A Cruise Passenger’s Guide to Sitka

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Sitka Alaska things to do blue flowers
Sitka Alaska – blue flowers

A Cruise Passenger’s Guide to Sitka, Alaska: Activities, Weather, and Attire

Sitka, Alaska, a stunning port of call for many cruise ships traveling along the Inside Passage, offers visitors a mix of rich history, breathtaking scenery, and vibrant cultural experiences. Whether you’re docking for a day or just a few hours, there’s plenty to do and see. This guide will help you plan your shore excursions in Sitka, detail the typical weather conditions you might face, and suggest appropriate attire for each activity.

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Weather Overview in Sitka

Sitka experiences a temperate maritime climate, with mild temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. Summer months (May through September) are the most popular for cruising, with temperatures ranging from 50°F to 60°F (10°C to 15°C). Rain is frequent, so preparing for wet conditions is crucial.

Top Activities in Sitka for Cruise Passengers

Whale Watching

  • Activity Description: If you have to pick one activity in Sitka, Whale Watching is top of our list! The waters here are home to an abundance of marine life such as sea lions, otters, seals and an array of birds. Almost nowhere else in Southeast Alaska can you see so many different animals that will all likely make an appearance. Sitka is also a stop for whales and orcas which feed on a variety of abundant sea life. Some 200 to 300 humpbacks visit the ocean waters around Sitka from July to December, drawn by the rich feeding grounds, and often settle here after visits to Southeast’s interior waterways. A few are year-round residents as several groups of them appear in early spring for the herring run.
  • What to Wear: A waterproof rain layer, non slip shoes for steady footing in your boat, and a baseball cap are a good start.
Alaska cruise ports -Sitka a whale tail
Alaska cruise ports -Sitka a whale tail

Take a Combo Tour

  • Activity Description: Looking for a starter tour of Sitka? Get to know Alaska’s first capitol and experience Sitka through the eyes of a local guide, there is no better way to learn about a place you have never been. Your group is purposely kept to a small number of only 10 guests, allowing for a much more intimate and one-on-one experience with your friendly, knowledgeable and professional guide. Learn about Sitka’s unique blend of Tlingit, Russian, and American cultures, Spot bald eagles and Sitka black-tail deer in Silver Bay, and see humpback and minke whales (seasonal) & Visit The Fortress of the Bear, a non-profit bear rescue facility, and The Alaskan Raptor Center rehab center.
  • What to Wear: Layers, Comfortable walking shoes and a waterproof jacket

Exploring Sitka National Historical Park

  • Activity Description: Just a short walk from the cruise ship docks, this park offers a glimpse into Alaska’s past with beautiful totem poles, cultural exhibits, and scenic trails.
  • What to Wear: Comfortable walking shoes and a waterproof jacket are essential. If you plan to hike the trails, layering is advisable, as weather can be unpredictable.

Watching Wildlife on a Sea Kayaking Adventure

  • Activity Description: Join a guided kayak tour to explore the coastal waters and see marine life, such as sea otters, seals, and seabirds, up close.
  • What to Wear: A wetsuit or drysuit provided by the tour operator will keep you warm against the chilly waters. Wear water-resistant sunscreen and a cap for sun protection.
Alaska cruise ports - Sitka Kayaking
Alaska cruise ports – Sitka Kayaking

Touring the St. Michael’s Cathedral

  • Activity Description: This historic Russian Orthodox cathedral is a centerpiece of Russian heritage in Sitka. It’s easily accessible from the main port area.
  • What to Wear: Casual tourist attire is appropriate, but as a sign of respect in this religious site, opt for modest clothing.

Taking a Cultural Walking Tour

  • Activity Description: Learn about Sitka’s unique history from its Tlingit roots to Russian colonization and its eventual transfer to the United States. Walking tours typically start near the port and cover various historical sites.
  • What to Wear: Comfortable, sturdy footwear and a lightweight rain jacket or umbrella will serve you well, along with a hat or visor on sunny days.
Sitka Alaska things to do walking tour what to wear
Sitka Alaska – things to do walking tour and what to wear

Bird Watching at the Alaska Raptor Center

  • Activity Description: A rehabilitation center for injured birds of prey, the Alaska Raptor Center is a short drive from downtown Sitka. It’s perfect for families and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • What to Wear: Casual wear with a waterproof windbreaker and good walking shoes will allow you to explore comfortably.

