From grizzly bears to the forest canopy, Alaska’s natural wonders are some of the best in North America. Three days in Sitka give you time to discover the area by both land and water. Whether you’re looking for active adventures or a cultural immersion, use these tips to plan a 3-day trip to Sitka.
The humpback whales that arrive in Sitka between July and December aren’t the only marine life to call Alaska home. On your first day, take to the sea by small boat, sea kayak, or sailboat to increase your chances of encountering minke whales, orca whales, grey whales, puffins, sea otters, and more. Tours that explore by small boat grant you access to some of the sheltered coves and inlets that surround Sitka. These range from 2-hour outings to all-day wildlife tours, and should be booked in advance as the popular excursions are likely to sell out. In the evening, join a local crowd at Pioneer Bar, a favorite with the Sitka fishing fleet. You might just hear tall tales of life at sea as you sip an Alaska craft beer under a wall of fishing snapshots.
See grizzly bears from just 25 feet (7.6 meters) away at Fortress of the Bear, a non-profit conservation center on the edge of Tongass National Forest. Onsite naturalists share stories of the rescued and orphaned grizzly bears that live here, while regular feedings offer the chance to see the bears dine on their favorite foods. Options include bear-only and combo tours that cover nearby totem poles and wildlife highlights such as the Alaska Raptor Center, a rehabilitation site for bald eagles, golden eagles, snowy owls, and more. Only those birds that cannot be rereleased into the wild stay on as permanent residents so you’ll encounter a constantly-evolving roster of species.
To complete your wildlife experience, make a final stop at the nearby Sitka Sound Science Center, whose salmon hatchery, touch tanks, and aquariums are a glimpse of animals that are often hard to spot in the wild.
Delve deeper into Sitka history at Sitka National Historical Park, where hiking trails pass a lineup of exquisite totem poles—the park is roughly a mile from the cruise port and downtown, but the pickup and drop-off service that many tours offer is great insurance against unpredictable Alaskan weather. The Tlingit Fort tells the story of the people who once defended the site against an invasion from the East, while the Russian Bishop’s House offers a unique glimpse of historic Russian architecture. There’s plenty to see in the 113-acre (45-hectare) national park; many tour options include orientation by car and time to walk along park trails. Next, head to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, whose small collection features treasures from a wide range of Indigenous tribes in Alaska, including tools, canoes, and ceremonial dress.