Sitka sits on the west side of Baranof Island, a detour from the Inside Passage for the Alaska Marine Highway System (tel. 800/642-0066; www.ferryalaska.com). The ride through narrow Peril Straits and other narrows into Sitka is definitely worth the trip. The shore seems close enough to touch, and if you look closely, you can sometimes see deer. The fare from either Juneau (a 9-hr. run) or Petersburg (10 hr. away by conventional ferry) is $45, and a two-berth cabin is $58 more. The ferry dock (tel. 907/747-3300) is 7 miles out of town.
Alaska Airlines (tel. 800/252-7522; www.alaskaair.com) links Sitka daily to Juneau, Ketchikan, and Seattle; northbound flights continue to Anchorage.
To get to town from the ferry dock, the Sitka Tours (tel. 907/747-8443) bus charges $8 each way. No reservations are needed, just climb aboard and pay the driver. Nina's Taxi (tel. 907/738-1931) and Sitka Cab (tel. 907/747-5001) are among five taxi companies in town; the ride from the ferry dock is around $18.
A kiosk in the city-operated Harrigan Centennial Hall, 330 Harbor Dr., next to the Crescent Boat Harbor (tel. 907/747-3225), is a handy walk-in information stop. It is usually staffed when the hall is open, Monday through Friday from 8am to 10pm, Saturday and Sunday 8am to 5pm; if no one is at the desk, inquire in the office. The town's professional visitor organization is the Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 1226, Sitka, AK 99835 (tel. 907/747-5940; fax 907/747-3739). They maintain a very useful website at www.sitka.org.
The Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center, 106 Metlakatla St., Sitka, AK 99835 (tel. 907/747-0110; www.nps.gov/sitk), run by the National Park Service, which maintains key historic sites in Sitka, is an essential stop to gather information and learn about what happened here. The center is open daily from 8am to 5pm in summer, Monday through Saturday from 8am to 5pm in winter.
Sitka, on the west side of Baranof Island, has only a few miles of road. The ferry terminal is located at its north end, 7 miles out, on Halibut Point Road; the site of an abandoned pulp mill is at the south end, roughly the same distance out Sawmill Creek Road. The town faces Sitka Sound. Across Sitka Channel is Japonski Island, with the airport (don't worry, it only looks as if your plane is going to land in the water). Lincoln Street contains most of the tourist attractions.
The Starring Ceremony, January 7, marks Russian Orthodox Christmas with a procession through the streets and song and prayer at the doors of the faithful. Call St. Michael's Cathedral for information (tel. 907/747-8120).
The Sitka Salmon Derby occurs at the end of May and beginning of June, when the kings are running; contact the Sitka Sportsman's Association (tel. 907/747-3469) for information.
The Sitka Summer Music Festival, a chamber-music series that began in 1972, is one of Alaska's most important cultural events, drawing musicians from all over the world for 3 weeks in June. Performances take place Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, as well as other events all week. Contact the festival office for information (tel. 907/747-6774; www.sitkamusicfestival.org).
The Sitka WhaleFest (tel. 907/747-7964; www.sitkawhalefest.org) takes place over a weekend in early November, during the fall and early winter period when humpback whales congregate in Sitka Sound to feed before migrating to Hawaiian waters. Experts come from around the world to present a 3-day symposium on marine mammal research, and there are whale-watching tours, concerts, a banquet, a market, a run, and other community events.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.