Written by Missy Johnston
On a luxury yacht charter in Alaska, be sure to stop in Sitka. Once called “the Paris of the Pacific,” Sitka stands out among other ports as a city rich in culture. Built on the empire of Russian fur trade, Sitka is set between steep mountain slopes and the Sitka Sound, just off the shore of Baranof Island. With a population of just under 10,000, Sitka is Alaska’s fifth-largest city and has grown to be the cultural and artistic center of the Southeast. Sitka is a town with a history grounded in Russian heritage with a damp, moderate climate that contributes to the appearance of an England coastal community.
The local economy is strongly centered on the timber, fishing and tourism industries. Famous for its sport fishing, Sitka’s two harbors are dotted with brightly colored boats that look out over the pine-covered islands of the Tongass National Forest.
What to See and Do in Sitka, Alaska
The Sitka National Historic Park: The Sitka National Historic Park is a “must do”, when in Sitka. Put aside an afternoon as this park offers workshops on Indian arts and crafts, a treat for visitors seeking a creative endeavor, and has forty miles worth of beautiful hiking trails that wind throughout the forested areas within the community. Southeast Alaska totem poles and a temperate rain forest setting combine to provide spectacular scenery along the park’s coastal trail. Onion-dome architecture dots the landscape, and local dancers bring to life the traditions that Russia brought with its conquest.
Shopping: Look for native soapstone carved figures of Alaska wildlife, totem poles and natives perhaps fishing or other typical Alaskan past times. There are several famous native soapstone carvers that carve figures that are art collectibles. Keep an eye out for pretty Christmas Tree decorations if that is an interest. Also locally made goods such as Indian Salmon Jerky and wild berry jams.
Sitka is home to an annual salmon derby, the Alaska Logging Championship, the Sitka Summer Music Festival, and the Alaska Fine Arts Camp. Several local museums and galleries present the rich history of the town.