Exploring things to do in Sitka Alaska from a cruise ship offers a wealth of exciting opportunities. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking adventure, Sitka has a diverse range of activities to cater to every interest. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into various experiences and adventures you can embark on during your visit to Sitka, all while keeping in mind things to do in Sitka Alaska from cruise ship.

1. Wildlife Watching

Sitka is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts. Keep your camera ready, as you’re likely to encounter humpback whales, sea otters, and bald eagles on your cruise ship journey. To get even closer to the action, consider booking a wildlife tour. Companies like Sitka Sound Tours and Alaska Raptor Center offer expert-guided excursions for an up-close look at these magnificent creatures.

Wildlife Observation from Your Cruise Ship

As your cruise ship approaches Sitka, don’t miss the opportunity to engage in one of the most popular things to do in Sitka Alaska from cruise ship – wildlife watching. Sitka is renowned for its abundant marine and avian life. Keep your binoculars and camera handy, as you’re likely to encounter remarkable creatures right from your cruise ship:

Wildlife SpeciesDescription
Humpback WhalesLook out for the iconic breaches and spouts of humpback whales as they frolic in these waters.
Sea OttersThese charming creatures can often be seen floating on their backs, foraging for food or resting.
Bald EaglesThe skies above Sitka are frequently graced by the majestic presence of bald eagles.

Wildlife Tours in Sitka

While observing wildlife from your cruise ship is an incredible experience, getting up close and personal with these majestic animals is truly unforgettable. Several reputable tour operators in Sitka offer expert-guided wildlife excursions, providing you with the opportunity to delve deeper into the region’s natural wonders. Here are some notable options:

  • Sitka Sound Tours: If you’re keen to embark on a comprehensive wildlife adventure, Sitka Sound Tours offers an array of specialized tours, including thrilling whale-watching expeditions. Their knowledgeable guides will enrich your experience by sharing insights into the behaviors and habitats of the local wildlife.
  • Alaska Raptor Center: For those with an interest in birds of prey, a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center is a must. Join one of their guided tours to witness the dedicated efforts to rehabilitate injured eagles and other raptors, all while learning about vital conservation initiatives.
  • Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest: This particular tour takes you on a captivating wildlife quest in Sitka Sound. Anticipate close encounters with sea otters, humpback whales, and a diverse array of marine wildlife. The naturalist guides will provide in-depth knowledge about the ecology of the region.

Tips for Wildlife Watching in Sitka from a Cruise Ship

To make the most of your wildlife encounters when considering things to do in Sitka Alaska from a cruise ship, keep these tips in mind:

  • Binoculars and Cameras: Ensure you bring along binoculars and a camera with a telephoto lens to capture those precious moments of wildlife splendor.
  • Dress in Layers: Sitka’s weather can be unpredictable, so layer your clothing accordingly. Don’t forget to pack waterproof gear to stay dry in case of rain.
  • Respect Wildlife: Always maintain a respectful distance to avoid disturbing the animals in their natural habitat. Feeding wildlife is discouraged.
  • Listen to Experts: Whether you’re on a guided tour or admiring the wildlife from your cruise ship, take advantage of the expertise of the naturalists and guides who can provide valuable insights into the behavior and biology of the animals you encounter.

2. Hiking and Nature Trails

Man with a backpack trekking through lush green landscape

One of the most rewarding ways to experience the natural beauty of Sitka is by embarking on hiking adventures through its lush landscapes. Here are some of the top hiking and nature trails that cater to cruise ship visitors:

Sitka National Historical Park

The Sitka National Historical Park stands out as a must-visit for anyone wondering about things to do in Sitka, Alaska from a cruise ship. Situated conveniently close to the cruise ship docks, this park offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural significance.

  • Totem Poles: As you explore the park, you’ll encounter a remarkable collection of intricately carved totem poles. These towering monuments provide a fascinating glimpse into the rich Native Alaskan heritage and the history of the region.
  • Rainforests: The park’s well-maintained trails wind through lush rainforests adorned with moss-covered trees and vibrant vegetation. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the serene ambiance of this temperate rainforest.

Consider joining a ranger-led tour to gain in-depth insights into the park’s history and the significance of the totem poles. It’s a fantastic educational experience.

Mount Edgecumbe

For adventurous souls seeking panoramic views and a memorable challenge, Mount Edgecumbe is an enticing option. This dormant volcano promises a rewarding trek with breathtaking vistas.

