visiting sitka

Sitka is one of my favorite places on Earth.  I hadn't spent much time there until my grandparents moved over from Juneau last year, but now I'm subtly trying to convince Dan that we need to move there.  I've always loved Southeast Alaska and spent quite a bit of time in Juneau with my grandparents, who lived there for 60 years.  Sitka, though, has a home-y quality that Juneau always lacked for me.  Juneau's just a bit too large and, despite being a small-ish town, lacks the small town vibe that's made me fall in love with Sitka.  My aunt and uncle have made Sitka their home for decades and I remember visiting them about 20 years ago, boating around the islands speckling the waters surrounding the town, and harvesting rhubarb from their front yard to make rhubarb pies.

Flying into Sitka on a sunny day is truly a treat.  Flying over the southeast in general is pretty fantastic, but coming in low with the mountains of Baranof Island on one side and the Pacific ocean on the other, while gliding over clusters of tiny islands is breathtaking.  Whenever I fly to Alaska I do my best to get a window seat, but especially when flying to the southeast.  I've never been on an Alaska cruise, but I suspect floating into Sitka is also magnificent.


One of my favorite things to do in port cities is to walk up and down the docks of the marinas.  I love looking at all the boat names and smelling the ocean air.  My family has always had boats, so we've spent a lot of time on the water and in marinas, I suppose it's a familiar and relaxing place to be.

If you're in Sitka, I definitely recommend checking out Baranof Island Brewing's taproom.  It's a fun little spot to grab some great brews, but quite a few places around town also have Baranof on tap too.  I've also loved taking in a show at the Bayview Pub, or grabbing lunch there during the day.  You can sit by the windows and look out on the bay, hence "Bayview."  They've got a pretty good selection of beers on tap and decent bar food.  My aunt invited us to a show at the Bayview one night and it was really fun to see local musicians, hang out, and dance.

The only place I've ever gotten coffee in Sitka is the Backdoor Cafe, but I love it.  It's, surprise, found at the backdoor behind Old Harbor Books.  It's right next door to the Pioneer Home so we go there before heading over to spend time with my grandparents.  They didn't have internet last time I was there, but they just got new ownership so they might now.  If not, Highliner Cafe has internet, though I've never been there.  I've heard great things though!

There are plenty of tourist traps to be found walking around downtown, lots of little shops and spots to grab a souvenir.  I'd definitely recommend getting a souvenir from a local or alaskan artist.  Not only are there some incredible Alaskan artists producing some stunning work, but you're supporting a working artist, and oftentimes Alaskan artists are continuing their native arts traditions, which I think is incredibly important.  A lot of native Alaskan art traditions and languages actively need support to keep from dying.  Recently the Alaska state government made Alaska Native languages official state languages so it's a step in the right direction to keep the indigenous languages from going extinct!  Anyway, instead of a "Sitka, AK" shot glass or hat, find something made by a local Alaskan artist!  Two of my favorite Alaskan artists are Rie Muñoz and George Ahgupuk, but there are so many great artists featured in Sitka's shops and galleries.


Since my grandparents are now living in the Pioneer Home, we spend quite a bit of time with them there.  The pioneer home has a great little gift shop on the first floor to the right of the entrance when you walk in with art and crafts made by the residents.  Another great way to get a really unique and special souvenir!

Right across the street from the Pioneer Home is one of my favorite little shops, Brenner's.  They've got a ton of cute stuff.  The clothes are geared more towards ladies who are my mom's age, but there's a lot of stuff in there for us young gals too.  I love going shopping with my mom, so it's a fun place to go with her.  If you find yourself in need of more outdoor-gear type clothes and accessories, Mountain Miss is my favorite place to browse around. 

If you're in Sitka during the month of June, make sure to check out the Sitka Summer Music Festival events.  They bring in some unbelievable musical talent for their concert series.  We had the pleasure of watching a world class string performance at Harrigan Centennial Hall which was extraordinary.

There are obviously plenty of amazing hikes and other outdoorsy and tourist attractions to enjoy.  Totem park, Alaska Raptor Center, Fortress of the Bear, Sheldon Jackson Museum, and plenty of ocean and flight tours to be found!  You can also head to the Sitka convention and visitor's bureau site to find more tips for your visit.