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Sitka Basics

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Scenes of Sitka

Fast Facts: Sitka


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 enjoys an oceanic climate, with cool summers and mild winters. It never gets really hot in Sitka, and unlike its neighbors to the north, it never gets really cold either. But it does rain a lot in Sitka, with an average of 255 days of precipitation each year. Summer is the nicest time of the year to visit the town, as the daily high temperatures hover in the low-60s F, and there's plenty of daylight to be enjoyed.


Sitka map


First Impressions


Sitka cathedral
©2012 Christopher Michel, under cc-by-sa 2.0 license

Sitka is an Alaskan town that has hosted perhaps more historic events than any other city in the state. It was one of the first settlements in the Alaskan territory, the 1804 Battle of Sitka was the last major armed conflict between Europeans and Alaskan Natives, the city's St. Michael's Roman Orthodox Cathedral was the center of Russian Orthodox Church authority in a diocese that stretched from California to Siberia's Kamchatka peninsula for over 125 years, it was the capital of the Alaska territory from 1867 until 1906, it was the site where the handover of Alaska from the Russians to the Americans took place, and when Alaska was named a state, it was where the first 49 star American flag was raised.

Despite that, Sitka remains a small town, with just 8,500 people living in the city limits. Yet Sitka is Alaska's fourth largest city. It maintains a connection to much of its historic past, celebrating its Tlingit Native Alaskan roots and its Russian heritage. There's a large Tlingit population in Sitka, with 30% of the residents classifying themselves as Tlingit, Haida or other Native Alaskan.

Sitka is a center for the arts in Southeast Alaska. The town plays host to several music festivals that take place throughout the year, as well as the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which since 1973 has been attracting students studying theater, dance, music, visual arts, writing and Alaskan Native arts. And if you're visiting Sitka in the first weekend of August, don't miss this year's 4th annual Sitka Seafood Festival.

While some Alaskan cruise veterans have said that there's nothing to do in Sitka, many others proclaim that Sitka is their favorite port--and with good reason. The scenery is spectacular, the Sitkans are proud of their town and full of Alaskan hospitality, the history of the place is on display wherever you look, and the activities available in and around the town are fun, educational and enjoyable.

There are only 21 miles of paved road in Sitka. When looking for leisure activities, Sitkans get out and enjoy their outdoor environment. That means hiking, boating, fishing and biking and other outdoor pursuits. After all, it may be isolated, but it's also a beautiful place to be outdoors.

From a cruise ship passenger's perspective, visiting Sitka is a lot nicer than visiting other popular Alaskan ports, simply because it's fairly rare to have more than one ship visiting the port at a time. Thus, most of the people you'll see in town are locals, and the town is not overrun with bewildered cruisers.

The majority of cruise ships arriving in Sitka will dock at the Old Sitka Cruise Terminal Dock at Halibut Point Marine, which is located about 5 miles north of the city proper. The terminal building features large restrooms, Alaskan gift shops, high speed Wifi, and an outdoor covered terrace for passengers to view activity in the adjacent boat yard. From the terminal, you'll take a free shuttle bus ride into downtown Sitka.

On days when there's more than one ship in town, the second ship will lay anchor in Sitka's Crescent Harbor, and you'll take a ship's tender to one of two tender piers--either the Crescent Harbor Lightering facility (the most frequented), or the O'Connell Bridge Lightering facility.


Time Zone


Sitka is on Alaska Time, nine hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time during standard time, or eight hours during daylight savings time. Daylight savings time begins on the second Sunday of March, and ends on the first Sunday of November.

USA flag Sitka Local Time
 


Language


English is universally spoken in Sitka.


Dealing with Money in Sitka


Currency



dollar bill

The currency of the United States is the U.S. dollar, and it is printed on bills in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Coins include the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, fifty cent piece and dollar.

Canadian dollars are accepted in Alaska as well. You'll also find Canadian coins circulating freely in the state, and are accepted at par to their U.S. counterparts.

Bank ATMs

ATM machines in Sitka can be found throughout the downtown area. Here's a list of bank ATM machines in downtown Sitka:

  • Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo has a branch with an ATM located at 300 Lincoln Street in downtown Sitka.

  • Northrim Bank: Northrim has a branch with an ATM located at 315 Lincoln Street in downtown Sitka.