  • Breathtaking Views: Ascending Mount Edgecumbe rewards hikers with stunning, 360-degree views of Sitka Sound, neighboring islands, and the vast Pacific Ocean. It’s a photographer’s dream come true.
  • Wildlife Encounters: Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife during your hike. Sitka’s rugged terrain is home to diverse fauna, including eagles, bears, and deer.

Preparing for the hike is crucial. Bring along sturdy hiking boots, warm clothing, and ample water. The trail can be steep and challenging, so being adequately prepared is essential.

3. Kayaking and Paddleboarding

Man kayaking in a river with a life vest

When you’re searching for exciting things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship, one activity that should be at the top of your list is kayaking and paddleboarding. Situated on Baranof Island, Sitka is a destination brimming with natural beauty, making it the perfect backdrop for these water-based adventures. Let’s explore the ins and outs of kayaking and paddleboarding in Sitka, including where to rent equipment, what to expect, and the numerous benefits of choosing these activities for your shore excursion.

Benefits of Kayaking and Paddleboarding in Sitka

Before diving into the details, let’s emphasize why kayaking and paddleboarding are not just popular but highly recommended when seeking things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship:

Scenic BeautySitka boasts awe-inspiring landscapes, including lush forests, majestic mountains, and serene waterways. Kayaking and paddleboarding provide unique opportunities to immerse yourself in this natural splendor, offering remarkable perspectives and ample photo opportunities.
Wildlife EncountersSitka is home to diverse wildlife, including sea otters, humpback whales, bald eagles, and various fish species. While paddling, you may have the chance to witness these creatures in their natural habitat, creating unforgettable memories.
Tranquil ExperienceThe calm waters of Sitka Sound provide a peaceful and serene environment for kayaking and paddleboarding. It’s an ideal way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in the unspoiled beauty of nature.
Physical ActivityBoth kayaking and paddleboarding offer excellent physical exercise. Paddling engages your core muscles and provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout while you explore the waterways.

Now, let’s explore the specifics of kayaking and paddleboarding in Sitka.

Renting Equipment in Sitka for Your Cruise Ship Adventure

To embark on your kayaking or paddleboarding adventure, you’ll need to rent equipment. Sitka offers several reputable outfitters where you can conveniently secure your gear. Here are two prominent options:

OutfitterEquipment AvailableContact Information
Kayak Adventures WorldwideKayaks, PaddleboardsWebsite
Sitka Paddleboard YogaPaddleboards, Guided ToursWebsite

Both of these outfitters offer a wide range of equipment suitable for all skill levels, from beginners to experienced paddlers. Moreover, they provide options for guided tours, which can enhance your experience by offering insights into the local ecosystem and history.

What to Expect on Your Kayaking or Paddleboarding Adventure in Sitka

Once you arrive at your chosen outfitter, you can expect a comprehensive orientation to ensure your safety and enjoyment:

  • Safety Briefing: Your safety is a top priority. You will receive thorough instructions on how to use the equipment, including proper paddling techniques and safety guidelines.
  • Gear Provided: Rental packages typically include paddles, life vests, and any necessary safety gear, ensuring you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable outing.
  • Route Options: The outfitters will recommend routes tailored to your skill level and preferences. You can choose between exploring sheltered coves, paddling along the coastline, or venturing further into Sitka Sound.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep your eyes peeled for marine life. Sea otters, seals, and even whales are known to frequent these waters, offering a chance for captivating wildlife encounters.
  • Duration: Kayaking and paddleboarding adventures can vary in length, from a couple of hours to a full day. Choose the duration that best suits your schedule and interests.

4. Visit Historic Sites

Exterior image of the Sheldon Jackson Museum

When it comes to discovering exciting things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship, one of the most captivating experiences you can have is exploring the rich historic sites in this charming Alaskan town. Sitka, with its deep-rooted history, offers an array of historic treasures waiting to be uncovered. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of historic exploration in Sitka, with a particular focus on two iconic locations: 

Russian Bishop’s House

The things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship include a visit to the Russian Bishop’s House, proudly recognized as a National Historic Landmark. This exceptionally preserved historical site offers visitors an immersive journey into the annals of Alaskan history during the Russian-American period. Here’s what you can expect:

Architectural MarvelThe Russian Bishop’s House boasts an architectural brilliance that reflects the profound Russian influence on Sitka’s history. It features the distinct Russian Orthodox design, complete with iconic onion domes and a picturesque garden.
Historical SignificanceConstructed in the mid-19th century, this house served as the residence of Russian Orthodox bishops during their tenure in Sitka. It played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s religious and cultural development.
Guided ToursKnowledgeable guides offer insightful tours of the Bishop’s House, providing a deep understanding of its historical significance, the daily lives of its occupants, and the broader context of Russian-Alaskan relations.
Exhibits and ArtifactsInside the house, you’ll find a treasure trove of exhibits and artifacts that shed light on the history and cultural heritage of the region. These include religious icons, period furniture, and personal items belonging to the bishops.

