If you had told me that in 2020 I’d go to Sitka Alaska, I would have said, “where?” Prior to July, I had never even heard of Sitka. One night, my dear friend called me and told me she and her family were considering moving to Sitka Alaska. I pictured giant glaciers and her family living in an igloo. Ok, not quite, but I definitely didn’t know what to expect. The moment my friend decided to move to Sitka, I told her I was coming to visit.
Although I still have many concerns about traveling during COVID, the flight prices were too good to pass up. I also knew that I was traveling to a place where there are under 50 COVID cases total since the beginning of the pandemic. Alaska also has strict travel protocols when entering the state – every passenger must have a negative COVID test within 72 hours of entering and they must quarantine until they get their results. Then, if you stay longer than 7 days, you must get a second test. With all of this information, I felt safe enough to travel.
When I arrived, I was immediately blown away by the beauty of Sitka. It is really a stunning place. The natural surroundings feel so untouched, so natural, so wild. If you get a chance to visit Sitka, I’d highly encourage it. And if you’re curious what there is to do, here are 5 things you must do in Sitka.
5 Things You Must Do in Sitka Alaska
1. Explore the Sitka Harbor
We walked along the harbor after we visited the Sitka History Museum, which is definitely worth the visit. It was fun to learn more about the interesting history of Sikta and also take in the beauty of the harbor. We also explore the harbor during our whale watching cruise. If you visit when it’s not too rainy, it’s fun to walk along the harbor and take in all of the beauty of Sitka. The photos don’t even do this place justice. I’m telling you, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.
2. Go Whale Watching in Sitka
Prior to arriving, my friend and I discussed several things we wanted to do. At the top of the list was Sitka Alaska whale watching. My friend did some research and found a highly rated tour guide. Gary was great. He gave us so many fun facts about Sikta and showed us all around the glorious islands. As you can see from my photos, Sitka is truly breathtaking.
Within the first 24 hours, I’m pretty sure I said, “this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been” at least 100 times. Although I didn’t really have high hopes we’d see whales, I was pleasantly surprised that we actually saw several! I’ve done whale watching tours in Orange County and San Diego in the past. Although we did see other sea creatures (dolphins, sea lions), we never saw whales. But lucky for my friend and me, during our Sitka Alaska whale watching tour, we saw at least half a dozen humpback whales. Gary explained to us how you can see where they are by their blowhole clouds that rise from the water.
Although it was really hard to catch quality photos of the whales, we did get a few photos as they dove down to get their next meal. Beyond seeing whales, we also so sea lions, several bald eagles, and, shockingly, a brown bear! I had no idea that we would actually catch a glimpse of bears in the wild, but we did. Gary was such a fantastic tour guide because he knew just where to take us for a possible bear sighting. It was amazing to actually see a bear in the wild. We saw the bear catch a salmon (where were spawning while I was in town). We were far enough away in our boat to remain safe, but close enough that we could see so much of the bear and his salmon hunting too.
If you’re into nature, another popular thing to do in Sitka is visit the Raptor Center. We didn’t go while I was there, but this would be a great option to do with kids. If you do come with your kids, you could also take them to the Sitka Sound Science Center. My friend has visited, and she said its a great little science center.
3. Go Hiking in Sitka
There are a lot of gorgeous places to check out amazing views and go hiking. My friend and I did some easy paths while I was there because I have a hip injury that prevents me from hiking anything too steep. I’m hoping to visit her again in the summer so we can try some of the more serious hikes. If you do visit Sitka, this seems to be a good guide to find some of the best hikes. Honestly, you don’t have to look far to find beauty in Sitka. Everywhere I turned, I found it more and more beautiful. If you’re not that into hiking, you can also drive up some of the mountains close to town and take in some really breathtaking views of Sitka.
4. Visit Downtown Sitka Shops
Sitka Alaska is a very small town. There are less than 10,000 people here. It is small, but it is so quaint! We visited the downtown shops. My favorite is called Galanin and Klein. It is a really cute boutique with unique gifts. I bought myself a set of glasses from here along with some souvenirs for my friends and family. There are some cute restaurants and coffee shops downtown too.
5. Tour the Sitka Alaska National Historical Park
One of my favorite parts of my trip to Sitka was visiting Totem park – also know as Sitka National Historical Park. Totem Park is an important historical site because it preserves the site of a battle between invading Russian traders and indigenous Tlingit people. The park is lined with amazing Tlingit and Haida totem poles. The park is especially gorgeous because of the coastal trails that overlook the water and the gorgeous grand pine trees that line the path.
We actually visited Sitka National Historical Park two different times because there are a lot of different totem poles to see and the walking trails are really beautiful. We were lucky enough to see an indigenous man working on carving a new totem pole. He told us he had already been working on it for a couple of months. It was fascinating to see all of the effort required in carving one of those totem poles. The level of detail is truly amazing.
Sitka National Historical Park was, by far, my favorite experience in Sitka. I loved all of the different nature trails and views I saw while in town. However, the totem poles were my favorite, they are such a beautiful connection between art and culture. If you ever get the chance to visit Sitka, I highly encourage you to check out Totem Park.
What’s the Weather in Sitka Like?
Sitka weather is Seattle-like. It never gets too cold but also doesn’t get that warm. It is quite rainy a lot of the time. Lucky for me, the weather was actually pretty decent when I visited in September. It only rained a few times and it was generally really beautiful, in the low 60s. The best time to visit Sitka is in the summer. It’s when they have the least rain and the most sunshine. However, September was also nice and I arrived just in time to not miss out on the whale watching.
Restaurants in Sitka
There are a few really great restaurants in Sitka. My favorite that we tried while I was there is called BEAK. The food was really delicious. The other restaurant highlight for me was actually visiting their new local brewery called Harbor Mountain Brewing Co. They had an apricot IPA that I absolutely loved, and I’m not even a big beer drinker. We also went to a restaurant called Bayview Pub. They had lots of yummy pub fare. I ate fish, as I did every other day I visited, and it was delicous.
Fishing in Sitka Alaska
Not surprisingly, Sitka is known for it’s fishing. I ate fresh Alaskan salmon every single day I was in Sitka. My friend’s neighbors dropped off freshly caught fish and also smoked salmon two different times. Honestly, the fish is Sitka is amazing. it’s so fresh and delicious. We didn’t go fishing while I was there since we opted for a whale watching tour instead. But, if you do like to fish, there are ample opportunities to fish and a lot of companies that offer fishing tours. Here is one site that offers more information on fishing in Sitka.
Overall, I had a very memorable and enjoyable time in Sitka Alaska. If you get the chance to visit, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.