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Sitka is the Number One ranked port in Southeast Alaska. Sitka is a boutique Alaskan destination for the seasonal Alaskan cruise ship trade, which extends from May through September.Sitka is a charming island community surrounded with stunning mountain and seaside panoramic views. The vast and rich wildlife boasts sightings of whales, brown bears, deers, sea otters, and various birds flock here. This destination offers superb fishing, and plentiful historical attractions.
 
Whether it is the breathtaking scenery; the abundance of sea otters and other wildlife or the warmth and authenticity of the people, you are going to enjoy little Sitka. Known as the “Paris of the Pacific,” Sitka was founded by the Russians in 1799 and retains a Russian feel noted especially in iconic St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Bishop’s House.
 
Sitka is also a popular port of call for many cruise lines that sail the Inside Passage.  During the months of May through September, there are cruises to suit almost anyone's tastes... from cruise lines that specialize in luxury, to small-ship enterprises that offer more intimate, adventure-oriented expeditions.
 
Over the centuries, Sitka -- easily Alaska's most exotic port -- has reinvented itself over and over again. It's been home to the Tlingit Native Americans, the Russian empire and a former booming pulp mill. The region also has served as a center for commercial fishing. Through it all, its residents have always figured out a way to get the best out of their resources. Today, the 8,900 locals still more ..
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Sitka, one of the earliest European settlements in the Alaskan territory, is located on Baranof Island. It's a fairly isolated community, accessible only by plane or ship. Nonetheless, with only 8,500 residents, Sitka is the fourth largest city in Alaska.
 
The mainstays of Sitka's economy are fishing, government and tourism. In 2010, Sitka ranked as the 10th largest port by value for seafood harvested in the country. In 2015, Sitka will host over 100,000 cruise ship visitors.

Sitka is much less crowded than other seasonal Alaskan ports. During the 2015 season, only one ship will be in port on any given day, except for nine days during the season. As a rule, ships arrive in Sitka between 7:00 am and 9:00 am, and depart between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm. In 2015, the cruise lines' ships will be in port for an average of 8¼ hours.
 
In 2015, Sitka is slated to host 109,000 passengers sailing on 96 ships, up 32% and 28%, respectively, from 2014.
 
Where You are docked
Sitka has traditionally been a tender port but as of 2012 a new cruise facility has been opened six miles north of town. If you are anchored, your ship will be between Baranof Island and the Channel Islands. There are two tender piers: one is in Crescent Harbor, and the other is under the O’Connell Bridge.
 
If you arrive at the new cruise terminal, there are free shuttles that will take you into town and drop you at the Harrigan Centennial Hall, which is also at Crescent Harbor. 
 
When passengers are brought or tendered right into the heart of town, they'll find many top attractions just a few blocks away. The tender pier at Crescent Harbor is steps from the Harrigan Centennial Hall, which is home to the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Sitka Historical Museum and the New Archangel Dancers. The tender pier under the bridge sits adjacent to Castle Hill (where Lincoln Street and Harbor Way meet) -- a perfect spot to take some photos.
 
When cruise ships are in town, the New Archangel Dancers perform lively, authentic folk dances from Russia. (Harrigan Centennial Hall) Watch a traditional dance performance at the Tlingit Clan House. The performance begins with a resonating box drum as visitors gather around a burning cedar fire pit. For 30 minutes, native Tlingit dancers of all ages perform a number of traditional songs. (200 Katlian Street)
 
 This troupe of local dancers has captured the spirit of Russia in the Americas. Within the building is also the Isabele Miller Museum, a popular city museum. The wonderful dug-out canoe located on the pier is called the Everybody’s Canoe and represents the two moieties of the Tlinigt; eagle and raven. On the other side of the parking area is the Sitka Library, where you can sign-up to use the free internet. FYI: The entire city of Sitka has free wi-fi; you will get a signal anywhere.
 
Getting Around
On Foot: Once you're dropped off, Sitka is extremely walkable. Pick up maps, brochures and advice from the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau, located in Harrigan Centennial Hall near Crescent Harbor.
 
By Bus: Visitor transit buses run on days when cruise ships of at least 1,000 passengers are in town, stopping at major sites like Sitka National Historical Park, the Alaska Raptor Center and Sheldon Jackson Museum. The cost is $10 for a hop-on, hop-off pass.
 
By Bike: An active, yet convenient option is to rent a bike from Yellow Jersey Cycle Shop (329 Harbor Drive). They offer a variety of bikes at $25 for the day.
 
By Car: Hank's Taxi & Tour Service (907-747-8888) offers private cars. Or snag a rental from North Star Rent-A-Car (800-722-6927).
 
