One Day in Sitka Guide

Sitka Sound sign in Alaska

If you’re going on an Alaska cruise, there’s a good chance that Sitka is one of your stops. In this one day Sitka guide, I’ll share a detailed itinerary of everything you should know and things to do in the city. This guide will help you hit the highlights, but if you’re looking for more ideas, go to the More To Do section for additional things to do.

Sitka is a small town located on Baranof Island off the southeast coast of Alaska. While Alaska was under Russian rule, Sitka was the capital until Alaska was sold to the United States. Today, it’s a popular cruise destination known for its rich cultural heritage and stunning natural scenery.

Visiting Alaska on a cruise? Also, check out my One Day in Juneau Guide

Overview

Sitka Sound

How To Get There

Sitka, Alaska is actually only accessible by air or water as the roads are not connected to anything outside the city. Most Sitka visitors arrive by cruise, but you could also fly into Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport (SIT) or take the Alaska Marine Highway ferry.

When To Visit

Summer is the ideal time to visit Sitka when temperatures range from 40° to 60°F. This is also the busiest time of year as Alaska cruises run from May to September. Be prepared for some precipitation during your visit as Sitka gets less than 100 sunny days each year.

Getting Around

If you’re arriving by cruise, there’s a free shuttle to take you from the Sitka Sound Cruise Terminal to downtown. Most of downtown is walkable, but there are some attractions where you may need to hop onto a RIDE bus. The RIDE is Sitka’s public bus and will get you to most attractions for just $2 per ride (or you can purchase a day pass for $5). 

Uber and Lyft are very limited (if they’re even available), but taxis are another option if you don’t have a car.

One Day in Sitka Guide

Breakfast at Highliner Coffee || 327 Seward Street 

Start your day with a coffee from Highliner Coffee. They have some breakfast items, but if you’re looking for something more filling, try WildFlour Cafe & Bakery nearby. 

Whale Park || 2500 Sawmill Creek Road

The Blue Line of the RIDE will take you directly to Whale Park. It’s one of the best spots for wildlife viewing. There’s a covered shelter with free viewing scopes and a hydrophone to listen to pick up sounds from whales. 

Fortress of the Bear || 4639 Sawmill Creek Road

Alaska has a huge population of bears, so it’s possible you’ll see one out in the wild. However, if you want a closeup look, check out Fortress of the Bear. To get here, hop on a RIDE bus and take it to Gary Paxton Industrial Park (it’s the end of the Blue line). The entrance of Fortress of the Bear is about a 10-minute walk from the bus stop.  

This non-profit organization rescues orphaned cubs as they can’t survive in the wild on their own. They currently have eight black and brown bears you can watch play and eat. Your admission goes to helping care for the bears. The center is closed from November to March while the bears hibernate. 

Alaska Raptor Center || 1000 Raptor Way

Visiting the Alaska Raptor Center is one of the most popular things to do in Sitka. Each year, the center provides medical care for about 200 birds, including bald eagles, owls, and other injured wild birds. They even have a bald eagle flight training center where you can watch as they regain their flight skills before being released back into the wild.

Lunch at Ashmo’s || 331 Lincoln Street

Before exploring the rest of town, stop by Ashmo’s for a bite. The food truck specializes in seafood dishes, like salmon mac and cheese, fish tacos, and my favorite, the lingcod sandwich. 

Since Ashmo’s is a food truck, there’s no seating. If you’re looking for somewhere to sit down and eat, check out Harbor Mountain Brewing Company (1206 Sawmill Creek Road). They offer pizzas and sandwiches with their rotating list of Alaskan brews. 

Sitka National Historic Park || 103 Monastery Street

Totem pole in Sitka National Historic Park

Sitka National Historic Park sits on the site of the Battle of Sitka, a conflict between Russians and the Tlingit nation. You can learn about Tlingit culture in the visitor center and totem poles along the Totem Trail. Along the Totem Trail, there are 18 poles (some replicas, some original) for you to see. 

Shop on Lincoln Street

Lincoln Street is the place to shop if you’re looking for a souvenir. The street has boutiques selling clothes, quilts, and other unique gifts. Lincoln Street is also where you’ll find St Michael’s Cathedral, a reminder of Alaska’s Russian history.

St Michael's Cathedral

Baranof Castle State Historic Site

At the end of Lincoln Street is the Baranof Castle State Historic Site. The spot is significant in Alaskan history as it’s where the formal transfer of the state from Russia to the U.S. occurred. The name is a little misleading as there’s no castle here. While there have been multiple government buildings on the site, it’s now a park that overlooks the town and Sitka Sound. 

Dinner at Beak Restaurant || 2 Lincoln Street

Beak Restaurant is the perfect spot for your last meal in Sitka. They serve local Alaskan seafood and another Alaskan specialty, reindeer. 

More To Do

If you have some more time or just want some other ideas, here are some suggestions!

Wildlife Boat Tour

If you’re visiting Alaska on a cruise, you’ll likely see a few whales off in the distance while you’re out at sea. However, a boat tour will get you some of the best views of whales, sea otters, and other marine creatures. A Whale’s Song Expeditions offers small group tours with an expert guide to help you spot wildlife.    

Sitka Sound Science Center || 834 Lincoln Street

The Sitka Sound Science Center is the best place to learn about the local ecosystem. The museum has an aquarium with touch tanks to see marine life up close, a killer whale skeleton, and interactive exhibits. 

Harry Race Pharmacy Soda Shop || 106 Lincoln Street

While Harry Race Pharmacy may seem like your average pharmacy, they also have an old-fashioned soda counter with milkshakes, ice cream, and sundaes. 

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