Things to Do in Sitka
Black and brown bears are the main attraction at this wildlife rescue site. Here, animals that are unable to return to the wild have free access to playgrounds and open space to roam. It’s one of the best places in Alaska to safely see a black bear or grizzly from a short distance away.
What started out as an effort to save one injured bald eagle in a Sitka local’s backyard, the Alaska Raptor Center is now Alaska’s largest bird center and rehabilitates between 100-200 eagles, falcons, owls, and other birds of prey each year. Visitors are drawn to the center to see raptors up close, hear their stories, and watch them re-learn how to fly.
Created in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka between the native Tlingit people and the Russian colonists, the Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska’s oldest cultural and historic park. The park’s highlights include the traditional totem poles that line the trails throughout the park and the Russian Bishop’s House, one of the few remaining examples of Russian colonial architecture.
Constructed in the 1840s while Alaska was under Russian rule, St. Michael’s Cathedral was once the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America. Sadly, the church caught fire in 1966, but the townspeople salvaged what they could of the church and rebuilt an exact replica. Today, the church houses an important collection of Russian Orthodox art and church artifacts.
Built during the peak of Russian colonialism in America in 1842, the Russian Bishop’s House was once the center of Russian North American religion, culture, and education. Now a museum and historic landmark, visitors are drawn to the Russian Bishop’s House for a chance to step back in time and see what life was like in Sitka during the Russian-American period.
Commonly known as Castle Hill, the Baranof Castle State Historical Site commemorates the location of the formal transfer of Russian Alaska to the United States in 1867. Once a Tlingit Native fortification site and a Russian military outpost, this small hill overlooking Sitka Harbor also marks the spot where the United States flag was first raised after Alaska became a state in 1959.
The Sitka History Museum (previously known as the Isabel Miller Museum is Sitka’s most comprehensive museum. Exhibits cover all areas of Sitka history from the original Tlingit settlers and the first European explorers to the Russian occupation and the sale of Alaska to the United State in 1867. The museum also features mining, logging, and fishing exhibits - important industries in Sitka today.
Situated on Baranof Island in Alaska’s Inside Passage, Old Sitka Cruise Port serves as a gateway to a destination that’s only accessible by air and sea. Old Sitka Dock, one of two in the formerly Russian ruled city, welcomes cruise ships, yachts, and commercial vessels, while Crescent Harbor serves as a tender port.
Located on the campus of the former Sheldon Jackson College in downtown Sitka, the Sheldon Jackson Museum is dedicated to Alaska's cultural history and is one of the oldest museums in the state. An extensive collection of Native artifacts provides insight into the history of Eskimo, Aleut, Athabascan, and Northwest Coast cultures and highlights include a full-size Tlingit dugout canoe and argillite carvings.
Aside from being a scenic town that’s rich in culture and heritage, Sitka is also uniquely situated between the mountains and sea. Since the Sitka coastline was originally settled, the ocean has always provided a bounty of food, tools, and lore, and here at the Sitka Sound Science Center, visitors can literally feel the creatures that swim in the Sitka Sound. In the saltwater touch tanks, feel a squishy sea cucumber or a spiny starfish skeleton, and be amazed at how soft a sea anemone feels when it gently falls on your hand. Crane your neck upward for a full skeleton of a 15-foot killer whale, or stare at the mounted, in-wall aquariums for a look at life beneath Sitka’s waters and the green, plankton-filled sound.
And, while the touch tanks are great for visitors with young children, everyone can equally appreciate the sight of dozens of leaping salmon. Outside the aquarium in the Sheldon Jackson Hatchery, species of salmon are often found leaping from the waters of the center’s fish ladder. Most of the work at this non-profit, however, takes place behind the scenes, and staff are always happy to discuss the projects, news, and education that Sitka researchers are completing each year from this small center on the coast.