A traditional Tlingit Native center, the capital of Russian America, and the first capital of the United States’ Territory of Alaska, Sitka retains the flavor of each of these historic periods. It is located in an exceptionally picturesque setting on the outer coast of Baranof Island. The three Sitka shore excursions listed below are examples of the extraordinary private experiences in Sitka taking you deep into the pristine backcountry for fishing, marine wildlife viewing and beachcombing.
Private Flavour of Sitka Sound (2-hours)
This private cruise offers a light mix of natural history, local culture, and a glimpse into the past of this very special corner of Alaska. Your experienced and enthusiastic captain will share stories of life—wild and human—as you weave through the channels, around verdant islands, and into quiet inlets surrounding the beautiful town of Sitka. Spot sea lions, eagles, and perhaps even sea otters and whales. Learn about the commercial fishing industry, native culture, and Sitka’s WWII period. See where locals have made their homes among the islands and hear about Russian past, Seward’s Folly, and the thriving present of this wonderful community balanced on the coastal edge of the Tongass National Forest. Your Captain is a USCG-licensed 100-ton master with nearly 30 years experience on the waters of Southeast Alaska—who also happens to hold a degree in forest sciences, fished commercially for 10 years, and worked as a fisheries biologist and a US Forest Service botanist. It would be hard to find a better guide as you discover wild, historic, dynamic, beautiful Sitka.
This adventure provides an intimate encounter with the coastal world of Tongass National Forest: time on the sea, and time on land, spotting both marine and land mammals, sea birds, fish, tide pools, giant trees, and good old terra firma. Beginning and ending in Sitka, your excursion starts when you board our safe and comfortable, custom-built boat. As you travel along remote shores and into quiet inlets, you’ll encounter wild animals, ancient forests, and endless miles of rugged coastline. Depending on the weather, you may visit Kruzof Island, the South Baranof Wilderness Area, and the West Chichagof Wilderness Area. Your captain will also choose a remote beach upon which to bring you ashore. Here, you’ll have a rare hands-on opportunity to explore the shoreline and forest, the flora, fauna, and ecology with your biologist/guide. As you inhale the cool freshness of old-growth forest, your captain/naturalist will share with you the wonders of this wild paradise. An Alaskan-style gourmet lunch and beverages are included.
On the western edge of the Tongass National Forest is Sitka Sound, an amazing place that is absolutely teeming with life. Designed for visitors interested in viewing and photographing wildlife, this boat tour will see you exploring the hidden islands and inlets of Sitka Sound accompanied by a captain/naturalist who will ensure you identify and understand the animals and wilderness around you. Whales, sea otters, sea lions, seals, porpoises, and salmon, as well as puffins, auklets, eagles, brown bears, and many other wild animals are abundant residents. Your Captain is a USCG-licensed 100-ton master with nearly 30 years experience on the waters of Southeast Alaska—who also happens to hold a degree in forest sciences, fished commercially for 10 years, and worked as a fisheries biologist and a US Forest Service botanist. It would be hard to find a better guide as you experience one of Alaska’s most pristine destinations. Enjoy a gourmet picnic lunch on board as you view the unspoiled, natural world that surrounds Sitka.
This experience will put you together with one of the great local characters of Sitka—someone who actually lives, plays, writes, or researches right here in the community. Having amassed a wealth of information in his/her particular field, your host will entertain and inform, providing you with the sort of intimate connection to the area that will indeed make you fall in love with it. Among those we can arrange to spend time with you are: a cultural anthropologist who earned his PhD while living in Inupiaq and Athabaskan villages in the 1960’s; a renowned whale biologist who collects DNA from humpback whales; a private investigator turned best-selling mystery writer and writer-laureate for Alaska; a fisheries biologist who was in charge of the sustainability of the commercial black cod fishery; and a Dept. of Fish and Game bear biologist who has had thousands of bear encounters. So sit back and listen, or ask questions and engage in a lively discussion. This tour may only be booked in combination with the Flavor of Sitka Sound or the Coastal Wildlife Adventure.
