Water lovers can kayak in scenic Sitka Channel. Photo by Visit Sitka.
Natural Wonders, Cultural Crossroads
The island community of Sitka defines rugged refinement
Where the Inside Passage gives way to the Gulf of Alaska, Sitka offers the most complete outdoor, wildlife and cultural experience with deep roots that continue to inform all facets of the town’s vibrant lifestyle. And a place where curiosity is encouraged.
Sitka encompasses over 2,800 square miles, including countless islands, some of which protect the centralized township and its coastal waters from the rougher seas of the Pacific. In addition to islands and water, the town is flanked by mountains, rainforest, prehistoric volcanoes, and imposing glaciers. The result is the perfect, accessibly remote playground for outdoor enthusiasts and anyone that seeks the opportunity to observe wildlife.
The protected inlets and bays of Sitka were seemingly crafted by Mother Nature for exploration by kayak. The landscapes and habitats found through the countless passages, provide endless opportunities to view the wildlife of land, air, and sea.
In fact, tours of all sorts abound, via boat, bike, car, ATV, floatplane, kayak, and foot. For hiking enthusiasts, a diverse array of options are available close to town. If you prefer to take your walks down a tree-lined fairway, the Sea Mountain Golf Course is home to the toughest vertical nine holes in Alaska. However, those in search of one of the most unusual hiking experiences anywhere will want to take the quick boat or plane ride across the sound to Kruzof Island.
Kruzof Island might remind you of the Olympic Mountains, or even Hawaii at times – but it is 100% Alaska. Trails traverse muskeg, black-sand beaches, through spectacular old-growth forest, and ascend alpine meadows to the summit of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano. It is a true backcountry experience with rentable cabins and abundant with wildlife, scenery, and solitude.
Take an inflatable out to marvel at Mount Edgecumbe. Photo by Visit Sitka.
Sea to Table
The waters that surround Sitka are world-renowned fishing grounds, where all five species of salmon call home. Sitka’s saltwaters are known for its angling opportunities, with legendary salmon and herring runs, halibut, rockfish and cod. The freshwater opportunities are epic, with walk-in or fly-in fly fishing throughout the island’s untouched rivers and streams. Prepare your catch when back on shore, or ship seafood home.
The Paris of the Pacific
Originally called Sheet’ka, Sitka has been the home of the Tlingt people for tens of thousands of years, with traditions and relationships to the land that transcend the keeping of time. Russian explorers and traders came in 1799 and eventually established the area as a prominent settlement. Ultimately the area transitioned to American control following the Alaska purchase in 1867.
A lot of differing influences have shaped Sitka’s cultural landscape over time, and it wasn’t without conflict. That said, the traditions, art, and cuisine of the people that call Sitka home today are engaging and diverse. You find it at the 21 national historical sites and 9 national/state parks around the island, art galleries, museums, in architecture and in restaurants, it’s on tangible display everywhere and helped the town earn its 19th-century nickname, the “Paris of the Pacific”.
Back on land, enjoy Sitka’s rich cultural offerings, including excellent Native art. Photo by Visit Sitka.
Origins and Art
To get a fuller understanding of the Sitka of today, and dive into its past, there are a few places that must be visited. The Sheldon Jackson Museum boasts an unparalleled collection of Alaska native artifacts. The Sitka National Historical Park preserves the location of the 1804 battle between invading Russian traders and indigenous Tlingit. St. Michael’s Cathedral’s onion-shaped domes distinguish the Sitka skyline as they have for nearly two centuries, housing a remarkable art pieces believed to date back to the 17th century.
Driven by more than just creativity, Sitka’s makers deeply value the land and natural resources. Native artists elegantly combine the traditional and contemporary in wood and silver carvings. Healing salves are made from local devil’s club plants. Gentle soaps are handcrafted with fireweed honey and spruce tips. Sitka’s sweet makers include two chocolatiers, a French pastry chef, a family of caramel-makers and a bakery that handmakes fresh donuts. If you prefer savory, you won’t be disappointed by pickles with locally harvested kelp and Alaska Pure Sea Salt Company’s artisanal salts. Stop by any Sitka shop to find a treasure trove of local flavor & creativity.
The Culture of Cuisine
Restaurants like Ludvig’s Bistro and Beak curate the best local ingredients, with early morning visits to the docks to bring the freshest ingredients to the plate, telling the tale of Sitka through cuisine. Begin your own Sitka story by choosing a unique lodging, rent a private island, retreat to the newly renovated Sitka Lighthouse, or be pampered at the luxury Dove Island Resort with chef-prepared meals, a world class wine cellar and Himalayan salt spa.
Sitka has it all, whether you are looking for a spirit-replenishing retreat, a bucket list fishing trip, or a family adventure.
Only a 2.5 hour direct flight from Seattle. For more information and to plan your escape, go to visitsitka.org.