If you happen to take a cruise through Alaska’s inside passage you may well enjoy a port stop in Sitka Alaska. Only accessible by air or boat, Sitka is a quaint village that holds onto it’s Russian heritage and is a great city to explore. Here are five tips for your visit
No Tender Required
Sitka recently built a port for the many cruise ships visiting therefore there is no need to take a tender boat. The port is a little out of the town though, so you need to take a shuttle bus upon arrival to get into downtown. The shuttles are complimentary and provide some great scenery along the way. The port terminal offers some shopping and the crab shack on the wharf offers beer, crabs and wifi.
Fortress of the bear
If you fancy getting up close and personal to both Brown and Black bears, but want a different experience than viewing through the glass at the Zoo exhibit, Fortress of the Bear is a great option.
The sanctuary that rescues orphaned bears can be access via a shuttle bus from the cruise shuttle drop off point. We paid $10USD per adult round trip for the shuttle and $10USD per adult for entry to see the Bears.
The shuttle will drop you at Fortress of the Bear and return one hour later. You then have the option of taking the shuttle to the Raptor Park, or back to Sitka.
For more details about Fortress of the Bear read my full review here.
New Archangel Dancers
At 12:30pm on our visit a local volunteer all-female dance group - The New Archangel Dancers - performed at the Harrigan Centennial Hall. Entry was $10USD adult and $5USD children for a 30 minute performance. The group showcased traditional Russian heritage folk dancers and also gave some great insights, through an emcee, on the local history.
Also included was a presentation on the story of the Alaskan flag, how and when it came about and a recital of the State song.
Just visiting the Centennial Hall was a highlight, the facility has a floor to ceiling glass wall with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.
Main street stores and sites
Sitka has a really quaint main street with wooden stores housing local arts, crafts and furs. If you have a spare USD$15,000 you may want to buy a fur coat that the sales lady tells you will last your life time.
Walk the streets of the tiny town made famous by the Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, film The Proposal. A walk along the main street will stroll you past St Michael’s Orthodox Cathedral, Totem Square and The Sitka Pioneer’s Home and take the stairs up to the lookout where the official ceremony took place when Russia transferred Alaska to the US.
There is plenty of free wifi access at this port. Upon arrival the crab shack offers access at the port terminal and once in town the library and community centre both offer really strong, free connections.
Enjoy your day in Sitka - such a pretty part of the world. There are so many other great things to do there that we did not get a chance to see - leave your comments below for any other tips or ideas to share with us and other readers.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Fortress of the Bear is located in the small Alaskan town of Sitka. When I first heard about this place I was sceptical. I did not really want to visit bears in a zoo, however Fortress of the Bear is actually a Sanctuary for orphaned cubs and provides a great opportunity to see bears up close and personal.
It is law in Alaska for an orphaned cub to be euthanised. It is believed it is more humane to kill the orphaned cub as it is unable to fend for itself in the wild without it’s mother. Fortress of the Bears actually rescues the cub bears on death row and gives them a second chance at life.
What is a little sad is that the law in Alaska does not allow for the Bears to be released into the wild once they have been brought into captivity. It is one of the few US states that does not allow it.
The Sanctuary does however run a program in the hope that one day the law will be changed and the bears will be released. They therefore feed them randomly, increase their food intake in the lead up to winter and provide areas for them to hibernate. They are treating the bears in a way that would allow for them to be released should the laws be changed. In the meanwhile they remain for the term of their natural life. In the wild bears live for an average 25 years, at the Sanctuary they may live up to 40.
We spoke to Chris, the operations manager originally from the UK, who had been working at Fortress of the Bears for some five years. He gave us some great insights into the work they are doing here, the expansion plans they have and the lobbying work they do striving to change the laws. If you visit - make sure you say hi to him!
The bears are kept in a large area with fresh water running into a stream. During salmon season they release fresh fish in the stream for the bears to catch their own food. They have water to swim in, mounds to climb and cave areas away from the public for them to retreat to.
Unusually there are both black and brown bears located here. The bears are kept separated and a new area was due to be opened just a few days after our visit for the black bears. The new area provides natural forest for the black bears to roam.
On our visit there was just one viewing platform to view the bears, a new black bear viewing area was due to be opened. The Sanctuary is raw, with just the one area to visit we wondered how we would fill the hour we had here - but it went really quick. It was fascinating being able to see the animals so close up and watching their habits.
Another great feature of this location is that Bald Eagles frequent the area. Scavengers, they swoop on the bear’s meals to feed themselves and then perch back on the trees in the surrounding forestry. We saw at least ten on our visit including junior eagles yet to get their white head feathers.
Entry was $10USD for Adults and $5USD for children, however we were not charged for our eight and 11 year olds only paying $20USD for the family to enter. The venue receive no funding other than that which they make from entry fees, shop sales and donations.
We took a bus from Sitka - $10USD per person round trip. It was about a 15 minute drive from town to the location and we were not charged for the kids.
If you ever wanted to see brown or black bears up close and personal, and not through a glass exhibit at a zoo, Fortress of the Bear is a great option for your visit to Sitka.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family