Sitka is a city in Alaska that was formerly a part of Russia until 1867. Its Russian heritage is still evident, especially when you see the onion domes of St. Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral.
Today, Sitka is a popular cruise-ship stop, as well as those taking a quick day trip from the Alaskan capital of Juneau. Apart from its rich culture and history, visitors come to Sitka for its diverse wildlife parks as well as its national parks and galleries. It is also one of the prettiest towns in the USA.
If you’re headed towards this fascinating Alaskan city soon, here are some of the best things to do in Sitka, Alaska that need to be on your must-do list.
11 Best Things To Do in Sitka, Alaska
1. Sitka National Historical Park/ Totem Park
A park with so much to offer, the Sitka National Historical Park is the place to be if you’re after Sitka’s history as well as an insight into its culture. This is also known as the Totem Park because of the stunning Haida and Tlingit totem poles that line the park’s seaside trail.
It is also home to places that represent Sitka’s colonial history such as the well-preserved battle area between the native Tlingit people and Russian traders as well as the Russian Bishop’s House. Sitka National Historical Park offers daily guided tours by knowledgeable park rangers, making it among the best places to see in Sitka.
While in the park, be sure to visit its museum that has a thousand glass plate negatives on display, from the photographer E. W. Merrill.
2. Sitka Historical Museum
Housing an impressive collection that provides an extensive look at Sitka’s history as well as its people, a visit to this historical museum is one of the best things to do in Sitka. Managed by the sixty-year-old Sitka Historical Society, this place is home to nearly 9,000 centuries-old art pieces and artifacts, about 25,000 historic photos and 100,000 archived documents.
That sounds a lot, but a walk inside the museum is like an impromptu lesson on Sitka’s history and culture, and you shouldn’t miss seeing dome fascinating items on exhibit such as bear tooth necklaces, trade books from the Russians and artifacts from the St. Peter, which is Vitus Bering’s ship.
3. Fortress of the Bear
If one of the reasons for your Sitka visit is to see the bears, then this is where you should go. Habitat by the Tongass National Forest, the Fortress of the Bear is home to a population of these adorable furry mammals, which you can view from twenty-five feet away through a covered platform.
From there, you can observe the bears as well as this unique fortress that mimics their natural habitat. There are guided tours to this sanctuary on offer throughout the day, which ends with a visit to a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs.
4. St. Michael’s Cathedral
St. Michael’s Cathedral is one of the remaining proof of the Russian influence in Sitka, listed both as a U.S. Historic Place and recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark. This is North America’s first
Orthodox cathedral, built during the short period of time that Alaska was under Russian rule. This cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1966 and eventually restored to become one of the top Sitka attractions that it is today.
5. Baranof Castle State Historic Site
One of the most significant historical sites in all of Alaska is the Baranof Castle State Historic Site because in 1867 it was here that Alaska was officially turned over by Russia to the United States.
This place is one of the top places to visit Sitka and also known as Castle Hill. It was originally occupied by the Tlingit natives, the ones who constructed a fortification to protect their land against invaders.
Known as a National Historic Landmark, Castle Hill has convenient walkways that lead to the top of the hill, where you’ll have panoramic views of downtown Sitka as well as the coast.
6. Sitka Sound Science Center
One of the more unique things to see in Sitka is found inside the Sitka Sound Science Center. This is a non-profit corporation that aims to share the amazing and diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems of Alaska.
Home to an aquarium, a field station, and a hatchery, the Sitka Sound Science Center is loved by locals and tourists alike. Its hatchery produces millions of chum, cork and pink salmon every year, while its touch aquarium lets visitors actually feel the pointy parts of an anemone, starfish or sea urchin.
The center also has a gift shop where you can pick from a variety of souvenirs to take back with you.
7. Baranof Island Brewing Company
Once you’ve had enough of the exploring for the day, head on to the Baranof Island Brewing Company for a refreshing pint of some of their best brews. Owned and operated by Rick and Suzan, the brewery opened in 2010 and soon expanded because of the warm response from their patrons.
One of Sitka’s attractions because of their craft beer made from gourmet malt and cool Alaskan water, some of the brews that you must try here are the Halibut Point Hefeweizen and the Silver Bay IPA.
8. Island Artists Gallery
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Have a look at Sitka’s art scene through Sitka’s top art gallery and gifts-hop — the Island Artists Gallery. This place is owned and managed by an artists’ cooperative, and is home to an impressive collection of local crafts and fine arts.
Check out handmade clay pots, baskets, and wooden bowls as well as drawings, jewelry, paintings, and sculptures. These works of art are all created by skilled craftsmen and women and artists in and around Sitka.
A lot of the items you’ll find here also make for a good souvenir to take back with you, such as necklaces made from beads, handcrafted light catchers, pens and many other pieces that showcase Sitka’s creativity and culture.
9. Sheldon Jackson Museum
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Housed in Alaska’s first-ever concrete building, the Sheldon Jacksonville museum is one of the best attractions in Sitka. This is also the oldest museum in the state, featuring items that the missionary Reverend Doctor Sheldon Jackson collected from his many travels.
When visiting this fascinating museum, be sure to look out for the Baidarka, a traditional watercraft used by the Aleut and Alutiiq, as well as clothing, jewelry, toys, and totem poles.
10. Alaska Raptor Center
If you’re interested in the varied bird species of Alaska or wanted to take part in an effort to care for bald eagles, then this is a must-visit place for you. Founded in 1980, the Alaska Raptor Center also aims to educate people about caring for the environment.
Since it was established, the center has expanded and now provides medical treatment and rehabilitation for around 200 injured birds yearly. It’s quite a fascinating visit, as you get to see birds in various states of recovery as well as observe their behavior and mannerism.
The Alaska Raptor Center aside from being one of the more interesting places to visit in Sitka also provides visitors with info about their bald eagle research to help people understand more about this species.
11. Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall
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Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, the wooden building that houses the Alaskan Brotherhood Hall was primarily established for the natives. This is to help represent them in their fight against discrimination and other inhumane acts of racial segregation.
It was established in 1912 and is also the headquarters of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood that aims to preserve their native heritage. These days, the draftsman style wooden building is also open for community events and social functions.
A great place to visit in Sitka, this is the ideal place for anyone interested in architecture as well as Sitka’s culture and heritage.
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