Attractions
Sitka has long been known as the “Cultural Capitol” of Alaska, not just for its diverse cultural heritage but also for its many colleges, schools and research facilities. It is no wonder that the community supports organizations like the world-famous Raptor Rehabilitation Center.
 
St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church - The onion dome of St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church dominates the skyline. The church was first built in 1848; the dome was made from malachite. In 1966, a fire destroyed the church, but luckily the priceless icons were saved. Legend has it that one man single-handedly removed the 100 pound chandelier, which later took four men to replace. Using the original Russian building plans, the church was reconstructed as an exact replica. The original chandelier and icons are displayed in the church. A nominal admission is charged but many tours include a ticket so you can enjoy the church after your excursion.    
 
Russian Bishop’s House - From the tender pier at Crescent Harbor, turn right along the marina to Lincoln Street. To the right and across the street is the Russian Bishops House. Built in 1842, the building is on the National Historic Register. There is an admission fee. National Park Rangers offer guided tours. It is the oldest Russian building that is still standing in Alaska and is one of the four oldest Russian structures in the United States.
 
Sheldon Jackson Museum - From the Russian Bishop’s House continue down Lincoln Street to Sheldon Jackson College. Dr. Sheldon Jackson was the Director of Education for the Alaskan territory from 1895 – 1900. Though the private liberal arts college has fallen on hard times and no longer offers classes, the Sheldon Jackson Museum is still open and worth a stop. Some say it is better than the State Museum in Juneau. James Mitchner wrote his novel “Alaska” while staying at Sheldon Jackson College.
 
Sheet’ ka Kwaan Naa Khadi Tribal Community House – Located on Kaitlian Street, the community house was built to resemble a traditional clan house. It features dancers in full regalia and a gift shop with locally made goods. The house itself is worth a visit just for the “Lovebirds” house screen, depicting the raven and eagle moieties. It is the largest of its kind in Southeast Alaska. The Tribal Association also operates the Visitor Transit, which shuttles visitors to all of Sitka’s major downtown attractions.
 
Raptor Rehabilitation Center - This all-volunteer organization has become a leader in raptor rehabilitation and education. Between 100 and 200 injured birds are helped each year. The Center is open to the public. Visitors from all over the world have sponsored or “adopted” birds that have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Birds unable to return to their natural habitat have found a welcome home at the Center where they are ambassadors for their species, raising the awareness of visitors who meet them each year.
 
Wildlife Encounters
This is the place for sea otters; no question. If you want to see the wonderful “clowns of the sea”, Sitka is the place. Sitka Sound is prime habitat for sea otters, sea lions, and whales. Baranoff and the surrounding islands are home to eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer and bears. Probably the most comprehensive and predictable wildlife viewing can be found in this port.
 
Sea Otter Quest – In my book one of the best, most comprehensive excursions you can take during your Southeast Alaska cruise would be the Allen Marine Sea Otter Quest. When they say you are guaranteed to see wildlife they mean it. Though this excursion specifically focuses on sea otters – which is worth it right there – during the course of getting from point A to B it is common to see whale, deer, eagles and bear. What else could you ask for?
 
Walking and hiking
The community of Sitka makes visitors feel at home. The town has consciously chosen not to expand and commercialize in order to protect its history, charm and integrity. Visitors enjoy strolling downtown, nearby neighborhoods as well as the many parks within easy walking distance of the tender pier. 
 
Sitka National Historical Park
Sitka is a great port for walking. Continue farther down on Lincoln Street until you reach the Sitka National Historical Park. The park is a beautiful wooded area that was the original site of the final battle between the Tlingit and the Russians. There is an interpretive center with exhibits. Often Native wood carvers or weavers are on-site to demonstrate their skills. Documentaries on the battle are also shown. Beyond the historical significance of the area, today it houses a collection of some of the most beautiful totem poles in all Southeast Alaska. Starting with the display outside the Visitors Center, follow the trails through the park to discover more. Situated among their growing ancestors, these cedar poles have been carved and raised to remind admirers of the Tlingit past. Trails wind through dense forest filled with towering ferns, proof this is temperate rainforest. A salmon creek runs through the park and in late summer is filled with thousands of spawning fish.
 
Locals are very proud of their history and aware of its importance. Look for interesting facts about Sitka posted on interpretative signs throughout town.
 
Fun and Free
The “fun ‘n free” side of Sitka comes alive when you know what to look for. The city has been very good about posting interpretative signs in front of significant buildings and sites, but you have to find them. Here is a list of some of the fun things to see to get you started.
 
