Geographically speaking, Sitka is not on the Inside Passage at all, but rather on the Pacific coast of
Baranof Island. However, it’s included in a fair number of Inside Passage cruise itineraries simply because it’s such a beautiful little port. Sitka lacks docking facilities for megaships (those that do stop here send passengers ashore in tenders), which means the town has fewer cruise ship visits than Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Because of this, it retains a more residential feel. History is Sitka’s strong suit for centuries it was the stronghold of the powerful Kiksadi Tlingit clan, until 1799-1804 when, despite armed resistance by the Tlingits, a Russian fur-trading company set up a fort and colony, making it Alaska’s earliest white settlement.
Shore excursions here are fairly standard; we recommend skipping them just to walk around this fascinating town.
Top draw Walking tours of Sitka explore the town’s Russian heritage at such sites as the onion-domed St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the 1842 Russian Bishop’s House, a Russian cemetery, the Russian blockhouse, and as a corrective to the Russian history Sitka National Historical Park, where the Tlingit made their last valiant stand against Russia in 1804.
For nature lovers At the nonprofit Alaska Raptor Center (www.alaskaraptor.org ), located just across Indian River, guests can get close-up views of sick or injured birds of prey (primarily eagles), many of them being treated to be returned to the wild.
Native culture The Sheetka’Kwaan Naa Kahidi Building on Katlian Street is a modern version of a traditional Tlingit tribal house; it hosts regular performances of traditional Tlingit dance, often timed to coincide with cruise ship visits.
Local color A t Centennial Hall, the all-women New Archangel Dancers give 30-minute performances of Russian and Ukrainian traditional dance on most days when cruise ships are in port.