Sitka, like so many other places in Alaska, is a small town with a relatively large tourism industry that is centered on wildlife sightseeing and nature tours, or some variant thereof, like whale watching cruises. There are a few different whale watching opportunities in Sitka, and we have researched the details of the whale watching cruises to compile the following guide, which will help you find and book the right cruise.
Sitka is located in southeast Alaska, which places it in the rough vicinity of Glacier Bay, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Petersburg. All of these places are notable and popular places to whale watch, and there is a great deal of similarity between whale watching at any of these locations. As is the case in basically all of southeast Alaska, humpback whales are the marquee attraction, but it is also possible to see other whale species, and this is especially true because Sitka – or more specifically the Sitka Sound, where you will be whale watching – faces west and into the open see. It is on the true west coast of Alaska; it isn’t tucked into the maze of land and waterways that makes up the region of southeast Alaska. For this reason, it is easier for migrating whales, like gray whales heading north for the summer, to dip into the Sitka Sound and be spotted on whale watching cruises. Other whale species that are routinely spotted in the Sitka Sound include minke whales and killer whales, and a wide variety of other sealife, ranging from seals to seabirds, can be spotted on a whale watching cruise as well.
As far as we can tell, there are two main providers of whale watching cruises in Sitka, Gallant Adventures and Sitka Wildlife Tours. Neither company is exclusively focused on whale watching, and for whatever reason this has the effect of making the details of their cruises harder to find. Take Gallant Adventures, which has a page dedicated to their whale watching cruises, but the company gives you no information about how much it costs, how long it lasts, or how you can book it. On a separate “rates” page, there is information about the company’s tours, but there is no “whale watching cruise” listed. Instead, whale watching appears to be part of the “wildlife tour” (although this isn’t noted, but only implied), and this tour lasts for 2.5 hours and costs $125 per person. There is a six-person limit for each tour. Sitka Wildlife Tours website is better organized, with well-delineated tours (including a whale watching tour) that can be booked online. It takes a little clicking, but eventually you’ll learn that their two-hour whale watching cruise costs $135 per person. Like Gallant, they have a six-person limit for each departing cruise.
This information was surprisingly hard to dig up, so it is possible that there are other companies in Sitka, like small boat chartering companies, that offer something like a whale watching cruise, but Gallant Adventures and Sitka Wildlife Tours seem to the major providers. Between the two of them, there are a decent number of tours, but they are small, so it’s best to make an early reservation if you want to book a cruise on a specific day. For more general information, check out our article on whale watching cruises in Alaska.