Castle Hill - Behind the pharmacy on Lincoln Street is Castle Hill. This small promontory was used by the Tlingit as a strategic lookout point. Later the Russians built many different buildings upon the same location. In 1837, Alexander Baranof built his sumptuous home nicknamed Baranof’s Castle. On October 18, 1867, it was used for the transference of ownership of the Alaskan territory from Russia to the United States. The Castle burned in 1898. Today the hill offers spectacular views of the town, mountains, harbor and St. Michael’s Church. Great photo stop or picnic place.
 
Whale Park - If you happen to be on a ship that calls on Sitka in the early spring and or late fall, a walk down to Whale Park would be worthwhile. This new city park, located about 6 miles south of town, is a great place to view humpbacks. There are telescopes and hydrophones available along the boardwalk.
 
Centennial Hall – As you walk up the ramp from the tender pier in Crescent Harbor, you will see Centennial Hall. In addition to being the home of the New Archangel Russian Dancers, there is the Isabel Miller Museum and also an incredible collection of vintage photographs of Old Sitka. These photos range from Russian-America days to World War II to the present. The statue out in front is that of Alesander Baranof, head of the Russian-American Trading Company and founder of New Archangel (aka Sitka).
 
Everybody’s Canoe - Out  in front of Centennial Hall notice the roofed structure protecting a dug-out canoe. This canoe called Te Kot Keh Yago or Everybody’s Canoe was carved by Herman Kitka and represents the two moieties of the Tlingit, Eagle and Raven.
 
Mt. Edgecomb – Elevation 3,201 feet
Located on Kruzof Island, Mt. Edgecomb is an extinct volcano located on Kruzof Island. It last erupted about 8,000 years ago, sending ash throughout the area. The volcano was named by Captain James Cook in 1778 after Lord Edgecomb.

The Sitka Historical Society and Museum is located within Centennial Hall along with the visitor center. Discover Sitka's history and international connections since the 1800's through exhibits and artifacts about the Tlingits and the Russians, as well as Sitka's lumber and fishing industry.
 
The scenic 107-acre Sitka National Historical Park (known locally as Totem Park) preserves and interprets the site of a Tlingit fort and the battle fought between the Russians and the Tlingits in 1804. A free self-guided oceanside trail leads past numerous carved totem poles to the site where the Tlingit fort once stood. (106 Metlakatla Street)
 
Located within the National Historical Park, the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center is a unique working artist studio that provides a chance for visitors to watch native artists creating hand-chiseled totem poles, silver carvings and beadwork.
 
With its commanding view of Sitka Sound, Castle Hill, a 60-foot-high promontory, was once the site of a two-story log mansion referred to as Baranof's Castle (after Russian Gov. Alexander Baranof). The original structure burned in a fire in 1894, but this is also the site where the Russian flag was lowered and the American one raised. Although there are no remaining structures on this site, it's a great place to take pictures (accessible from Lincoln Street).
 
Built in the mid-1800's, St. Michael's Cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1966. As the building burned, residents formed a human chain to rescue the precious Russian Orthodox icons and religious objects that were stored in the church. Today, visitors can tour the church rebuilt to its 1844 specifications, complete with its onion-domed architecture, and view many treasures of Russian art on display. (240 Lincoln Street)
 
Visitors can experience eagles up close at the Alaska Raptor Center. This world-class wild bird hospital rehabilitates rescued birds of prey, such as eagles, owls, hawks and ravens, and features an educational center with more than a dozen raptors in their natural habitats. See eagles flying in the state-of-the-art flight center, and watch the injured birds receive medical treatment. (1000 Raptor Way, off Sawmill Creek Road)
 
The Sheldon Jackson Museum, a National Historic Landmark, was the first concrete building in Alaska when it was built in 1895. It houses a collection of native art and Russian artifacts, including indigenous masks, boats and hunting tools. Check out the rain gear made of walrus intestines that was once worn while butchering whales. (104 College Drive, just off Lincoln Street)
Harris Aircraft Services operates a floatplane business that takes visitors on flightseeing tours over the scenic backcountry and glacier ice fields of Baranof Island. You'll get to experience a water landing on a remote lake. Flight times and prices vary by itinerary. (400 Airport Road, 877-966-3050)
 
Want to see brown bears up close? Fortress of the Bear was founded to create a humane home and natural setting for nuisance bears. This refuge also provides an educational experience for visitors. The 3/4-acre bear refuge is located at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park. (4639 Sawmill Creek Road)
 