This adventure combines two hours of kayaking with an hour-long nature walk. Following a short drive to Japonski Island, you will meet your guides and receive a short kayak & safety orientation. You will then set out on a leisurely paddle through Sitka’s harbor, home to one of the most productive commercial fishing fleets in North America. Continuing out past the breakwater to the edge of Sitka Sound, you will encounter kelp forests that fringe the coast and the colorful marine life that inhabits the intertidal zone. With bald eagles watching overhead, it is almost certain that you will see some of the other wild residents: curious harbor seals, massive steller sea lions, and playful sea otters. Occasionally, we also spot humpback, minke or orca whales. At the Causeway Islands, step ashore to discover the remains of a WWII-era fort that was as hastily abandoned as it was built. The moss-covered bunkers and fern-rimmed gun emplacements present a peculiar contrast to the peacefulness of the rainforest. After refreshments on the beach, we’ll paddle back to Sitka.
This paddle and cruise adventure offers a perfect introduction to the wild side of Sitka Sound. Following a kayak skills & safety orientation, you’ll set off in the shallows, getting comfortable with your craft, before we continue out to our first group of islands. While paddling through mazes of reef and kelp forest—areas accessible only by kayak—your interpreter/guide will help identify the colorful marine life visible below, including crab, sea stars, anemones, sea urchins, jellyfish, and more. At the surface, we frequently sight ever-amusing sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises, bald eagles, and a variety of marine birds. At a seldom-visited island, step ashore to stretch your legs, do a little beachcombing, and enjoy a snack while soaking in views of the Sound. Your guide will explain some of the ecology of the area, and also tell you about the Tlingit people, who still fish using knowledge passed down since the last ice age. Finally, an exciting 30-minute boat cruise will return you to Sitka.
On this interpretive tour, a knowledgeable native will be your personal guide as you explore Baranof Island in a luxurious passenger coach or van. You will pass by many of Sitka’s historic sites, including Castle Hill Mt., the Pioneer Home, and St. Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral. At the Sitka National Historical Park, follow your guide along a pathway where Totem poles impart the rich culture of the Tlingít. Step into the lush rainforest and see historic Indian River, one of Sitka’s many salmon spawning streams. Your guide will discuss totem significance, edible and medicinal plants, traditional uses of salmon, and rainforest ecology. At the visitor center, visit with Native artisans practicing traditional arts such as carving, beading and weaving. You’ll also enjoy reserved seating at the Naa Kahídi Native Dance Performance, held inside a traditional-style Tlingít Clan House. As beautifully adorned dancers entertain you and the box drum resonates, you’ll listen to songs passed down through the generations. Finally, visit the Alaska Raptor Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing medical treatment for birds of prey.
If you thrive on adventure, if you hunger for wild places and endless views, if you love to explore at whatever pace suits your mood; a full-day Wild Coast Paddle & Cruise will be the highlight of your time in Alaska.
There is no such thing as a “typical” Wild Coast Paddle & Cruise – like snowflakes, no two are the same – and your paddling guide will help to design a route plan that suits your preferences as well as it fits the day’s sea and weather conditions. Your adventure will either begin or end with an exciting one-hour cruise aboard our sturdy transport vessel. Use of the shuttle boat allows you to explore almost twice as much of the Sound in the same amount of time.
No matter what route we paddle, the scenery will be amazing. Sitka Sound is bordered by hundreds of untouched coves, inlets and narrow passages, each containing their own secrets waiting to be discovered. And the waters of the Sound are sprinkled with almost countless un-named islands and reefs. This is the perfect sea kayaking environment, and you’re certain to explore some areas inaccessible by any other means. Few activities can match the experience of gliding silently across the canopy of a kelp forest – the clear waters revealing views of undersea gardens and marine life, while seals bask on the rocks and curious sea otters poke their little flat heads as high as possible out of the water to get a better look at you. There is also a very good chance of sighting steller sea lions or humpback whales.
At the half-way point in our voyage we’ll step ashore on a seldom visited island to stretch our legs, do a little beachcombing, and enjoy a delicious picnic lunch. The total paddling time on our full-day exploration is 5-6 hours, in which time we’ll travel about 6-8 miles, depending on your preferences. Although it’s not a strenuous activity, we recommend the full-day paddle only for those who are in good physical condition.
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