  • First National Bank Alaska: First National Bank Alaska has a branch with an ATM located at 318 Lincoln Street in downtown Sitka.

  • First Bank: First Bank has a branch with an ATM located at 203 Lake Street in downtown Sitka.

Sitka ATM Map


Map icon

See our Sitka ATM map for the locations of Sitka's bank branch ATMs.


Weather


Puffins
©2009 Steve Ebbert, under cc-by-sa 2.0 license

Directly facing the Pacific Ocean (unlike all other large Alaskan cities), Sitka enjoys an oceanic climate, with moderate, but generally cool, temperatures and abundant precipitation.

It rains a lot in Sitka; the annual precipitation is around 90 inches. In fact, it rains or snows in Sitka 255 days a year. It's also quite cloudy. So count yourself lucky if your day in Sitka is a "Chamber of Commerce day," without rainfall or intermittent cloud cover. That being said, rainfall is at its lowest during the summer months of May, June and July, so your chances of a nice rainless day are enhanced.

It never really gets hot in Sitka, except on those few days each year when the temperatures exceed 80° F (27° C). During the summer season, expect average highs in the high 50s/low-60s F (high-teens C), and evening lows in the high 40s/low 50s F (about 9° C).

Average Temperatures

Average Precipitation

Average Daylight Hours



Keeping In Touch


Internet Access in Sitka

In 2010, Sitka created the Sitka Free Internet, which provides free Wi-Fi internet service at fairly modest speeds in the downtown area. The main shopping streets of Harbor Drive and Lincoln Street are the main areas covered. Paid for by the cruise ship passenger excise tax, the SFI was built so summer cruise ship visitors can check their email. If you're looking for more robust solutions, you can find higher speed internet access in Sitka at the following locales:

Internet Terminals

  • Kettleson Memorial Library, located at 320 Harbor Drive, offers several internet-linked computers. Open weekdays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, and on weekends from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Phone: (907) 747-8708.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

  • Highliner Coffee, located at 327 Seward Street, offers Wi-Fi with purchase. It also has some of the best coffee to be found hereabouts. Phone: (907) 747-4924.

  • Bayview Restaurant/Pub, located at 407 Lincoln Street, offers free Wi-Fi with purchase. Bayview offers up generally good pub fare, including burgers, fried fish and chips, and serves craft beers and cocktails. Open daily from 11:00 am to 1:30 am. Phone: (907) 747-5300.

  • Larkspur Cafe, located at 2 Lincoln Street, offers free Wi-Fi. The Larkspur Cafe is a great little restaurant. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm, and on Sunday from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
    Phone: (907) 966-2326.

  • Harry Race Soda Fountain, located at 106 Lincoln Street, offers free Wi-Fi connectivity in their 1950s-style soda shop. Phone: (907) 966-2130.

  • McDonalds, located at 913 Halibut Point Road, offers free Wi-Fi connectivity in their Sitka store. This is probably one of the most unique McDonalds in their system, as you can watch bald eagles perch on the building above the drive-through lane as you parse your emails. Phone: (907) 747-8709

Sitka Internet Map


Map icon

See our Sitka Internet Map for the locations of the above restaurants and coffee shops.


Internet Cafe

Cellular Phone & Data Services


Customers of U.S. wireless carriers can expect the following levels of service in Sitka:

Verizon

Cell service: Verizon's CDMA service provides extended digital coverage to Sitka and the surrounding areas.
Data services: Verizon offers extended 3G coverage to Sitka and the surrounding areas.
See details on Verizon's cell and data services coverage in Sitka.

ATT Wireless

Cell service: AT&T's GSM service covers Sitka and much of the surrounding areas.
Data services: AT&T offers 4G service covering Sitka and much of the surrounding areas.
See details on AT&T's cell and data services coverage in Sitka.

Sprint

Cell service: Sprint's CDMA service in Sitka is provided through off-network roaming.
Data services: Sprint offers service in Sitka and the surrounding areas through off-network roaming.
See details on Sprint's cell and data services coverage in Sitka.

T Mobile

Cell service: T-Mobile's GSM service in Sitka is provided through a service partner.
Data services: T-Mobile offers 2G service in Sitka; there's no access for laptop sticks, tablets, etc.
See details on T-Mobile's cell and data services coverage in Sitka.


