Sitka Travel Guide
Easily the most exotic port of call in Alaska, ancient Sitka is rich in history and natural beauty. Historically Alaska's "first city," Sitka is situated on the west side of Baranof Island on Alaska's temperate southwest coast and is host to more than 250,000 cruise ship visitors and 27 ships each year from May through September. Sitka served as the state capital of Alaska until 1906, when the economy of the city faltered and seat of government was transferred to Juneau.
The Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rain forest in the world, encompasses the Island with the exception of the inhabited areas of town. The forested slopes to the west lead to an inactive volcano, Mount Edgecumbe. Humpback whales can often bee seen in the surrounding waters in early spring and late fall, along with chance sightings of sea otters, sea lions, puffins and other sea birds.
With a population of more than 8,000, Sitka's economy is deeply anchored in its fishing industry and tourism. Residents in ever present rubber boots frequent stores and restaurants. In September, Sitka holds its annual "Running of the Boots" festival as a goodbye to its summer visitors and a hello to the returning salmon.
Ancient by lower 48 standards, the Sitka area was home to the Tlingit Indians for centuries before white men set foot in on its rocky coast. Making their home on the western side of what is now Baranof Island, the Kiksadi Clan of the Tlingits called their island "Shee" and their settlement "Shee Atika," meaning "people on the outside of Shee."
The Tlingits were immediately suspicious when Alexander Baranof, Manager of the Russian American Company, established a fort north of their village in 1799 to hunt sea otters for their valuable pelts. Knowing the Russians wanted their people for slaves to the fur trade, the Tlingit attacked Baranof's fort in 1802, in Baranof's absence, killing nearly all the Russians and their Aleutian slaves. Baranof returned two years later with reinforcements. For six days, the Tlingits fought valiantly to save their homes, but were ultimately overwhelmed and slipped away in the night. Baranof renamed the settlement New Archangel and raised the Russian flag over clan long houses that were slowly replaced by stone fortresses atop a sea-battered hill known as Castle Hill.
Overhunting eventually decimated the sea otter population and the public's fickle appetite for the soft fur diminished in the 1850s. Russia sold Alaska to the Americans in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars. The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. This ceremony is re-enacted every October 18.
SITKA QUICK STATISTICS
Population: 8,835 (#5 in Alaska)
Annual Rainfall: 82 inches
Average July Temperature: 57 degrees
SITKA VISITOR INFORMATION
Sitka Convention & Visitors Bureau
Address: 3-303 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 747-5940
Chamber of Commerce
Address: 329 Harbor Drive, Suite 212 Phone: (907) 747-8604
Novelist James Michener wrote his epic novel Alaska while residing at Sitka's Sheldon Jackson College.
READ UP ON SITKA
Address: 112 Barracks St. Phone: (907) 747-3219
Alaska Raptor Center
Address: 1000 Raptor Way Phone: (907) 747-8662
Harrigan Centennial Hall
Address: 330 Harbor Dr.
Phone: (907) 747-6455 (museum) / Phone: (907) 747-5940 (visitors bureau)
Russian Bishop's House
Address: 501 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 747-6281
St. Michael's Cathedral
Address: 240 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 747-8120
Sheldon Jackson Museum
Address: 104 College Dr. Phone: (907) 747-8981
Sitka National Historical Park
Address: 106 Metlakatla St. Phone: (907) 747-6281
Sitka State Pioneers Home
Address: Lincoln & Katlian Sts. Phone: (907) 747-3213
Address: Across the street from Pioneer Home
Address: 4 miles East of Sitka on the Sawmill Creek Rd.
SITKA HOTELS AND LODGING
Alaska Ocean View B & B
Address: 1101 Edgecumbe Dr. Phone: (907) 747-8310 / (888) 811-6870
Address: 1315 Halibut Point Rd. Phone: (907) 747-3056
Address: 330 Seward St. Phone: (907) 747-6241 / (800) 544-0970
Shee Atika Totem Square Inn
Address: 201 Katlian St. Phone: (907) 747-3693 / (866) 300-1353
Alaska Swan Lake B & B
Address: 206.5 Lakeview Dr. Phone: (907) 747-5746
Sitka has the largest incorporated city limits in the United States, an area that is four times the size of Rhode Island.
SITKA FOOD AND DRINK
Address: 236 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 966-3333
Address: 256 Katlian St. Phone: (907) 966-3663
Van Winkle and Sons
Address: 205 Harbor Dr., Phone: (907) 747-7652
Address: 315 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 747-5699
Address: Sitka Airport Terminal Phone: (907) 966-2480
Address: 407 Lincoln St. Phone: (907) 747-5440
Address: 212 Katlian St. Phone: (907) 747-3456
Kettleson Memorial Library
Address: 320 Harbor Dr. Phone: (907) 747-8708
The Highliner Coffee
Address: 327 Seward St., Sitka, AK
Note: Cost is $5/hour. Also, try using the wireless at Pioneer Bar.
Phone: (907) 966-2404 / (800) 230-4898
North Star Rent-a-Car
Phone: (907) 966-2552 / (800) 722-6927
Visitor Transit Bus - Sitka Tribe of Alaska
Address: 200 Katian St. Phone: (907) 747-7290 / (888) 270-8687
Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop
Address: 329 Harbor Dr. Phone: (907) 747-6317
Address: 605 Airport Dr. (On Japonski Island, a mile from town)
Phone: (907) 966-2960
FISH & GAME
Fish & Game Department Sport Fish
Address: 304 Lake St., #103 Phone: (907) 747-5355
Sitka is the home of the Alaska State Trooper Academy.
Tongass National Forest Sitka Supervisor Office
Address: 204 Siginaka Way Phone: (907) 747-6671
Sitka Community Hospital
Address: 209 Moller Dr. Phone: (907) 747-3241