A 10-minute walk from downtown Sitka brings you to the fringe of true wilderness, with access to numerous marked hiking trails. The Gavan Hill Trail offers a moderate to strenuous hike with boardwalks, an elevation gain of 2,000+ feet and, after about three miles, an excellent view of the Sitka Sound. (For those looking for a briefer walk, the first quarter-mile of this trail, which starts from the Baranof Street trailhead, is ADA-accessible.) The Indian River trail (4.1 miles each way) makes an easy, gradual climb to a waterfall. You can pick up hiking trail maps and information at the office of the Sitka Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service. (204 Siginaka Way, off Katlian Street)
Eating Out
For such a small town, Sitka offers numerous quality restaurants. Although many eateries are within the downtown area, some good ones are located on the outskirts and are worth the trip. Seafood is a staple of this thriving fishing community, with halibut and salmon served up as fresh as can be, and water-view restaurants are the norm. Also, consider that Sitka doesn't rely solely on tourism, so the evidence of year-round residents in any of the restaurants is a great barometer of consistent food quality and service. You know when a restaurant is popular with the locals by the number of pickups parked out front at lunchtime.
 
a popular addition to Sitka's restaurant scene is the Larkspur Café, on the waterfront, where chefs specialize in fish dishes. Everything's fresh; the menu changes daily depending on the catch (salmon and rockfish are generally great bets (2 Lincoln St. 907-966-2326. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) Victoria's Restaurant in the Sitka Hotel features locally caught halibut served a number of ways. This friendly small-town diner is decorated with Victorian-style knickknacks and lacy curtains, and the menu is simple and budget-friendly. Try the king crab bucket or the halibut and chips. (118 Lincoln Street, by Katlian Street, 907-747-9301. Open for breakfast and lunch)
 
Another local favorite is the Backdoor, a cozy downtown coffeehouse filled with local artwork and serving custom-roasted espresso, homemade soup, bagel sandwiches and pastries. (104 Barracks Street, behind Old Harbor Books on Lincoln, 907-747-9306. Open Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m. to p.m., Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
 
The upscale Channel Club boasts 20-foot-high ceilings, large windows that overlook the Sitka Sound, and walls adorned with black-and-white historic photos of Sitka, along with local artwork. The owners have a processing license, which guarantees customers Alaskan seafood at its freshest. The locals consistently pack the 126-seat restaurant, indulging in perfectly cooked steaks, fresh Alaskan halibut, salmon and King crab legs. The restaurant's various fish and seafood chowders earn rave reviews. Because the place is a little bit out of the way, it offers a free courtesy van to pick up patrons, although be warned, it's open for dinner only. http://www.sitkachannelclub.com/ They may provide transportation to and from the restaurant. Useful if you do not have a car. (2906 Halibut Point Road, 907-747-7440. Open daily, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
 
Stop in at Bayview Restaurant and Pub for burgers, locally caught fish and craft beers from independent breweries in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Got little ones in tow? There's a kids' menu (macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, grilled cheese), plus coloring books and board games to keep them occupied. (407 Lincoln St. 907-747-5300. Open Monday, 4 p.m. to late; Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to late, football Sundays, 8 a.m. to late).
 
Shopping
Sitka has such a rich history that it offers more interesting shopping than most Alaska ports. So while you’re here, take advantage of it by setting aside some time to explore the museum gift shops. Most shops are located on Lincoln Street, which runs along Crescent Bay from near the O’Connell Bridge past the Science Center. There’s also good shopping adjacent to St. Michael’s Cathedral.
 
Only in Sitka for unique gifts or souvenirs, stop by the Russian American Company on Lincoln Street. It specializes in Russian arts and crafts, including nesting matryoshka dolls, Faberge jewelry, lacquer boxes, amber jewely, and more.
 
Old Harbor Books on Lincoln has a big selection of Alaska titles and a helpful staff. The popular Backdoor Café is located at the back of the store.

For made-in-Sitka art, jewelry, and Native crafts, visit Fishermen’s Eye Gallery on Lincoln. In a house next to the Russian Bishop’s House, Sitka Rose Gallery sells high-quality Native crafts and paintings, sculpture, and engravings by Southeast Alaska artists. The Baranof Arts and Crafts Association gallery in Harrington Hall displays the work of local artists and craftsmen.
 
For locally caught salmon, shrimp, halibut, or smoked fish, head for the Fresh Fish Company on DeGroff Street. They’ll ship your purchases home for you.

Behind Sitka Rose, WinterSong Soap Company sells handmade products made with natural, local ingredients. Their lotions, bath salts, and soaps, make lovely gifts. The best place to shop for gifts and souvenirs is at Sitka’s museums. The Sitka Historical Museum, Sheldon Jackson Museum, and Alaska Raptor Center gift shops all have unique, authentic items.






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