Located on the Pacific coast of the Inside Passage, Sitka is a bit off the main cruise routes through Southeast Alaska. While many companies do offer itineraries with a port stop in Sitka, plenty more itineraries stick to the calm waterways further inland and make other port stops like Juneau, Skagway, and Icy Strait Point. If you’re on this post, you may have stops there too – but you also want to know what to do during your time in Sitka, and which Sitka shore excursions are the best. That’s where I’m here to help!
I recently visited Sitka for the first time in a few decades, and fell in love with this small waterfront community. That made me very excited to come home and update this post, to inspire others to enjoy all Sitka has to offer.
In choosing the excursions for this post, I used my Alaska local knowledge of what makes tours unique, chose a sample of the best experiences, considered the price, and ranked them in the order I think most people visiting Sitka will love. I also kept in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions I’ve previously shared. These include uniqueness, cost, time, and cost-to-time ratio.
If you have an Alaska cruise planned and the itinerary includes a port stop in Sitka, read on for my suggestions about the best Sitka cruise excursions.
While I personally do not support the mega-ship cruise industry due to its negative impact on local economies, damage caused to the environment, and evasive tax practices, I created this resource to allow you to make your own choice. Please consider booking a small-ship cruise instead, carbon offsetting, and buying local souvenirs to help reduce the negative impact of your Alaska cruise.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the Lingít Aaní (traditional lands) of the Kiks.ádi clan of the Sheet’-ká X’áat’l Tlingit people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in May 2020, and was updated in November 2021 for the 2022 cruise season.
The Best Excursions in Sitka for Your Alaska Cruise
When you step off the ship to explore Sitka, there are a lot of choices for what to do. Whether you want to see wildlife, learn about the city’s history, or burn off a few cruise calories, there are cruise excursions for everyone and every travel style in Sitka.
Given how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Sitka, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the best Sitka cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:
- I went through all of the Sitka excursions and chose the ones I think are worth doing (the V factor 😂)
- I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion in 2022.
- I force ranked the excursions by uniqueness. (That means each excursion gets its own number, no ties)
- I gave each excursion a boost or deduction for being a good value based on the “Money-to-Time” Math.
- Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
- To break ties, I used top Uniqueness score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!
Here’s my list of the best Sitka excursions:
|Tour Name||# of Cruises|
|1||Sea Otters, Raptors & Bears, Oh My!||9||9||+1||19|
|2||Dry Suit Snorkel||5||8||+1||14|
|4||Bike & Hike||7||2||+1||10|
|5||Explore Sitka Cultural Tour||1||7||+1||9|
|6||Sitka Salmon Sportfishing||6||1||+1||8|
|7||Ghosts of Sitka||1||5||0||6|
|8||A Food Lover’s Tour||1||3||+1||5|
|9||Pedal & Pub Crawl||1||3||+1||5|
Having recently visited Sitka and experienced some of these tours myself, I can say that it was really hard to rank them – you can’t go wrong with any of these tours, as long as you choose one that interests you.
1. Sea Otters, Raptors & Bears, Oh My!
Who Offers This Excursion? This Sitka cruise excursion is offered by almost everyone: Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, and Royal Caribbean, oh my!
It’s often the case that the top cruise excursion I recommend is one that’s offered by most or all of the cruise companies. This is because of a cycle whereby the best excursions are popular and everyone wants them and thus more cruise companies offer them – helping more people experience and love that tour!
But this tour is especially great for several extra reasons that make it the best cruise excursion in Sitka. First of all, I love a clever tour title, which this one has. Second, it’s a day tour offered by the sister company of Alaskan Dream Cruises (who I’m cruising with in September; join me!) and I’ve read the book of their family company history and I know they’ve perfected this tour over decades of service. It’s the excursion with the best boats, best experience, and best chance to see wildlife. Need I say more?
2. Dry Suit Snorkel
I mentioned it on my list of Ketchikan excursions, too: snorkeling in Alaska is definitely an unforgettable experience if you’re up for the adventure! On this 2.5-hour tour, you’ll slip a thick dry suit on over your street clothes and learn safety tips. Then, you’ll spend 30-60 minutes in the water depending on your group size. Once you’re in the water, keep an eye out for sea stars, sun stars, fish, anemones, crab, urchins, and more – all living in and near a huge kelp forest.
Note: There are age and weight restrictions. Guests must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 85lbs and 240lbs.
