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17 Best Things To Do in Sitka, Alaska: A Travel Guide

Updated: May 30

Nestled on Baranof Island within the Inside Passage, Sitka, Alaska, harmoniously integrates stunning natural landscapes, a captivating history, and a dynamic cultural scene, providing an unparalleled experience.

Balcony view of Sitka, Alaska

From exploring the historical sites of Russian America to observing the diverse marine life of the Pacific Ocean, Sitka promises adventures for every type of traveler.

This guide highlights the best things to do in Sitka, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this charming town.

1. Fortress of the Bear

Address: 4639 Sawmill Creek Rd, Sitka, AK 99835

Fortress of the Bear is home to five brown bears and three black bears, all orphaned at a young age. Visitors can enjoy watching these bears play, nap, and interact while learning about bear conservation in a setting that closely mimics their natural habitat.

2. Castle Hill (Baranof Castle State Historic Site)

Address: Harbor Road Sitka, AK 99835

Baranof Castle State Historic Site, also known as Castle Hill, is one of Alaska's most historically significant landmarks.

Originally constructed as a Tlingit fortification, the site later came under Russian occupation from 1804 to 1867 and served as the location for the official transfer of Alaska to the United States.

Located in downtown Sitka, the site features an accessible walkway with outstanding views and interpretive panels that detail its rich history.

3. Alaska Raptor Center

Address: 1000 Raptor Way, Sitka, AK 99835

The Alaska Raptor Center provides medical treatment to about 200 injured birds annually, with a focus on raptors, though they assist any wild bird in need.

While their goal is to rehabilitate and release all birds, those too severely injured become part of the Raptors-in-Residence team, helping to educate the public about raptor natural history and habitats.

Visitors can explore the bald eagle flight training center, natural eagle habitats, and raptor weathering yard and meet resident bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls.

4. Halibut Point Crab

Address: 4513 Halibut Point Rd, Sitka, AK 99835

Sitka Marine Harbor with lots of boats parked

Halibut Point Crab and Chowder, a locally owned establishment in Sitka, serves Dungeness crab caught in the pristine waters of Hoonah Sound by a local family.

From May to mid-June, they serve frozen crab from the winter season, transitioning to fresh live crab for the summer months. It is a must-visit for anyone wanting to taste the local cuisine.

5. Sitka National Historical Park

Address: 103 Monastery St, Sitka, AK 99835

Sitka National Historical Park, Alaska's oldest national park, spans 113 acres and offers hiking trails, ranger-led walks, and demonstrations by local artists.

Totem pole in Sitka National Historical Park

The park is renowned for its roughly 20 totem poles and beautiful coastal rainforest, which visitors can explore independently or with park rangers.

Inside the visitor center, exhibits on traditional Tlingit life include ceremonial objects and a film titled "The Voices of Sitka," providing a deep dive into the region's cultural history.

6. Russian Bishop’s House

Address: 501 Lincoln Street, Sitka, AK 99835

The Russian Bishop's House, one of the few surviving examples of Russian colonial architecture in North America, is also the oldest intact Russian building on the continent.

Old charming homes in Sitka on the waterfront

Completed in 1842, it served as the center of the Russian Orthodox Church's authority in a diocese stretching from California to Siberia when Sitka was the capital of Russian America.

After being closed in 1969 due to severe deterioration, the National Park Service restored the building over 16 years, returning it to its 1853 appearance.

Visitors can explore exhibits on the first floor and take a guided tour of the second floor, offering a glimpse into life during Sitka's Russian-American period.

7. Whale Park

Address: 2500 Sawmill Creek Rd, Sitka, AK 99835

A whale with its tail outside of the water

Whale Park offers more than just scenic views; it provides an immersive experience with covered viewing shelters, picnic tables, public-use fixed binoculars, and interpretive signs.

Visitors can listen to undersea noise through a hydrophone and even tune into "Whale Radio" on 88.1 FM to hear live broadcasts of whale sounds while scanning for humpback whales and other marine species like harbor seals and Steller's sea lions.

8. Harrigan Centennial Hall

Address: Visitors Dock at Crescent Harbor, 330 Harbor Dr, Sitka, AK 99835

Woodwork of a canoe and giant bird at the Vancouver airport

Harrigan Centennial Hall, constructed in 1967 during Alaska's Centennial celebration, remains one of the state's finest buildings.

It serves as a hub for various community activities, housing the Sitka Historical Society, Sitka History Museum, an auditorium, and the Baranof Arts and Crafts Association during the summer months.

Guests can delve into Sitka's history by perusing exhibits and artifacts at the Sitka History Museum, which fulfills its mission of safeguarding and showcasing the area's abundant cultural legacy for generations to come.

9. Sitka Sound Science Center

Address: 834 Lincoln Street, Sitka, AK 99835

Sitka Sound Alaska sign

Sitka Sound Science Center celebrates the town's rich maritime tradition and is a hub for research and education.

Visitors can explore marine wildlife up close in the Molly O. Ahlgren Aquarium and touch tanks, interact with critters from tidal pools, observe salmon in the Salmon Bubble, and learn about the ocean's inhabitants.

Additionally, the center houses the oldest operating salmon hatchery in Alaska, the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery, highlighting the importance of fisheries in Sitka's economy and culture.