Sheldon Jackson Museum

The things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship also include a visit to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, another historical gem in Sitka. It is home to an impressive collection of Native Alaskan art and artifacts, inviting you to explore the indigenous heritage of Alaska:

  • Native Alaskan Artistry: The museum’s collection showcases a diverse array of Native Alaskan art, encompassing intricate carvings, vibrant textiles, and captivating masks. It’s a testament to the artistic brilliance and cultural richness of Alaska’s indigenous peoples.
  • Historical Context: Thoughtfully curated exhibits provide historical context, allowing visitors to appreciate the significance of each artifact within the broader Native Alaskan culture.
  • Educational Programs: The museum frequently hosts educational programs and events, including workshops and demonstrations, offering an interactive and immersive experience for visitors.
  • Gift Shop: Don’t forget to explore the museum’s gift shop, where you can acquire unique Native Alaskan crafts and souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Planning Your Historic Sites Exploration

As you incorporate a visit to these historic sites into your cruise ship itinerary for things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship, consider these practical aspects:

  • Operating Hours: Check the operating hours and days for each site in advance, as they may vary seasonally.
  • Guided Tours: Both locations typically offer guided tours, providing valuable insights. Consider joining one to enrich your experience.
  • Admission Fees: Be aware of any admission fees or special packages available for visiting multiple historic sites.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that the sites accommodate your mobility needs, and inquire about any necessary accommodations or assistance.

5. Alaska Native Cultural Experiences

When seeking authentic things to do in Sitka Alaska from cruise ship, immersing yourself in the vibrant Alaska Native culture should be high on your list. From traditional dance performances to visits to the Sitka Cultural Center, there are several enriching activities to explore. Engaging with local Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian communities will deepen your appreciation of Sitka’s indigenous heritage.

Traditional Dance Performances

One of the most captivating Things to do in Sitka, Alaska from a cruise ship is attending a traditional Alaska Native dance performance. These performances are not just entertaining but also educational, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural traditions of the region. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Authenticity: The dances are performed by local Alaska Native groups, preserving centuries-old traditions passed down through generations.
  • Meaningful Stories: Each dance tells a story, often related to nature, legends, or historical events. Understanding the narratives behind the dances adds depth to your experience.
  • Audience Participation: Some performances may invite audience participation, allowing you to join in the dancing and gain a firsthand feel for the culture.

Sitka Cultural Center

Another remarkable option for things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship is visiting the Sitka Cultural Center. This center serves as a hub for preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples:

  • Exhibits and Artifacts: The center houses exhibits and artifacts that showcase the artistry, history, and traditions of Alaska Native communities.
  • Educational Programs: Explore educational programs, workshops, and presentations that provide insight into the customs and practices of the indigenous peoples.
  • Local Artisans: Meet local artisans and craftsmen who create beautiful traditional art, including intricate carvings, jewelry, and textiles, which you can often purchase as souvenirs.

Planning Your Alaska Native Cultural Experience

As you plan your cruise ship excursion for Things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship, consider the following tips:

Performance SchedulesCheck the schedules for traditional dance performances, as they may vary throughout the year. Be sure to reserve your spot in advance if needed.
Cultural Center HoursVerify the operating hours of the Sitka Cultural Center to ensure it aligns with your cruise ship itinerary.
Respect and EtiquetteWhen engaging with Alaska Native communities, show respect for their traditions and customs. Ask questions and learn from the locals, but also be mindful of cultural sensitivities.
Support Local ArtisansIf you choose to purchase artwork or crafts, know that your support contributes to the preservation of these invaluable traditions.

Relaxation and Scenic Beauty

Family picnicking by the water on a wooden pathway

When you’re contemplating Things to do in Sitka, Alaska from cruise ship, don’t overlook the opportunity for relaxation and immersion in the scenic beauty that Sitka has to offer. From beachcombing along picturesque shores to picnicking and scenic drives with awe-inspiring views, and indulging in spa and wellness experiences amidst natural surroundings, there’s a tranquil world of possibilities to explore.


