My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

On your own in Sitka

2011/09/01by Donna Hull

Updated 06.15.2013

Sitka, Alaska

The beautiful approach to Sitka, Alaska

On an Alaskan cruise that starts in Vancouver or Seattle, you might grow weary of cruise excursions by the time you reach Sitka. That was certainly the case when Alan and I sailed on Regent Seven Seas Mariner from Vancouver to Singapore. But the Alaskan fishing village proved to be an excellent destination for active travelers to explore on their own. During our visit, we enjoyed a self-guided walking tour:

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Regent Seven Seas Mariner anchored in Sitka Sound

It’s a short tender ride from where your ship anchors in Sitka Sound to Sitka where Russian influences mix with Tlingit Indian culture. And, oh that natural setting. Dormant volcano, Mt Edgecumbe, hovers over a scene where forested islets are sprinkled around the sound. Look closely and you might see eagles flying overhead or a whale or two spouting off.

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St Micahel’s Cathedral

Arriving at the tender terminal, a left turn onto Lincoln Street takes you to downtown Sitka. The two block walk introduces visitors to shops selling Russian collectibles, Tlingit handcrafted items as well as the usual tourist souvenirs. In the center of town, St. Michael’s Cathedral makes a good photo opp. Although the original building caught fire in 1966, the interior of the rebuilt cathedral holds many items that were saved when Alaska’s first church burned down.

For culture-loving travelers, the fun is about to begin. Retrace your steps, walk past the terminal port and continue a couple of blocks down Lincoln Street along the harbor to Sitka National Historical Park. Inside the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, located in the park, you’ll see Tlingit craftsmen demonstrating woodcarving, mask making and other crafts.

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Totem pole in Totem Park

Although Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center claims to have the largest collection of totem poles in the world, it can’t beat the setting of the 18 totem poles at Sitka Naitonal Historical Park. You’ll find the poles displayed along a series of walking trails that wind through the temperate rainforest.

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This way to the Alaska Raptor Center

From the Sitka National Historical Park, continue your self-guided walking tour towards the Alaska Raptor Center. Be sure to stop on the bridge that crosses the river. If your visit is during the last stages of spawning season, hold your nose. The banks are littered with decaying salmon. Although signs warn of bear encounters, Alan and I were disappointed that we didn’t meet any during our visit.

When the woods end, it’s a short walk across the highway to the Alaska Raptor Center (entrance fee required). Inside, injured bald eagles and other wild raptors are rehabilitated for eventual release back into the Alaskan wilderness. If you miss one of the daily shows, it’s still fun to walk through the enclosures. On our visit, we observed a large bald eagle swiveling his head to and from, ever alert.

From here, retrace your steps and you’ll have completed our self-guided walking tour of Sitka.

More Sitka adventures:
Search for sea otters and whales on a nature cruise excursion.
Explore the back-country by ATV. Maybe you’ll see a bear!
The less adventurous boomer will enjoy a look beneath the sea on a semi-submersible boat tour.

Did your cruise ship stop in Sitka? Post a comment to share your favorite excursion. This is one of our favorite cruise ports in Alaska.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

NoPotCoooking
Twitter:
September 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

We enjoyed Sitka very much. There’s a beautiful beach next to the totem poles that we mucked around on. The shopping was good here and they sell reindeer hot dogs on the street. I also bought some delicious jam from two little Mennonite girls selling it on the street.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
September 2, 2011 at 8:24 am

Reindeer hot dogs? We didn’t see a vendor selling any. Drats! I found some cute Christmas ornaments in one of the shops.

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Mark H September 1, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I’ve never been to Sitka but the idea of a blend of Russian and American Indian culture sounds like it should bring some unusual sights.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
September 2, 2011 at 8:23 am

Mark, Sitka does have an interesting blend of cultures. Even though it’s a U.S. city, it almost feels international to me.

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Vivi September 3, 2011 at 3:37 am

These pictures are beautiful !

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Donna Hull
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September 3, 2011 at 6:54 am

Glad you enjoyed the photos, Vivi. Hope you subscribed to our blog and newsletter. Come again.

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Kerry Dexter
Twitter:
September 4, 2011 at 5:25 am

I always enjoy exploring on foot. thanks for the guidance on Sitka, Donna.
Kerry Dexter recently posted..road trip music: three ideasMy Profile

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Donna Hull
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September 5, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Glad you enjoyed the post, Kerry. I hope you get to take our Sitka walking tour one day.

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
September 4, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I’ve never really thought much about taking a cruise, but this one sounds amazing, especially given the cool things you see onshore. Your photos are just awesome, too.
Jane Boursaw recently posted..The Tree of Life is Dreamy and Weird and Even Sean Penn Didn’t Get ItMy Profile

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Donna Hull
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September 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Thanks, Jane. This was an especially fun cruise considering that we went all the way to Singapore before getting off. So many exotic cultures – sort of put us on overload.

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MyKidsEatSquid September 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I’d love to visit Sitka. It sounds familiar. My mom grew up in Alaska, so perhaps she mentioned it to me. It looks like a beautiful place.
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Donna Hull
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September 9, 2011 at 5:30 am

Your mom must have interesting stories to tell from growing up in Alaska. I’d love to hear them.

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