Sitka is a picturesque Alaskan city nestled between snow-capped mountains and blue waters. The seaside town is a popular tourist destination with visitors eager to experience Sitka’s unique culture, an exotic mix of the Tlingit Native American and Russian influence.
An excellent spot for fishing, hiking and bird spotting, Sitka also treats visitors to interesting architecture and quality restaurants. The charming port is still a lively fishing community, adding to the overall character of this historical city. Wander through its streets and appreciate the collision of cultures, like the domes of St. Michael’s Cathedral. Or take a hike through the rain forest, admire the spectacular mountain views and visit the bird sanctuary.
It’s not hard to see why Sitka is a popular cruise port and a staple on itineraries touring the Inside Passage.
Sitka is situated on the western shore of Baranof Island, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The island is located on the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska, also known as Alaska’s Pan Handle. Some ships dock at the Old Sitka Dock, which is five miles outside town, while others use tenders, taking passengers to the tender pier that is right in the centre of Sitka.
A free shuttle bus takes visitors from the Old Dock to the centre of Sitka. Once there, visitors will find plenty of facilities to ensure they have a comfortable and pleasant time. There are hotels, restaurants, and cafés, as well as Wi-Fi access at many spots around town, including the library. There is also a visitors’ centre located in the Harrigan Centennial Hall, which is opposite the tender pier and near where the shuttle bus arrives. Sitka is famous for its hospitality, with tourists generally enjoying a warm and helpful reception from the locals.
How to Get Around
Although Sitka is Alaska’s fourth largest city, it still very much has a small town feel. It is therefore very easy to walk around and see the sights. It is possible to pick up maps at the visitors’ centre and get advice on the best routes around town. Another easy and inexpensive way to get around is the bus, known in Sitka as the Ride. There are three bus lines, all of which can be boarded from the hub at Crescent Harbor. A one-way fare costs USD$2 for adults, while children and seniors can travel for USD$1. Day passes can also be purchased.
- Currency – Alaska uses the U.S. dollar. However, visitors may find that Canadian dollars are also accepted. There are several ATMs located in downtown Sitka and major credit cards are also generally accepted.
- Time Zone – Sitka operates on Alaska Standard Time (AKST), 9 hours behind Universal Standard Time (UTC). The state of Alaska switches to Daylight Saving time (AKDT) from March till November; clocks are switched forward by 1 hour.
- Weather – As it is located on the Pacific Ocean, Sitka has a moderate, cool climate. Temperatures average around 7 degrees Celsius; in winter, temperatures are not as cold as other parts of Alaska. In January, for example, the average low is 0.2 degrees Celsius.It does however, rain a lot in Sitka. Fine days are rare and visitors should be prepared for wet weather, though it does rain a little less in summer.
- The Sitka Historical Museum – Explore Sitka’s fascinating and colourful past at the local museum. It chronicles all aspects of the city’s history, including Sitka’s Tlingit, Russian and American past. From May to September, the museum is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. During the winter months, it is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 2pm. Admission is by donation.
- Sitka National Historical Park – Known also as Totem Park, the 107-acre park is not only incredibly scenic and abundant in wildlife, but also contains a Tlingit fort and the site of their 1804 battle with the Russians. The visitors’ centre at the park is open all year round and will guide you to the best trails. It is easy to walk to the park from the town centre and admission is free.
- Alaska Raptor Center – Get up close and personal with birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, ravens, and even owls, at the bird hospital and rescue facility. The Alaska Raptor Center is open for tours May through September, between 8am and 4pm, and costs USD$12 for adults and USD$6 for children aged 12 years and under. It is free for children aged 5 years and under.