Sitka Must See – Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest

If you are planning a trip to Sitka, Alaska, one of the places you have to include as part of your itinerary is the Tongass National Forest. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

If you are planning a trip to Sitka, Alaska, one of the places you have to include as part of your itinerary is the Tongass National Forest.  This public gem features a range of habitats, awe-inspiring scenery, and more than 400 species of marine animals and wildlife including bald eagles and grizzly bears.

One of the best things about the Tongass National Forest is the amazing opportunities for recreation and adventure unlike anything you will find in the lower 48 states.  From viewing the wide variety of native wildlife to kayaking down crystalline waterways, there is something to see and do for the nature lover in all of us.  The vast swaths of dense rainforest, the abundance of wildlife, and the incredible natural beauty found around every corner make for a truly Alaskan experience.

The Tongass National Forest is unique in that it is the largest national forest in the country.  It spans more than 500 miles across the Southeastern part of the state from the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian border.  It is also the largest temperate rainforest that remains intact in the entire world.  More than 70,000 people in 32 communities call the lands of the National forest home including both the state capital of Juneau and the sea-side town of Sitka.

For visitors to Sitka, the national forest has to be on the must see list.  You can hike across meadows, up mountains, and through dense growth forest.  You may come across caves to explore, peat bogs to transverse, and many places carved out specifically to enable visitors to view the natural wildlife.  For hiking enthusiasts, a visit to Sitka means days of hiking trails varying in the experience each provides, the scenery displayed, and skill level required.   Hiking is the best way to experience the wonders of the national forest.

There are an abundance of hiking opportunities for day trips and backpacking adventures.  For more information on trails in the Tongass, check the National Forest Service’s website.

Here are two examples that offer an example of the type of hiking you can find accessible from the stunning seaside town of Sitka.

Herring Cove Trail

Herring Cove is a very popular, beautiful newer trail located 7 miles southeast of Sitka. The Herring Cove Trail is 1.4 miles long. It begins at Parking Area At Trailhead and joins the Beaver Lake Trail at Beaver Lake. The Herring Cove Trail gives access to Beaver Lake.

Mt. Edgecumbe Trail

This 7 mile trail takes you up to the summit of Mt. Edgecumbe which has an elevation of about 3,000 feet.  The dormant volcano provides a wide range of terrain beginning with spruce flats near the base and winding through peat bogs, dense forest, and once you rise above the timberline, red volcanic ash left over from the last eruption in 2200 B.C.  The upper part of the climb to reach the crater can be quite steep.  You can find the trail on Kruzof Island about 10 miles west of Sitka.

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Sitka Must See – Fortress of the Bear

Brown Bear Alaska

Don’t miss out seeing these amazing animals during your stay in Sitka (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is no question that Alaska is Bear Country, where all three species of bear native to North America make their home.   The vast expanses of wilderness and rainforest climate create the perfect environment for more than 135,000 bears.  While black bears are the most prevalent, with an estimated 100,000 in Alaska, they primarily live on the Alaskan mainland and their population is not concentrated in the state.  The smallest population is that of the polar bears, with an estimated population of less than 5,000 that remain primarily along the arctic shores in the Northern parts of the state.

But the bears that are generally most associated with the Alaskan wilderness are the brown bears, which are large grizzly bears.  Alaska is home to almost all the brown bears in the United States and 70% of the brown bear population in North America.  The brown bears that call the Southeast regions of Alaska home are believed to be descendants of the polar bear who have adapted to living in the rainforest climate provided throughout this part of the state.

Unfortunately, with so many bears calling the state home, encounters with humans are inevitable.  Through legal hunting practices, accidents, and other natural events, bear cubs become orphaned and cubs cannot survive long without their mothers.  This has necessitated the practice of euthanizing many orphaned cubs over the years simply because there was no other way of dealing with this problem.  This provided the inspiration that Les and Evy Kinnear of Sitka needed to find a better solution of handling these helpless baby bears.

