Sitka is a tender port – Ships have to anchor off Sitka and tender passengers ashore by boat. When tendering is required, guests using mobility devices will not be transferred into or out of the tender. Many tender ports do not provide wheelchair access so even if the guest can board the tender they may not be able to disembark ashore. Again the shore-side facilities, movement of the tender, weather and tidal conditions can also preclude tendering.
Sitka is considered Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town, with views of island-studded waters and stately spruce forests reaching to the water’s edge. Sitka offers a combination of Native culture, Russian history, and Alaskan wilderness which provides a diverse and unequaled Alaskan experience. The mild climate and dense forests make Sitka one of the best places to view wildlife in Alaska.
The City and Borough of Sitka is a unified city-borough located on Baranof Island and the southern half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, in the state of Alaska, United States of America.
The Sitka Historical Society and Museum is located within Centennial Hall along with the visitor centre.
When cruise ships are in town, the Archangel Dancers perform lively, authentic folk dances from Russia. (Harrigan Centennial Hall)
Watch a traditional dance performance at the Tlingit Clan House on Katlian Street.
Castle Hill has commanding views of Sitka Sound and was once the site of a two-story log mansion referred to as Baranof’s Castle, there are no structures left today but it’s a great place to take photos.
View the Russian art on display in St Michael’s Cathedral. The church was destroyed by a fire in 1966, but rebuilt to it’s previous specifications, complete with its onion domed architecture.
The Russian Bishop’s House was built in 1842 as a residence for the Orthodox Bishop. It is one of the oldest examples of Russian architecture in America.
The scenic Sitka National Historical Park preserves and interprets the site of a Tlingit fort and the battle fought between the Russians and the Tlingits in 1804. A free self-guided ocean side trail leads past numerous carved totem poles to the site where the Tlingit fort once stood. Also located within the park is the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Centre, a unique working artist studio.
The Alaska Raptor Center rehabilitates rescued birds of prey and features an educational centre with more than a dozen raptors in their natural habitats.
The Sheldon Jackson Museum houses a collection of native art and Russian artefacts, including indigenous masks, boats and hunting tools.
Flightseeing tours over the scenic backcountry and glacier ice fields of Baranof Island are available.
Fortress of the Bear was founded to create a humane home and natural setting for nuisance bears. This refuge also provides an educational experience for visitors. It is located at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.
A 10 minute walk from downtown Sitka brings you to numerous marked hiking trails. Pick up hiking trail maps and information at Sitka Ranger District office on Siginaka Way.
Halibut, salmon and King Crab legs are popular local dishes.
The disabled cruiser visiting Sitka
Since the cruise ship does not dock and the disabled cruiser is tendered to the island from out in the harbor; if the water is too rough, the captain may not let the disabled cruiser off the ship. Anyone with limited mobility would have some difficulty. Anyone in a wheelchair would have to be carried on and off the tender.
Where You’re Docked
Sitka is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.
Your ship will either be at anchor and use tenders or it will be docked about six miles outside of town at the Old Dock at Halibut Point. There are two tender piers: the one at Crescent Harbor is steps from the Harrigan Centennial Hall, which has free Wi-Fi, restrooms and a tourist information desk; the other is adjacent to Castle Hill (where Lincoln Street and Harbor Way meet). So, if you tender, you’ll end up right in town. If you’re docked, you’ll find a small terminal with several shops (souvenirs, jewelry and fur apparel) and a tent housing the Halibut Point Crab & Brews restaurant; the ship terminal also has restrooms, free Wi-Fi and a free shuttle service that will drop you in town at Centennial Hall.
Large cruise ships use the anchorages in the Eastern Channel of the Sitka Sound and tender passengers to town.
Halibut Point Marine has a deep water dock which can handle passenger ships up to 1000ft in length and smaller ships may use this dock. Smaller ships may also tie up at the passenger docks.
Visitor transit buses run when larger cruise ships are in port.
Good to Know
Frequent rain is a fact of life in Alaska, and Sitka is no exception with an average of 95 annual inches. An umbrella, water-resistant coat and shoes are a must. It’s also a good idea to dress in layers.
Opening hours, particularly at St. Michael’s Cathedral, can be capricious, despite the posted times.
On Foot: Once you’re dropped off, Sitka is extremely walkable. Pick up maps, brochures and advice from the information desk located in Harrigan Centennial Hall near Crescent Harbor. You can easily walk to shops, restaurants, St. Michael’s Church, the Russian Bishop’s House and other attractions.
By Bus: There is a Sitka bus system called The RIDE, but it’s primarily designed to serve locals. Busses run from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with three route loops. Persons with disabilities ride free.
Several tour companies run shuttles to the Raptor Center and other attractions. Look for signboards in front of Centennial Hall.
By Taxi: There are several local taxi companies whose cabs congregate at Centennial Hall (you won’t find any at the Old Dock).
The local currency is the U.S. dollar. Three banks with ATMs are located on Lincoln Street, between St. Michael’s Church and Centennial Hall.
English is spoken by just about everyone, but many Sitkans also speak Tlingit or other native languages.
While you can find the usual T-shirts, fridge magnets and plush moose toys in Sitka, consider checking out Russian American Company (134 Lincoln Street) for something that reflects the town’s particular history, traditional matryoshka nesting dolls and other Russian-made, though generally mass manufactured, products. Or, if you’ve taken a fancy to the icons and art at St. Michael’s Cathedral, cross Lincoln Street to the St. Michael’s gift shop, where you’ll find icon reproductions, books, postcards and gifts.
If you want a memory that’s a bit more original, don’t miss the Island Artists Gallery, which features watercolors, ceramics, jewelry, note cards, locally-roasted coffee, children’s books and other arts and crafts. The gallery is staffed each day by one of the artists whose work it represents.
For handmade Native Alaskan items, the gift shop at the Sheldon Jackson Museum features one-of-a-kind selections that include woven hats, drums, baskets, masks and jewelry.
Your favorite foodie will appreciate a gift from the Alaska Pure Sea Salt Company, where locally produced flake sea salt comes in unusual flavors like alder-smoked, Sitka spruce tip and wild blueberry. Gift sets include attractive wooden salt-serving dishes.
For such a small town, Sitka offers some interesting eateries. Seafood is a staple of this thriving fishing community, with Dungeness crab, halibut and salmon served up as fresh as can be. Also, consider that Sitka doesn’t rely solely on tourism, so the evidence of year-round residents in any of the restaurants is a great barometer of consistent food quality and service. You know when a spot is popular with the locals by the number of pickups parked out front at lunchtime. The food truck trend has also hit town, a boon to time-constrained visitors trying to see all that Sitka has to offer. If you’re a craft beer aficionado, be on the lookout for brews by local Baranof Island Brewing Company
Points of Interest
- Sitka – a seven-
Sitka Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
Sitka Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible