts a range of dining options, from casual eateries to upscale establishments, featuring locally sourced seafood, traditional Alaskan fare, and international cuisine.

Community Events

In addition to the annual festivals mentioned earlier, Sitka hosts a variety of community events and activities throughout the year, including art walks, farmers markets, and live music performances. Check Sitka’s event calendar during your visit to catch a glimpse of the city’s vibrant local culture.

Sitka, Alaska, offers a diverse range of attractions, activities, and events that cater to various interests and age groups. From its rich Tlingit and Russian cultural heritage to its stunning natural surroundings, there’s no shortage of experiences to be had in this unique coastal community. Whether you’re visiting for a few days or planning an extended stay, Sitka provides a captivating and immersive experience for travelers seeking a taste of the Alaskan way of life.