Beginning in 2002, the couple worked to fund and support a new habitat for orphaned baby bears called Fortress of the Bear.  They began by transforming the old pulp mill in Sitka into a baby bear habitat where orphaned bears could live and be taken care of.  The non-profit endeavor started with a simple goal, to find a better way of dealing with orphaned brown bear cubs so that there was on option other than euthanasia.  It has grown into the largest bear rescue facility in the country that provides a unique educational opportunity and can’t-miss tourist attraction in addition to protecting and tending to the bears in their care.

Fortress of the Bear isn’t like a zoo or other animal attraction.  Each bear habitat was created from a large repurposed clarifier tank that provides three-quarters of an acre for the bear’s habitat.  Orphaned bears are housed in the habitats where they are raised in a safe and enriching environment.  Visitors to the center can view the bears from elevated platforms where the bears can be observed and photographed being fed, playing, and interacting with each other.  Guide educators provide information and back story details for each bear including how it came to the center.

Being able to view the bears in this type of setting provides excellent educational and research opportunities.   The founders hope these experiences will enable the Fortress to not only provide safe haven for orphaned cubs but it will also assist state and federal agencies in working together to develop better alternatives to this issue than euthanasia.

For more information, visit Fortress of the Bear on the web or on Facebook. 

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Sitka Must See: The Alaska Raptor Center

American Bald Eagle at Alaska

Don’t miss seeing beautiful bald eagles during your stay at the Alaska Oceanview Bed & Breakfast (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

One of the “must see” attractions in Sitka, Alaska is the Alaska Raptor Center which provides medical treatment, rehabilitation, and relocation, where possible, for many different kinds of birds.  What started as a grass-roots volunteer organization housed in someone’s backyard has grown into the top bald eagle hospital in all of Alaska and one of the state’s top tourist attractions.

During an average year, the center will provide medical care and treatment for 100-200 birds, predominantly bald eagles.  The center is located on a 17-acre campus that borders the Tongass National Forest and the Indian River that runs through Sitka.  This location provides access to the perfect climate for the birds that call the center home during their recovery and rehabilitation and for those who find a permanent home at the center through the Raptors-In-Residence program.

The center provides treatment for all kinds of injuries, although the most common injuries they see are the result of the negative consequences that can happen when wild birds and people coexist.  Many of the birds come to the center with broken wings, other broken bones, gunshot wounds, and because they have ingested a poisonous substance.  Common causes of these injuries are colliding with man-made objects like cars and power-lines, ingesting toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, on lawns or gardens, and from disposal sites, and interactions with inanimate objects like fishing line.

The goal of the center’s rehabilitation program is to enable the birds to recover so that they can be released back into the wild.  Unfortunately, this is not always possible.  Some bird’s injuries are so severe that they would not survive if released back into the wild.  Bald eagles that cannot be released may be placed in a captive breeding center in another part of the country where they are bred with other captive birds so that their babies can be released to help increase the population of bald eagles in the wild.  Other birds that cannot be released back to the wild for their own safety are placed in zoos, educational centers, and other responsible habitats to help educate people about raptors as they live out the remainder of their lives.  The remaining un-releasable birds continue to call the center home as part of the Raptors-in-Residence program.

In addition to providing medical care and rehabilitation for injured birds and providing a habitat for those in the Raptors-in-Residence program, the center also provides an educational program called Adopt-A-Raptor that brings education opportunities and classroom presentations to more than 15,000 school children each year.

The Alaska Raptor Center is open from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM for general tours from May until September.  Although organized tours are not available during the off-season, the center can still be visited and those wanting to visit are encouraged to call to get the center’s hours for the timeframe of their visit.

Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to see the bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls that make up the 24 Raptors-in-Residence!

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Come See the Totem Poles at Sitka National Park

Don't miss out out on seeing the amazing sites and history at the Sitka National Historic Park (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Don’t miss out out on seeing the amazing sites and history at the Sitka National Historic Park (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

If you are planning a trip to Sitka, make sure you include a visit to the Sitka National Park as part of your itinerary.  Here you can see towering trees, hike along scenic trails, and immerse yourself in the unique history of this coastal town.  The park commemorates the battle for Sitka that was fought between Russian fur traders and the native Tlingit people.  Originally set aside by President Harrison in 1890 for public use, it became a National Park in 1972.

