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Aleutians & Bering Sea Isles
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Unalaska / Dutch Harbor


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Unalaska / Dutch Harbor

Location/Climate: Northeast end of Unalaska Island, 800 air miles from Anchorage. 58"/yr. precip., 25°F–53°F.

Population: 4,083 (8.4 percent native).

Travel Attractions: Russian and native history, ferry terminus, access to Aleutians and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Makushin Volcano.

Getting There: Scheduled air service from Anchorage, scheduled ferry service from Homer and Kodiak.

Information: Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 545, Unalaska, AK 99685, 581-2612, www.arctic.net/~updhcvb.

Unalaska on Unalaska Island is an established settlement and home to most of the island’s residents. The working port of Dutch Harbor is on Amaknak Island, which is connected by a short bridge to Unalaska. Whether arriving by air or ferry, you’ll first set foot in "Dutch"—the top fishing port in the nation. All parts of both towns are within short walking distance.

More than 1,000 Aleuts lived in 24 settlements on Unalaska Island when the Russians arrived in 1759. The town of Unalaska became a Russian trading port in 1768—and also a base for enslaved Aleuts who worked harvesting fur seals on the Pribilof Islands. The famous Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ was constructed in 1825 by founding priest, Ivan Veniaminov, who later helped the Aleut people compose their first writing system. World War II put the island on the map when the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor by air.

Half of all fish harvested in Alaska are landed in Dutch Harbor—$160 million worth annually. The port is within 50 miles of the "Great Circle" shipping route between West Coast ports and the Pacific Rim. Residents and seasonal workers are employed almost exclusively in fish harvesting, fish processing, or fleet services. If you want a job that you’ll be reluctant to tell mom about, here’s where to look.

Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is the most accessible destination in the Aleutians. Daily air service is offered from Anchorage and other points. Dutch Harbor is also the end of the line for the A.M.H.S ferry Tustamena. There are plenty of travel services, including a luxury hotel that’s one of the state’s nicest. Wildlife tours take birders and marine mammal watchers out and around through the sheltered bays. Anglers come to try their luck in the rich halibut and salmon fisheries from the decks of charter boats. Charter air and boat services offer options for remote island drop-offs and pick-ups. Unalaska Island itself offers remote ridge walking, sea kayaking, and beach camping. The icy, 6,680-foot cone of Makushin Volcano is 20 miles from town.

Things to See and Do in Unalaska/Dutch

Things to do in this area include:

Bunker Hill Trail (I-mile, 421' gain)—Take Henry Swanson Drive south from the west end of the "Bridge to the Otherside" to the switchback road that leads to the summit ruin of a World War II emplacement. You can also cut up the slope on casual paths from Airport Beach Road. Great views! Round-trip—1–1.5 hrs.

Holy Ascension Cathedral (Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ)—Built in 1825 and fully restored in 1996, the Holy Ascension Cathedral is Unalaska’s unmistakable centerpiece. It is the oldest Russian Orthodox cruciform-style church in North America and is a designated National Historical Landmark. Inside is a marvelous collection of Russian artifacts, religious icons, and artwork. Check with the visitors bureau regarding hours and tours (see details above).

Where to Stay and Eat in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor

Elbow Room, 2nd and Bayview, Unalaska, 581-1271, 581-1470, fax 581-3350. Open Monday–Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. The bar to meet people, good for job finding, live music, rough edges.

Grand Aleutian Hotel, Airport Beach Road, Dutch Harbor, (800) 891-1194, 581-3844. $135 and up. Full service, all amenities, plush, complimentary airport shuttle.