Kayaking and Sightseeing in Sitka, Alaska

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One of the reasons we chose the Holland America Eurodam cruise to Alaska over other cruise lines and itineraries was because we wanted to stop in Sitka. One of my work friends had lived there the summer before and she raved about the beauty—with lots of photographic evidence to support her claims!

Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate for us to enjoy those incredible views during our half-day in port but we made the most of our time, ended up loving it there, and will simply have to go back during the summer season some other trip!

We woke up in port to rainy, foggy weather undeterred from our scheduled excursion: an early morning wilderness sea kayaking adventure!

We took a bus from our ship to the docks in town where we were meeting up with a smaller boat that would take us to a floating kayak base camp around one of the islands. We came off the bus and were greeted by our friendly guides who helped us gear up in some lovely banana-yellow slickers and bright orange life jackets before we waddled our way over to our smaller craft.

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The boat whisked us away to a calmer body of water where we were able to offload on the floating docks, enter a small cabin for instructions, and then board our kayaks for a guided tour of the surrounding area.

Brian and I shared a two-person kayak and cast off with our small group and two guides, hugging the coastline, hearing local history from our guides, and looking for wildlife in the kelp forests and surrounding rain forest. We saw some eagles and sea otters on shore and in the water, and tons of neat barnacles and other sea life clinging to the rocky walls rising up along the water. It was peaceful and misting and although I was getting wet, I was enjoying the calm of the water and wilderness.

What I was not enjoying was navigating our kayak through the water. It became quickly apparent that while Brian and I are meant to share our lives together, we are not meant to share a kayak. He claims I was not letting him steer—which is the role of the person sitting in back—and I claim that he was not steering. Lesson learned. A happy marriage = his and hers kayaks!

After our voyage we returned to our floating base camp for some delicious, homemade clam chowder and hot cider—the perfect pick-me-up on a cool, wet morning. We hopped aboard the bigger boat and set off for the docks. Along the way our captain started hollering and veered us off course—he had spotted a whale! We only saw it for a moment and he wasn’t able to catch up with it again, but it was an exciting way to end our excursion!

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Back on shore, we realized we needed to go back to the ship and change into some dry clothes if we were going to enjoy the rest of our time sightseeing. Warm and dry, we returned to downtown Sitka and set off to find a few places on my list.

Our first stop was the beautiful St. Michael Cathedral. Right in the middle of several converging roads, the church was relatively simple although noticeably designed on the outside and unlike any church I’ve seen on the inside. There were glass cases around the inner room with artifacts from the church’s history, and we wandered around the sanctuary, taking in the incredible artwork and items on display.

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We headed to a little bookshop called Old Harbor Books and headed to the back of the store to the Backdoor Cafe to grab some coffee and Russian desserts. I was enamored with the old printing press in the front of the shop, the quaint feeling inside, and the friendly baristas who served up our treats.

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Afterward we wandered around the square, learning more about the area’s history, admiring some totem poles, walking past the Russian Bishop’s House and then climbing up a somewhat hidden set of steps to an area overlook.

There were several plaques with information about the city’s past and what appeared to be lovely views out over the water and back toward town. We were just making our way around to all of the information when the rain started picking up. We dashed back to the main part of town where we would need to catch a bus back to our ship for our final stop at a complex holding several shops and a restaurant that was recommended by several people during my research and planning.

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One of the ground floor shops was called Alaska Pure Sea Salt Co., which uses salt from the Sitka Sound and imbues them with different flavors. We tasted a few and I was really drawn to a Sitka Spruce salt that was just the right amount of spruce/herb to inspire my interest in pairing it with fish or chicken.

We ended up purchasing a small bag of that one as well as an Alder Smoked salt that was supposed to be good on venison and other game meats—perfect for our household!

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Upstairs was the Bayview Restaurant and Pub, which ended up being a favorite stop of the trip! They had a fun open loft overlooking the docks, a great atmosphere and energy, a nice selection of draft beer and the most AMAZING fries made from all sorts of non-potato veggies! They were absolutely delicious.

We also loved meeting our bar tender/waiter who had moved to Sitka from Hawaii and was learning all about moose hunting and other fun activities that basically had Brian committing to our return then and there.

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We took our time finishing up, wishing our waiter well, and catching one of the final buses back to our ship. Aboard, we headed to our room, grabbed some seats on our balcony and prepared to take in the surrounding islands as we pulled away from shore. Our room was facing the harbor and while we were waiting, we noticed a harbor seal catching and eating fish! He had a number of birds keeping him company and looking for leftovers.

We loved Sitka and can’t wait to go back again! If you have flexibility in choosing an Alaskan cruise based on your preferred destinations, I highly recommend choosing one that stops in Sitka.

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