One of the things that make Sitka and its National Park special is the rich cultural and historical atmosphere that is present throughout the town.  This is true even inside the national park, where you can view the display of traditional Tlingit and Haida totem poles.  The original totem poles were collected from 1903 to 1905 by the District Governor John Brady from various tribes across the Alaskan territory.  Before making their way to the park in Sitka, they made two appearances in other parts of the country.  The first stop was at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.  Then in 1905, the totem poles where displayed at the Lewis and Clark Exposition before arriving at their permanent home in Sitka.  While the totem poles you will find on display in the park today are replicas of the originals, remaining portions of those originals are preserved and on display in Totem Hall in the visitor’s center.   For the complete totem pole experience, take the virtual Carved History Walk available in the park.  The walk guides visitors on a 15 stop tour of the totem poles.

Part of the rich history of Sitka is the interconnectedness of the three cultures that have called this land home – the native tribes, the Russian fur traders, and Americans.  You can see signs of this cultural diversity throughout Sitka and one of the best places for this kind of cultural experience is the Russian Bishop’s House.   You can find the fully restored house, which is one of the only remaining examples of colonial Russian architecture in the entire Western Hemisphere, about a half a mile from the national park.

Planning your visit to the Park is easy because of its close proximity to the center of town.  While the park is open all year-round, the opening hours for the visitor’s center and trails vary by season.  And if you want to tour the entirety of beautiful Russian Bishop’s House during the winter, you need to make arrangements in advance as full tours are done in the off-season by appointment only.  Your concierge at the Alaska Ocean View Bed & Breakfast Inn will arrange a tour for you.

Make the most of your visit by taking one of the ranger led tours available every day during the summer.  While in the Park, you can enjoy the borreal rain forest, see some of the biggest trees in Sitka, and watch the wildlife that is present throughout the Park.  Just make sure you set aside some time to tour the visitor’s center after taking in all the natural beauty of the trails and scenery.  The exhibits inside the visitor’s center feature traditional Tlingit life and art. And, don’t miss seeing the free 15 minute film in the visitor center theatre.

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Don’t Miss the Banff Mountain Film Festival this February!

Sitka Alaska Film Festival

Don’t miss out on the Banff Film Festival coming to Sitka (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

If you are looking for something captivating to do this month, you won’t want to miss the Banff Mountain Film Festival which is coming to Sitka on February 11th The festival will be stopping in Sitka for one day only as part of its world tour which makes the film festival accessible to almost 400,000 people all over the world.  Sitka is one of the first stops on the tour which features more than 800 screenings in 40 different countries.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival features the best of films, books, and speaking engagements related to mountains, mountaineering, climbing, expeditions, remote cultures, and the wildest, more remote places on our planet.  The main festival is held at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.  The Centre operates as an art and creativity incubator, providing programs, facilities, and support for more than 8,000 participants from all over the world.  The Banff Mountain Film Festival is one of the Centre’s annual events and lasts for 9 days each November.

Originally created as a way for climbers and mountaineers to share their experiences and entertain themselves in the off-season, the festival has grown into an internationally recognized event during its 35 year history.  Highlights of the festival include the film competition, the book competition, the photography competition, and the speakers.  Mountain climbers, adventurers, wilderness photographers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds submit their work to these competitions in an effort to be recognized by their community and in hopes of winning a slot in the world tour.  Those that are chosen to be part of the tour will have their work seen by people on every continent.

The films being featured on this year’s world tour feature a wide range of outdoor activities and experiences.   They range from 35, which documents climbing 35 different rock climbing routes in a single day and won the festivals award for best short mountain film to North of the Sun, about two Norwegians who spend the winter skiing and surfing.  The films selected for this year’s tour span almost every outdoor activity imaginable from kayaking to skiing to mountain biking to surfing and everything in between.   These films celebrate the most adventurous souls among us while putting some of the most beautiful and remote places on the planet on display.

Although the tour travels all the way around the world, the experience in each location is unique to that location.  The organization hosting each festival stop creates a program specific to the interests in their area by selecting from the wide range of material offered by this year’s festival.  The Banff Mountain Film Festival stop in Sitka will be held at the Sitka Performing Arts Center and begins at 7:00 PM.  Tickets are available at Old Harbor Books and The Hames Center.  For more information, visit the Sitka Banff Mountain Film Festival Page.