One of the most serene things to do in Sitka, Alaska is spending a leisurely day beachcombing along the sandy shores. Sitka is blessed with beautiful beaches like Crescent Harbor and Whale Park Beach. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Unique Treasures: As you stroll along the shoreline, you might stumble upon unique treasures washed ashore by the tide, such as colorful seashells, polished stones, and driftwood.
  • Scenic Views: The beaches in Sitka offer stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape, making your beachcombing experience a visual delight.

Picnicking and Scenic Drives

Another fantastic way is to pack a picnic and embark on a scenic drive along the winding roads of Baranof Island. Places like Halibut Point Recreation Area provide ideal picnic spots with spectacular views:

  • Breathtaking Scenery: As you enjoy your picnic, take in the breathtaking scenery that includes lush forests, majestic mountains, and pristine waters. Be sure to have your camera handy; these vistas are a photographer’s dream.
  • Tranquil Moments: Picnicking amidst nature offers moments of tranquility and serenity, allowing you to connect with the natural beauty of Sitka.

Spa and Wellness

For those seeking rejuvenation and wellness, consider indulging in a spa experience. The Islands Experience Spa, for instance, offers a range of revitalizing massages and treatments amidst the stunning natural surroundings:

  • Relaxation and Rejuvenation: After an active day of exploring Sitka’s beauty, unwinding at a spa is the perfect way to pamper yourself. Enjoy massages, facials, and treatments that promote relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • Natural Surroundings: Many spas in Sitka are strategically located in serene natural settings, allowing you to immerse yourself in the peaceful ambiance of the region.

Planning Your Relaxation and Scenic Beauty Day

When planning your day of relaxation and scenic beauty exploration, consider these practical tips:

  • Picnic Essentials: Pack a picnic basket with your favorite snacks, sandwiches, and refreshing beverages. Don’t forget utensils, napkins, and a comfortable blanket.
  • Camera and Binoculars: Bring your camera to capture the stunning landscapes during your scenic drive, and binoculars to spot wildlife and distant vistas.
  • Spa Reservations: If you plan to visit a spa, it’s advisable to make reservations in advance to secure your preferred time slots.
  • Comfortable Attire: Wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for the outdoor activities you choose, whether it’s beachcombing, picnicking, or spa relaxation.


Sitka, Alaska, offers an array of exciting and enriching experiences for cruise ship travelers. Whether you’re drawn to the pristine wilderness, the rich cultural heritage, or simply seeking relaxation, this destination has it all. From wildlife encounters and outdoor adventures to cultural explorations and serene moments, the things to do in Sitka, Alaska from a cruise ship are bound to leave you with lasting memories. Embrace the opportunity to explore this remarkable corner of the Last Frontier, and let Sitka’s beauty and charm captivate your senses.


Q1: What is the best time to visit Sitka, Alaska, from a cruise ship?

A1: The best time to visit Sitka from a cruise ship is during the summer months, typically from May to September. This is when the weather is milder, wildlife is more active, and most tourist attractions and activities are available.

Q2: Do I need to book excursions in advance, or can I arrange them on the day of my visit?

A2: While some excursions can be arranged on the day of your visit, it’s recommended to book popular tours and activities in advance, especially during the peak summer season. This ensures availability and allows you to plan your day more effectively.

Q3: Are there options for budget travelers in Sitka?

A3: Yes, Sitka offers a range of budget-friendly activities, including hiking, beachcombing, and exploring historic sites. Many natural attractions are free to visit, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of Sitka without breaking the bank.

Q4: Can I see the Northern Lights in Sitka, Alaska?

A4: While Sitka is not one of the prime Northern Lights viewing locations in Alaska, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis during the winter months when the skies are clear and conditions are right. However, for the best Northern Lights experiences, you may want to visit other parts of Alaska known for this phenomenon.

Q5: Is it possible to see bears in Sitka from a cruise ship?

A5: While it’s not common to see bears directly from a cruise ship, some wildlife tours and excursions offer opportunities to spot bears in their natural habitat. Consider joining a guided bear-watching tour for a higher chance of bear sightings.

Q6: Are there vegetarian and vegan dining options in Sitka?

A6: Yes, Sitka does offer vegetarian and vegan dining options. Many restaurants in town cater to various dietary preferences, ensuring that everyone can enjoy delicious meals while visiting.