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The 5 Best Sitka Shore Excursions for Your Alaska Cruise (2024)

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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. If you’re on this post, you may have stops in those ports of call 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’ve been fortunate to visit Sitka twice in the past few years, including most recently during my own Alaska Cruise aboard Windstar in June 2022. Sitka has fast become one of my favorite parts of Alaska, and I half-heartedly joke about moving there at some point in the future each time Mr. V and I talk about our visits. Seriously – Sitka is so cool, and one day in port is not nearly enough to experience it all… so again: how do you choose the best Sitka cruise excursion?

Sitka Cruise Excursions Hero

In choosing the best Sitka cruise excursions to include in 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. I think you’ll see that this list is full of unique experiences and I hope you take advantage of at least one of them during your Alaska cruise.

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.

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 most recently in December 2023.

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:

  1. I went through all of the Sitka shore excursions (169) on every company (8) that has any cruise(s) that stop there in 2024.
  2. I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion this year.
  3. I force-ranked the excursions by “uniqueness” with no ties.
  4. I calculated what the cruise should cost with my “Money-to-Time” calculation and then gave a bonus (or penalty) based on the actual excursion price.
  5. Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
  6. To break ties, I used the “uniqueness” score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!

For 2024, here’s my list of the best Sitka excursions:

Rank
(2024)
Tour Name# of Cruises
(2024)
Change
(from 2023)
1Hot Italian Glass Experience6
2Best of Sitka6New!
3Taste of Sitka5↑3
4Sitka Pedal & Pub Crawl6New!
5Alaska Bears & Silver Bay Homestead Experience5New!
6Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest7New!
7Siginaka Islands by Cruise & Paddle6↑1
8Sitka Sound Kayak Adventure5New!
9Tongass Rainforest Hike6New!
10Wilderness Sea Kayaking Adventure6New!

As you can see, the top options for cruise excursions in Sitka have changed a lot recently; almost all of the shore excursions I recommend are new on the list this year – but there are a few great ones that have held on to the list in 2024.

For the rest of this post, I’ll highlight five of the excursions on this table and which type of Alaska traveler I think each is best for. Let’s go!

🥾 Best for Adventure Travelers: Siginaka Islands by Cruise & Paddle

There are a number of kayaking and hiking tours in Sitka, and it was honestly hard to rank them for uniqueness plus choose which one to highlight here for you adventure travelers. I went with the Siginaka Islands kayak and cruise tour because it travels beyond the normal tourist track in Sitka, and goes to a place that even I have never been!

(Also, this excursion has been on my list for a few years, so I know it’s a good option to recommend even though I have not done it myself.)

This excursion starts with a boat transfer from Sitka to the nearby Siginaka Islands; this cluster of islands is located north of town so you’ll enjoy views of Sitka’s waterfront and coast along the way. Then you’ll board kayaks for 90 minutes of paddling; keep your eyes peeled for sea life like otters and sea stars, as well as birds – Sitka is known for its huge eagle population.

🗿 Best for Culture Vultures: Italian Hot Glass Experience

When it comes to culture in Sitka, there’s kind of two directions to go: historic culture or artistic culture. If you’re more of a history buff, this probably isn’t the right tour for you (instead, skip down to “Best of Sitka” below, or consider booking one of the “Historic City Highlights” type tours that some cruise companies offer.)

If your love of culture is focused on (or also includes the arts), you might be surprised to discover that Sitka has a huge artistic heritage, from authors and the written word to music and other artistic mediums. And in that case, this excursion allows you to try your hand – literally – at one of those unusual art forms: Venetian Glassblowing. During this 2.5-hour tour, you’ll learn about glassblowing at Wild Arts Gallery & Studio, then create your own glass cane.

While it might not be the souvenir you planned to bring home from Alaska, it will certainly be a memorable experience and create a talking point in your home when people ask you where it was made!

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Best for Families: Best of Sitka

Gosh, this was a tough choice. It’s not that Sitka is bad for kids; it’s that most cool family-friendly-esque excursions also include some “boring talking” parts… while we adults might find that fascinating, kids might be less engaged depending on the tour guide and topics covered.

In any case, when considering the most family-friendly shore excursion in Sitka, I have to go with the Best of Sitka tour: it includes a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center where the whole family can get up close and personal with predator birds, a walking tour of Sitka National Historical Park (aka “Totem Park” where even younger kids can burn off some energy), and time at Fortress of the Bears where the whole family will be delighted and engaged by the rescue bears who live here.

🦪 Best for Foodies: Taste of Sitka

Like the cultural tour mentioned above, many cruise companies offer some sort of food tour; I think they’re all the same though I can’t be sure; in Sitka, they’re generally called the “Taste of Sitka” or something similar

I did take a “Taste of Sitka” tour myself during my visit in September 2021; I then planned my own food tour of sorts during my June 2022 visit to places I hadn’t yet had a chance to try. If it’s your first visit to Sitka, I highly recommend taking a guided tour as it will include some history and cultural context to complement the flavors you’re trying.

If you love exploring destinations through food, this is the tour for you. From spruce tip donuts to Russian pelmeni to the Alaskan Duck Fart, Sitka has lots of new flavors to try and a food tour is the best way to do so.

🐋 Best for Wildlife Seekers: Sea Otter & Wildlife Quest

Like adventure tours, Sitka is a great destination for wildlife lovers – there are a large number of tours that qualify in this category, including many that didn’t make my top 10 table above.

On that table though, I think the “sea otter and wildlife quest” tour(s) (whatever they might be called on your specific cruise provider) is your best bet. It’s reasonably priced and has a great chance of living up to its name; most cruises see some combination of sea otters, whales, sea lions, porpoises, harbor seals, brown bears, deer, bald eagles, and seabirds.

If you haven’t gotten your wildlife fix by the time your cruise reaches Sitka, this is a great shore excursion to book to tick off the rest of the animals on your list!

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 below.

Cruise-Excursions-Cover

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

9 Comments

  • Carissa Milam

    Hi there! I’m trying to find a salmon fishing option while we are in Sitka on July 3rd. Can you help me? Thanks in advance!!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for reading, Carissa. I don’t have any extra connections for fishing – I recommend checking with your cruise company to see what they advise. Have a great trip!

    • Valerie

      My understanding is that it’s the limit of the equipment they have for safety reasons. You’d need to contact the company directly to inquire if they have any flexibility on that limit.

  • LESLIE MATTHEWS

    I just have a question about transportation from the cruise terminal to downtown i.e. Lincoln Street in Sitka. I thought I read somewhere that there is a trolley or something that runs about every ten minutes. Is that correct or am I thinking of another port? Thank you

  • Carolyn Mitchell

    I will be on Quantum in sitka with a 9:30 arrival and an 11:00 excursion. Anyone know how we get tickets to get off the ship in time to get into town on the shuttle?

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