 

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Sitka Jazz Festival

Sitka Jazz Festival

Don’t miss out on this year’s Jazz Festival in Sitka (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

February in Sitka means it is time for the annual Sitka Jazz Festival.  The small seaside community has hosted this annual event for the past 17 years and the 18th festival looks to be the best one yet.  Featuring a mix of jazz musicians ranging from local students to professional musicians from around the world, the festival’s mission is to provide an inspirational platform for jazz music that is as much about education as it is about performance.

In keeping with the spirit of Sitka, the jazz festival fosters cross-cultural understanding.  The rich history and cultural diversity of this small of this small, scenic, seaside communtiy makes it the perfect place for musicians and music enthusiasts to learn, participate, and revel in the joy that is jazz music.

The festival includes a mix of classes and clinics as well as four performances.  Artists attending the festival and educators from local educational institutions provide a supportive environment for students and participants to explore jazz in a variety of ways.  Clinics in jazz history, jazz improvisation, and jazz theory are help during the festival.  In addition to these classes, students can also participate in sessions specific to their instrument or section.

The festival runs from Thursday February 6th through Saturday the 8th with performances held on Friday the 7th and Saturday the 9th.  On each day, there will be a student concert starting at 6:00 PM that runs for 90 minutes, and a professional concert beginning at 8:00 PM.  Both 90 minute student performances feature students from Floyd Dryden Middle School, the East Anchorage Jazz Band, TMHS Vocal Jazz, and the Ketchikan High School Jazz Band.

After the student concert, stay to enjoy the Friday professional concert which features the Sullivan Fortner Trio and Carmen Bradford.   The Sullivan Fortner Trio features Sullivan Fortner, an award winning pianist who has played with the Marsalis family, Donald Harrison, Gary Bartz, and Marcus Belgrave.  Carmen Bradford has performed with music legends like Tony Bennett, James Brown, Frank Sinatra, and Lena Horne and was the featured soloist with the Count Basie Band for nine years.

Friday’s professional concert features:

The second student performance is scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM on Saturday the 8th and will also run for 90 minutes.  This concert will feature students from Floyd Dryden Middle School, the East Anchorage Jazz Band, TMHS Vocal Jazz, and the Ketchikan High School Jazz Band.   After the student concert, you can stay to enjoy the Alaska Airlines Professional Concert.  This concert features the All-Alaska Jazz Band playing with Mike Dana and Eric Marienthal, talented saxophonist, with the Sullivan Fortner Trio.

This concert also includes music from

  • Sitka High School Vocal Jazz
  • Alan Ferber with the Sitka Jazz Festival Big Band

Tickets for the student concert are $10/each and $25 for each professional concert, which includes admission to the preceding student concert. Visitors can get the full experience by purchasing an All-Festival Pass for $45 that grants access to all concerts and workshops.  Tickets and passes can be purchased at Old Harbor Books, from local Sitka music students, and at the door.  All student and professional evening concerts held at the Sitka Performing Arts Center.  Brown Bag Lunch concerts held at Harrigan Centennial Hall Feb 6 and 7, noon to 1p.m. featuring student groups and professional artists. Free admission. For more information visit the Sitka Jazz Festival website.

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Sitka Alaska Travel Resources

Sitka Alaska Things to Do

If you are looking for things to do while staying in Sitka, check out our resource list. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There is always something interesting to do, see, or eat when you are visiting Sitka.   Make the most of your time in this beautiful seaside town with our visitor’s resource guide.