Enjoying Local Seafood

  • Activity Description: Sitka is famous for its seafood, especially salmon and halibut. Many restaurants are located near the harbor, perfect for a meal before heading back to the ship.
  • What to Wear: Dining attire in Sitka is generally casual; however, it’s wise to carry a sweater or light jacket as temperatures can drop, especially by the water.
Alaska cruise ports - Sitka Crab and Chowder
Alaska cruise ports – Sitka Crab and Chowder

Shopping for Native Art and Souvenirs

  • Activity Description: The local shops in Sitka offer a variety of native artworks, Russian crafts, and souvenirs. It’s a great way to bring a piece of Alaska home with you.
  • What to Wear: Comfort is key for shopping. Wear layers that you can easily add or remove, and don’t forget your rain gear just in case.
Alaska cruise ports - Sitka Shopping
Alaska cruise ports – Sitka Shopping

Conclusion

As our ship pulls away from the serene docks of Sitka, the vibrant memories of this charming locale linger in the salty air. Visiting Sitka, Alaska, by cruise ship offers an intimate glimpse into the heart of the Last Frontier—where history, culture, and breathtaking natural beauty converge. From the enchanting walks through the Sitka National Historical Park to the spirited encounters with local wildlife, each moment in Sitka is a testament to its unique allure.

Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply in search of tranquility, Sitka promises an unforgettable journey steeped in the richness of Alaskan wilderness and culture. So as you sail from this picturesque harbor, carry with you not just souvenirs, but also the spirit of Sitka—a tranquil, yet vibrant pulse that truly defines Southeast Alaska.

FAQ About Sitka, Alaska

Q: What are the must-visit attractions in Sitka, Alaska? A: Sitka is brimming with attractions that cater to all interests. Don’t miss the Sitka National Historical Park, which offers insights into local history and trails dotted with totem poles. The Fortress of the Bear provides a close-up look at rescued Alaskan brown bears, while the Alaska Raptor Center is perfect for bird enthusiasts. For a dose of history, visit St. Michael’s Cathedral with its stunning Russian architecture.

Q: What activities are popular in Sitka for cruise ship visitors? A: Visitors to Sitka can enjoy a variety of activities, including wildlife tours where you might spot whales, sea otters, and seals. Kayaking and fishing are popular water activities, offering another perspective of Sitka’s stunning natural environment. For those who prefer staying on land, hiking in the surrounding forest trails or participating in a walking tour of the city are great options.

Q: What is the best time of year to visit Sitka by cruise ship? A: The best time to visit Sitka on a cruise is during the summer months, from May through September. During this period, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, which is ideal for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing. Additionally, the days are longer, giving you more time to explore.

Q: Can I see the Northern Lights in Sitka? A: While it’s possible, Sitka is not the most reliable location for viewing the Northern Lights due to its geographical position and frequent cloud cover. For the best chances, plan to visit northern parts of Alaska during the colder months from late September to early April.

Q: Are there cultural experiences unique to Sitka? A: Yes, Sitka has a rich cultural heritage that visitors can explore. The Sheldon Jackson Museum houses an exceptional collection of Native Alaskan artifacts, offering a deep dive into the indigenous cultures of the region. Additionally, visitors can experience local Tlingit culture through dance performances, art workshops, and community events that celebrate the enduring legacy of the native peoples.

Q: What are the dining options like in Sitka? A: Sitka’s dining scene is a delightful mix of local seafood and international cuisines. Fresh catches like salmon, halibut, and crab are local staples. For a unique taste of Sitka, try the seaweed and salmon roe at a local eatery or indulge in some freshly baked goods at a waterfront cafe.

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Sheri
Sheri and her family are cruise content creators focused on providing practical tips and advice to new and seasoned cruisers. CruiseTipsTV’s audience enjoys following Sheri and her family as they travel the world by ship creating travel films. Sheri has visited destinations like Japan, Mexico, Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean, and has experienced 33 cruises on 6 cruise lines. She was named one of Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 10 Travel Influencers Changing How We Vacation in 2018 and 2019. Sheri has been quoted in the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes, Prevention, and Business Innovator Radio. Her YouTube Channel, CruiseTipsTV has over 87,000 subscribers and 17 million views.