3. Historic Sitka
Almost all Alaska cruise ports have an important role in Alaskan history, but Sitka has a special spot on center stage. Sitka was the town where Alaska changed hands from Russian occupation to become ‘Seward’s Folly’ in the mid-19th century.
On this excursion, you’ll sample different chapters in Sitka’s history. The itinerary includes visits to Sitka National Park, Sheldon Jackson Museum, and Centennial Hall where you’ll attend a New Archangel Dance performance (Russian folk dancers, with a presentation of the Alaska Flag).
4. Bike & Hike
If instead of adding more inches to your waistline, you’d rather burn off a few, this is the excursion to book! On southbound cruises, Sitka is often the first port stop after several days at sea; northbound, it’s the last one before several days at sea. In any event, stretching your legs and getting a good breath of fresh air on land is a great idea.
This is actually one of the more ambitious bike and hike excursions I’ve highlighted in this series: you’ll go on a four-mile ride along Silver Bay, followed by a mile hike on Thimbleberry Trail to see mountains, lakes, and other scenery. Most companies mark this as a ‘strenuous’ tour, so keep that in mind as you consider whether to book.
5. Explore Sitka Cultural Tour
Who Offers This Excursion? This cruise excursion in Sitka is only offered by Carnival, but it’s a great option if you’re cruising with them.
I’ll be honest: I’m a little bit uncertain if the companies I’ve identified as offering this Sitka cruise excursion below are all offering the same tour. Several companies offer cultural tours, but they all seem to sample different destinations and experiences across Sitka.
In any event, this is a great excursion for history and culture vultures. Over the course of the 2.5-hour tour, you’ll learn about Alaska Native Tlingit culture as well as the history of Russian-American culture in Alaska.
6. Sitka Salmon Sportfishing
Who Offers This Excursion? 9 of the 10 cruise companies with excursions on their website offer some sort of fishing tour. They are Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, and Royal Caribbean.
As you may have noticed from other excursions on this list, Sitka is a great base for encountering marine life in the surrounding waterways. That includes loads of fish species, including some delicious ones like salmon and halibut.
If you love fishing and want to have that experience as part of your Alaska cruise, Sitka’s a good spot to give it a try since it’s on the Pacific coast of Alaska’s Inside Passage.
On a 4- to 4.5-hour trip, you’ll board a fishing boat and learn about the technology and traditional methods professional fishermen use to find the best spots. Then, cast your own line to try and catch one yourself! If you do have good fishing luck this day and want to keep your catch, your prize fish can be processed and shipped home for an additional fee.
7. Ghosts of Sitka
Who Offers This Excursion? You can book this Sitka cruise excursion if you’re cruising with Holland America.
For a short, fun walking tour of Sitka with a little bit more personality than the standard tour, consider booking this spooky option. On a 1-hour excursion, you’ll learn about some of Sitka’s darker chapters in history, and the spirits who may still walk the Sitka streets. The one-mile walking tour route includes cobblestones and inclines so you’ll need to have mobility to handle those terrains.
This tour happens during the day so the creepiness factor isn’t too high, and anyone 10 years and up can go on this tour.
8. A Food Lover’s Tour
Who Offers This Excursion? This cruise excursion in Sitka is only offered by Holland America, so be sure to consider it if you’re cruising with them.
I love a good food tour and Sitka is a surprisingly great place to book one. If you’re ready for something other than cruise food by this point, consider this tour, even though it’s only offered by a few companies. On this tour you’ll visit a local food truck, sample fresh seafood dishes, and even try dishes with Russian heritage to honor Sitka’s time as the capital of Russian America. My mouth is watering just thinking about this one…
9. Pedal & Pub Crawl
Who Offers This Excursion? This excursion, like the food tour, is only offered by Holland America.
When I lived in London, I had rules about how many miles I had to run to earn pints at the pub each weekend… So this kind of excursion is right up my alley!
Actually, this excursion is far more fun than fitness. It includes riding a 15-passenger bike (yes, that’s a thing!) plus visiting several local pubs and other Sitka landmarks to learn about Alaskan history in between sips of Sitka ale.
There you have it – my take on the best Alaska cruise excursions in Sitka. Have other questions about visiting Sitka, taking an Alaska cruise, or choosing Alaska cruise excursions? Let me know in the comments or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
Keep Planning Your Alaska Cruise!
My eBook, Alaska’s Best Cruise Excursions, will help you wade through all the excursions in each port to make the best choice for each stop on your Alaska cruise itinerary.
Get your copy for just $9.99!