Restaurants

  1. Van Winkle and Sons - Located in the heart of downtown, known for seafood.  205 Harbor Dr
    Sitka, AK 99835 907-747-7652
  2. Sea Mountain Restaurant at Sea Mountain Golf Course – Free shuttle provided after 5PM.   301 Granite Creek Road,  Sitka, AK  907-747-5663
  3. Ludvig’s Bistro – Call ahead for reservations.  256 Katlian St, Sitka, AK 99835  907-966-3663
  4. Channel Club – Provides excellent views.  2906 Halibut Point Rd, Sitka, AK 99835  907-747-7440
  5. The Highliner – Inviting coffee shop in town, offers free wi-fi.   327 Seward Street, Sitka, Alaska 99835  907-747-4924
  6. The Backdoor – Located in the back of a bookstore.    104 Barracks Street, Sitka, AK 99835  907-747-8856
  7. Agave Mexican Restaurant – Menu features more than just Mexican fare.   236 Lincoln Ste 106, Sitka, AK 99835  907-966-3333
  8. Kadataan Lounge - Call for reservations.  330 Seward Street, Sitka, AK 99835  907-747-0980

Attractions

  1. Alaska Raptor Center - 1000 Alaska Raptor Way, Sitka, Alaska 99835  Toll Free:    800-643-9425  Local:  907-747-8662
  2. St. Lazaria National Wildlife Reserve – Available via guided tour only
  3. Sitka National Historical Park -   106 Metlakatla St, Sitka, AK 99835 (907) 747-6281
  4. Tongass National Forest - 204 Siginaka Way, Sitka, AK 99835  (907) 747-6671
  5. Baranof Castle Hill – Harbor Road, Sitka, AK
  6. Russian Bishop’s House - 501 Lincoln St, Sitka, AK 99835
  7. Sheldon Jackson Museum - 104 College Drive, Sitka, AK 99835   907-747-8981
  8. Sitka Historical Museum - 330 Harbor Drive inside of Centennial Hall in downtown Sitka.  907-747-2788
  9. St. Michael’s Cathedral -   240 Lincoln St, Sitka, AK  907-747-8120
  10. Fortress of the Bear - 4639 Sawmill Crk. Rd.
Sitka, Alaska  907-747-3032
  11. Sitka Sound Science Center - 834 Lincoln Street, Suite 200
Sitka, AK 907.747.8878

Tours

  1. Alaska ATV Tours  – 105B Monastery Street, Sitka, AK  907-966-2301
  2. Sitka Tours -  PO Box 1001, Sitka, AK 907-747-5800
  3. Sitka Tribal Tours -  200 Katlian Street, Sitka, AK  907-747-7137
  4. Sitka Wildlife Tours -  718 A Street, Sitka, AK  907-738-1733
  5. Harris Aircraft Services (Flightseeing) -  400 Airport Road, Sitka, AK 907-966-3050
  6. Air Sitka - 485 Katlian Street, Sitka, AK  907-747-7920
  7. Alaska Getaway - 1009 Halibut Point Road, Sitka, AK  907-966-3474
  8. Classic Casting Adventures -  PO Box 6398, Sitka, AK 907-738-2737
  9. Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures and Kayaking - Blue Bus in Harrigan Centennial Hall parking lot, Sitka, AK 907-752-0660
  10. Allen Marine Tours’ Sea Otter & Whale Quest - PO Box 1049, Sitka, AK  888-747-8101

Trails

  1. National Forest - 204 Siginaka Way
Sitka, AK 907-747-6671
  2. Sitka Trail Works - 801 Halibut Point Road 
Sitka, AK  907-747 – 7244

 

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4 Tips for Planning Your Alaskan Fishing Trip

alaskan fishing

If you want your fishing trip to be as successful as this grizzly bear’s on your visit to Alaska, follow these can’t miss tips (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

If you are looking for an amazing fishing experience, there is no better place than Sitka, Alaska.  This small coastal city offers incredible opportunities for both fresh and salt water fishing and offers access to lakes, streams, and the Pacific Ocean.  The waters around Sitka are home to many kinds of fish including salmon, steelhead, halibut, rockfish, trout, and dolly varden.  With plentiful fish and beautiful vistas, a fishing trip to Sitka should top the “places to go” list of every fishing enthusiast.

A fishing trip to Sitka may require a little more planning and preparation, even for the most seasoned of fishermen.  Here are 4 tips to help you plan the ultimate Sitka, Alaska fishing excursion.

1.     Plan Ahead

While you may be able to grab a pole and some bait and drop your line without much fuss in many parts of the country, taking a fishing trip to Sitka requires a little more pre-planning.  You need to make some important decisions up front because they will help determine when you should go, what you need to bring, and who you will be interacting with while you are there.  Get the most of your trip by doing your research and making any necessary reservations before you arrive.

