Scenic Treasures: Sitka, Alaska

By guest blogger George Angus

Sitka & Mount Edgecumbe photos Copyright © Jerry Snelling

AS YOUR ALASKA AIRLINES jet gently banks you catch a glimpse of Mount Edgecumbe, Fuji-like in its appearance. Your descent takes you closer and closer to an ocean that is as deep a blue as you have ever seen. So close to the water now. Surely there is a runway ahead? At the last moment, you see the lights on the Sitka Airport’s runway and as the jet touches down, startled sea-birds take flight from the ocean that borders the runway.

Welcome to Southeast Alaska. Welcome to Sitka.

Toss aside any preconceived notion of igloos and dog sleds. This is a different Alaska in every respect. Sitka holds all of the majesty that you would expect from Alaska. It also holds treasures and surprises for even the most seasoned traveler.

Nestled in to the western side of Baranof island, Sitka is available to folks by air and by sea. No roads wind into what can be arguably said is the prettiest town in Alaska. Still, this apparent isolation does nothing to detract from this community that played such an important role in Russian-Alaskan history.

What to expect

Sitka lies in a part of Southeast Alaska that is considered to be a temperate rain forest and it can certainly live up to that reputation. You want to make certain you’ve got some good water resistant shoes, a slicker or two and an umbrella or a good hat. Not that it rains all of the time, but it has been known to downpour now and then!

The waterfront, Sitka, Alaska

The waterfront, Sitka, Alaska

Temperatures are mild by Alaska standards with summer temperatures typically in the 50’s or 60’s (F).

Winter temperatures are more likely to be in the 30’s or 40’s and sometimes a bit colder.

When the sun is out, be sure to head down to the harbor and take in all of the sea life. Depending on the time of year, gray whales breech and rise in the outer harbor. Seals and otters playfully poke their heads up above the surface and sometimes it seems like the show will never end.

A little history

If you have an interest in Alaskan history then Sitka is the place for you. Originally the town site that we now know as Sitka was a village of the Southeast Alaska tribe known as the Tlingits. The name they had for the village was “Shee Atika.” When the Russian expedition headed by Bering discovered the village, they soon took over and in 1799 they renamed the village New Archangel. The manager of the Russian American company built a fort and in 1802 the Tlingits burned the fort. In 1804, the Tlingets left the area and Sitka soon became the capital of Russian Alaska. Russian influences still abound throughout the Sitka area.

Where to stay

Lodging possibilities in Sitka are plentiful. There are larger hotels downtown for those interested in a standard accommodations experience. As well, there are numerous bed and breakfast homes throughout the area that give a more personal touch. And of course there is always the Rockwell Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. Accessible only by boat, it is the ultimate Sitka experience!

(See a photo of Rockwell Lighthouse. Opens in a new window.)

What to do

Folks come to Alaska for the scenery. The ocean and the tall spruce trees that line the nearby mountains make for some of the best scenery Alaska has to offer. There are numerous forest trails to hike and take in the sights. Fishing charters are abundant and guaranteed to leave you breathless. There are museums to help you explore the unique history of Sitka. Downtown Sitka has wonderful bookstores and coffee shops for those times when the weather calls for some warm and inviting indoor activities.

Come to Sitka. Explore. Be mesmerized by the people and the scenery. Come to a different Alaska.

Sitka & Mount Edgecumbe photos Copyright © Jerry Snelling


George Angus

George Angus

GEORGE ANGUS, author of The Writing Experience, is a popular blogger who enjoys helping other writers. George has a background in Emergency Medical Services and has been published in trade journals. Before becoming a full-time writer, he operated a successful paramedic school. Currently about 50 pages into his first novel, he is the owner of Tumblemoose Writing Service. George lives in Palmer, Alaska.

Jerry Snelling

Jerry Snelling

JERRY SNELLING landed in Sitka with the Coast Guard in 1968. Head gardener for 30 years for Sitka Pioneer Home, he retired in 2002 (see the gardens). He walks with his dog Katie every day in Sitka National Historical Park and always carries his camera. Jerry and his wife Kathryn will celebrate their 40th anniversary in September 2009. You can enjoy more of Jerry’s magnificent photos at PalusMus.


Postscript from Milli: I recently had the pleasure of seeing The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. This funny and heartwarming story keeps up a cracking pace as the odd couple lurches from one disaster to the next. It had me laughing and crying from start to finish. My husband also enjoyed it immensely.

One of the outstanding features of the movie was the setting: Sitka, Alaska. The trailer below doesn’t show much in that regard, but the town is picturesque and the scenery stunning.

P.P.S. A reader wrote in to let me know The Proposal was actually filmed in Rockport, Massachusetts, with Mount Edgecumbe dropped in behind the town as a special effect. Wah! Another Hollywood dupe. Even so, the movie inspired me to put Sitka on my bucket list, and that’s a good thing.

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  1. Although I lived in Alaska for nearly 8 years, I never made it to Sitka. It looks to be a real treasure filled with history and lots of beauty. Thank you for the tour. 🙂

  2. Lois Eighmy says:

    Alaska is on the list of places I want to visit. I have friends who live there and I’d love to meet them in person!

    Awesome article! 😀

  3. My son-in-law has been, with his dad, practically every summer for the past few years. I don’t know what part of Alaska, but I have a picture of him fishing–the “real” backdrop behind him is gorgeous! LOL

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