10. Goddard Hot Springs

Address: Outer Coast of Baranof Island on Hot Springs Bay off of Sitka Sound, 16 miles south of Sitka

Sitka scenery

Goddard Hot Springs, renowned for its healing waters, was frequented by indigenous people and Europeans, with cottages for invalids in the mid-1800s and a three-story hotel by the 1920s.

Now owned by the city of Sitka, it features modern cedar bathhouses, open shelters over hot tubs with natural hot springs water and cold water, and campsites in grassy areas.

Accessible by boat, floatplane, or paddling, this picturesque site offers water views and is a popular spot for locals.

11. St. Michael's Cathedral

Address: 240 Lincoln St, Sitka, AK 99835

As a National Historic Landmark, the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel is a significant symbol of Russian cultural impact during the 19th century in North America.
From 1840 to 1872, Sitka held notable religious significance as the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Diocese.

Inside St. Michael's Cathedral

Despite the original building burning down in 1966, the present cathedral is a remarkable example of Russian church architecture, reflecting the enduring legacy of Russian Orthodox heritage in Alaska.

12. Sheldon Jackson Museum

Address: 104 College Dr, Sitka, AK 99835

Established in 1888, the Sheldon Jackson Museum boasts an impressive collection of Alaska Native ethnographic material gathered by Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson.

Visitors can marvel at totems, masks, baskets, and traditional clothing known for their exquisite ornamentation and fine sewing, as well as full-size kayaks and baidarkas.

Contained within an octagonal structure, the museum holds the distinction of being Alaska's inaugural concrete building, earning it a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

13. Downtown Sitka

Downtown street of Sitka, AK

Downtown Sitka, located between the mountains and the ocean, offers art galleries, gift shops, lodging, and restaurants serving local seafood with great views.

Visitors can pick up a map from the Sitka Visitor Information Center for a walking tour, including 22 historic buildings, such as the Russian Blockhouse, Russian Bishop's House, and Baranof Castle State Historic Site.

14. Food Trucks (and Shacks)

Crab shack along the Downtown Sitka strip

Sitka food trucks are beloved by locals and visitors alike, offering a range of local and international cuisine.

Two notable options include Ashmo’s, specializing in Alaskan seafood dishes such as salmon mac and cheese and rockfish tacos, and Enoki Eatery, known for its locally sourced delicacies and Asian-fusion street food like smoked fish musubi.

These food trucks provide convenient dining options for those exploring the downtown area, serving up quick and delicious meals.

15. Totem Poles

Totem Pole in Sitka

Totem poles, significant cultural symbols in Sitka, can be found throughout Sitka National Historical Park and Totem Square, each telling a unique story of the Tlingit people.

Over the years, caretakers have patched, painted, and re-carved the poles, preserving their cultural heritage and providing a lasting memorial to their stories.

These poles continue to draw people to Alaska, serving as powerful symbols that provide a tangible link to the past.

16. Tongass National Forest

A waterfall in a forest in Sitka

The Tongass National Forest, roughly the size of West Virginia, is the largest national forest in the United States and home to approximately 70,000 people living in 32 communities, including the state capital, Juneau.

It offers endless opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing in the lush temperate rainforest. The Indian River Trail, popular for its varying skill levels, provides hikers with stunning views of the surrounding landscape as it follows the river.

Beaver Lake, a scenic spot within the forest, offers peaceful nature walks and picnicking opportunities along its tranquil trail.

17. Sitka Wildlife Viewing

3 sea otters swimming

Embark on a boat tour in Sitka Sound for unparalleled wildlife viewing opportunities.

The confluence of open ocean and protected waters makes it ideal for spotting marine mammals like sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and various whale species, including humpbacks, grays, killers, and minkes.

Do not miss the chance to witness humpback whales in large numbers between mid-September and mid-January as they make a last feeding stop before migrating to their winter breeding and calving grounds in Hawaii.

Not sure what to pack for an Alaskan cruise?

Check out my blog post, Your Alaska Cruise Packing List (PDF Checklist Inside). In this blog post, you will find a visual listing with links to purchase the items.

Do you just want the checklist emailed to you?

Preview of the Free Printable Packing List for your Alaskan Cruise created by Dale, Let's Travel! LLC

Fill out this form with your first name and email address below to receive the link for a downloadable PDF version of this listing that you can print out and treat as a checklist.

Add it to the Bucket List!

Beautiful scenery in Sitka, Alaska of vegetation, rocks, water, mountains, and a boat in the water

Sitka, Alaska, captivates with its stunning landscapes, historical depth, and abundant wildlife.

Whether you are walking through the trails of the Sitka National Historical Park, marveling at the rehabilitated birds of prey at the Alaska Raptor Center, or simply enjoying the serene views of the Pacific Ocean, Sitka offers a memorable experience at every turn. 

Holland America floating in Sitka with snow topped mountains in the background

Embrace the adventure, immerse yourself in the culture, and discover the countless treasures that make Sitka a must-visit destination.

Embarking on a voyage to this remarkable small town will create enduring memories and foster a profound admiration for Alaska's natural and cultural marvels.

Have you ever been to Sitka, Alaska? Let me know in the comments below! Share this article with the person or people you want to go on your next adventure with! Also, be sure to SUBSCRIBE below to learn about other places you should add to your "To Visit" List! Ready? Okay, vamos. Time to have fun!

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