2.     Know What You Need

What you will need during your trip is largely dependent on two things, what you want to do while you are there and whether you plan to pay for a fishing charter or wing it on your own. Lodges cater to fishermen and provide everything needed in all inclusive packages. There are many cozy bed and breakfasts located in and around the city. This may be a great fit for you if you don’t want to travel with your own equipment.  You need to bring your own fishing equipment if you plan to fish on your own without a guide or charter.  But if using a guide or a charter they provide you with all you need to fish.  There are many fishing charters in Sitka and the Alaska Ocean View Bed & Breakfast can assist you in finding a great local charter when you stay with them.

3. Know When to Go

Peak sport fishing season in Sitka generally begins in May and runs through September.  If you were to equate the season to the different seasons in the lower 48, you may consider May is Spring, June, July, and August are summer, and September is fall.  If you are interested in going after a specific type of fish that will dictate when you should go.  Here is a breakdown of the standard timeframes for the most popular types of fish:

  • King Salmon – May thru July
  • Sockeye Salmon- June 11 thru July
  • Silver (Coho) Salmon – Mid-July thru September
  • Pink (Humpback) Salmon – August
  • Trout – June 11 thru October
  • Pacific Halibut – May thru September
  • Steelhead – End April thru end of May
  • Dollie Varden – late July thru September
  • Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout – July thru September

3.     Make Reservations

In order to get the best fishing opportunities while you are in Sitka, you need to make reservations for charters and guides before you arrive.  There are a variety of charter companies that offer different kinds of fishing excursions.  You may also be interested in an all-inclusive package that provides lodging and fishing for a single price.  Visit the Sitka Visitors Bureau for charter companies and additional information on planning your stay in Sitka or ask your Bed and Breakfast for a recommendation for a good local charter.

 

 

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Top 8 Reasons to Vacation in Alaska

Visit Sitka Alaska

Choose from one of these 8 options for things to do when visiting Sitka, Alaska (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When it comes time to plan your 2014 vacation your mind might immediately jump to an image of you on a beach with an umbrella drink having fun and getting in a little relaxation.  But before you make your plans, consider taking a completely different kind of vacation and visiting Alaska.  While the beach may not look like the one you are dreaming of and the drinks aren’t guaranteed to come with umbrellas, the breathtaking scenery, natural surroundings, and interesting cultures that Alaska has to offer can be just as much fun and relaxing as a sunny beach anywhere in the lower 48. Here are 8 reasons why you should plan your 2014 vacation in Alaska.

1.     Alaska is for Everyone

While the rugged terrain, incredible hiking, and abundance of outdoor activities may make Alaska seem like it is only a great vacation spot for outdoorsy types and adventurers, there is more to Alaska than the outdoors.  The state is rich in culture and history and offers a wide range of museums, art installations, and historical sites.

2.     Alaska is Closer than You Think

When you look at the map, Alaska can seem like a vast wilderness far, far from home.  However, it is really only a two-hour flight from popular southeast Alaskan cities.  You can also get there by sea and travel on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry from Washington state to Alaska via the scenic Inside Passage or take one of the many cruises that bring visitors to various ports and points of interest in the state.

3.     Alaska Appeals to All Ages

From retirees to families with children, Alaska has something to offer visitors of all ages.  From sightseeing to hiking to fishing and more, no matter who you are traveling with, there is enough to see and do in Alaska to ensure everyone enjoys their stay, no matter the age.

4.     Alaska is a Cultural Safe Haven

Unlike many other states, Alaska continues to have a rich native culture where old traditions are honored and old customs continue to be observed.  Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich and diverse culture of the state and get a feel for the history that happened there.

5.     Alaska has Amazing Scenery

If the word breathtaking came from any one place on the planet, it was in Alaska.  From glaciers to mountains, volcanoes to islands and amazing wildlife, Alaska offers incredible scenery almost everywhere you look.