Samsung Galaxy S III

Sitka Telephone Information

Canadian cell phones used in the U.S. work seamlessly in Alaska, and just like back home.

The Country Code in the U.S. is 1, just like in Canada.

The Area Code used in Sitka (as in all of Alaska) is 907.

Local Phone Numbers have seven digits: XXX-XXXX

Woman with a cell phone

Local Events, Holidays & Festivals


Look for the following local festivals, holidays and events taking place in Sitka in 2017:

  • New Year's Day, Sunday, January 1.

  • Russian Christmas and Starring, Saturday, January 7. "Starring" is a tradition of the Orthodox Church; it begins on the Eastern Orthodox Christmas eve. A choir follows a large twirling star going to homes of the faithful to sing the joyful news.

  • 10th Annual ArtiGras, Monday, March 11. It's New Orleans in Sitka, with regional artists and musicians entertain the citizenry. There's also an art walk, and a wearable art show.

  • Blessing of the Fleet, Sunday, April 16. This annual Blessing is given to Sitka's Fishing Fleet at 2:00 pm.

  • Seward's Day, Monday, March 27. Commemorates the signing of the treaty by which the United States bought Alaska from Russia on March 30, 1867.

  • Good Friday, Friday, April 14.

  • Easter Sunday, Sunday, April 16.

  • 34th Annual Ocean Wave Quilters Guild Quilt Show, Friday, May 5 to Sunday, May 7. See new and historic quilts.

  • Fisherman
  • Sitka Salmon Derby, Friday, May 26 to Monday, May 29 and Saturday, June 3 to Sunday, June 4. There's cash and prizes that await the biggest fish caught during the derby.

  • Sitka Summer Music Festival, Tuesday, June 6 to Sunday, July 2. A month-long celebration of music featuring internationally acclaimed classical musicians. In addition, there are a number of other fun events worth checking out.

  • Independence Day, Tuesday, July 4. The residents have fun in Sitka on the nation's independence day, with a parade, game and food booths, fireworks and more.

  • Sitka Seafood Festival, Thursday, August 3 to Sunday, August 6. This event features a seafood banquet, fun entertainment, the Sitka Highland Games, a parade, games, demos and several new events to surprise and delight.

  • Running of the Boots and Season's End Celebration, Saturday, September 23. Sitka's answer to Spain's "Running of the Bulls."

  • Alaska Day Festival, Monday, October 9 to Wednesday, October 18. A celebration of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska and the raising of the U.S. flag at Sitka in 1867; includes ceremonies, a period costume ball, dances, dinners, contests and a parade. The official Alaska Day takes place on October 18.

  • 22nd Annual Sitka Whalefest, Friday, November 3 to Sunday, November 5. Educational lectures from biologists and speakers, concert, marine tours and more.

  • Totem Pole
    ©1999 Beeblebrox, under cc-by-sa 3.05 license
  • Native American Heritage Festival, Month of November. Look for a wide variety of activities, including the annual Fashion Show.

  • Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23. A day to give thanks for the things one has at the close of the harvest season.

  • Sitka's Holiday Fest, November and December. Activities include the Christmas Bazaar, parade, Polar Dip, Christmas concerts and extended shopping hours.

  • Christmas Day, Monday, December 25.

Sitka Cruise Port Schedules


Cruise Terminal

Sitka is a boutique Alaskan destination for the seasonal Alaskan cruise ship trade, which extends from May through September.

Sitka is much less crowded than other seasonal Alaskan ports. 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 2017, the cruise lines' ships will be in port for an average of 8½ hours.

In 2017, Sitka is slated to host 149,700 passengers sailing on 118 ships. For further information, see our Sitka Cruise Ship Schedule - 2017.


Cruise Lines Making Port in Sitka


The following cruise lines will make port in Sitka in 2017:

Carnival Royal Caribbean icon
Royal Caribbean
Celebrity
Princess Cruises
Norwegian Holland America icon
Holland America
Oceania icon Oceania Cruises Regent icon Regent
Silversea icon Silversea Cruises Crystal icon Crystal Cruises
Seabourn icon Seabourn Hapag Lloyd Hapag Lloyd
Cruise Ship


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