6.     Alaska has Glaciers

Glaciers are something you won’t find in many other states and certainly not in the quantity available in Alaska.  There are around 100,000 glaciers in the state and many provide opportunities for sightseeing and hiking. Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska has 53 named glaciers and many yet to be named.  It has more glaciers than any island in the world.  In fact, Sitka’s drinking water is glacier fed and crystal clear after filtering.  It tastes amazing right from the tap and at Alaska Ocean View it comes out of the tap at 42 degrees even in the summer thus is cooling and refreshing without the need of ice cubes.

7.     Alaska has Abundant Wildlife

Whether you love bird watching or would really love to see a bear or a whale, the potential for viewing a wide variety of wildlife in their natural surroundings is prevalent in Alaska.  There are almost 500 different species of birds which means Alaska, especially in Sitka, with its location on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska just outside the Inside Passage on the outer coast of the Pacific Ocean is a bird watchers paradise.

8.     Alaska has Unique Features

Have you ever visited a town that can only be accessed by boat or plane?  Ever taken a ride in a floatplane or sped over the water in a jet boat?  The vastness of Alaska paired with its rugged terrain offers a unique experience especially for travelers who are used to cars, commercial planes, and subways.

Alaska’s massive coastline encompasses two oceans (Pacific and Arctic)  and three seas (Bering, Chukchi, Beaufort).  The absolute best way to see Alaska is to make several trips to Alaska concentrating on one of its amazing regions at a time. Each region deserves two to three weeks to see and do it properly but even if you only have a long weekend you can still see and do alot by focusing on one town in Southeast Alaska.

 

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Great Getaways in Sitka, Alaska

Sitka Alaska Oceanview

Choose from one of these options for a scenic, local adventure in Sitka (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Whether you have an afternoon cruise stop or an entire vacation to spend in Sitka, there are plenty of things to do.  From shore excursions to whale watching trips, there is something for everyone in Sitka.   Bring your camera or your binoculars and be prepared to take in the beautiful views, the rich culture, and the interesting stories of this small town by the sea.  Here are some of the great things you can do to get-a-way in Sitka.

Sitka Shore Excursions

If you are only visiting for a short time, one of the many guided tours available from local companies may be just right for you.  For example, Sitka Wildlife Tours offers a 2 hour trip that will take you through the Totem Park at the Sitka National Historic Park, into Silver Bay, out onto Japonski Island, and to the Fortress of the Bear.  This guided tour offers guests an introduction to the rich cultural history of Sitka. Two other companies we recommend are Sitka Tours and Sitka Tribal Tours.

Even if you only have a few hours, you can also take your own self-guided walking tour of some of Sitka’s most popular sites. For example, the Crescent Harbor to Raptor Center trail takes you to the Russian Bishop’s house, St. Peter’s by the Sea Episcopal Church, the Sheldon Jackson Museum, and through the National Historic Park to the Raptor Center.  While in the park, you can take some extra time to explore Totem Park as well.  The trail is about 1.5 miles long and should be easy for most visitors to do on their own in an afternoon.

Marine Tours

If you want to see native wildlife and take in the nature beauty of the Alaskan scenery, a marine tour may be just what you want.  These types of tours provide more opportunities to see a wide range of wildlife and to capture the incredible scenic views surrounding Sitka.  For example, the Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest from Allen Marine Tours provides guests with the opportunity to see whales, sea otters, sea lions, porpoise, harbor seals, deer, bears, and even bald eagles.   From the comfort of a warm enclosed cabin, you will get a glimpse of the natural ecosystem and the variety of wildlife that call Sitka home.

If your primary interest is to see the whales, you might be better off taking a whale watching tour like the one offered by Sitka Wildlife Tours provides guests with an opportunity to see both humpback and gray whales.  In addition, you may see other wildlife like sea otters, seals, and hundreds of different kinds of birds.  This two hour tour takes place aboard a 26 ft Catamaran specifically designed to provide a smooth ride even in the roughest seas.  You can observe the wildlife from the comfort of the warm indoor cabin or from the open air upper deck.

No matter what kind of tour you choose or how long you are able to stay, a visit to Sitka means unbelievably beautiful scenery, breathtaking views of wildlife in their natural habitat, and an experience you will never forget.

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