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Sightseeing & Wildlife Tours

When conditions allow, tour boats visit St. Lazaria Island, a bird colony where you can expect to see tufted puffins, murres, rhinoceros auklets, and other pelagic birds. Storm petrels show up by the hundreds of thousands at dawn and dusk for those who charter a boat to stay overnight at the rookery. The volcanic rock drops straight down into deep water, so even big boats can come close, but in rough weather, even they won't go to the exposed location of the island. Even then, there's plenty to see in protected waters. Humpback whales show up in large groups in the fall and are often seen by the half-dozen in the summer. There are so many bald eagles that you're pretty well guaranteed to see them (even from shore), as well as abundant sea otters. The public tubs at Goddard Hot Springs, 17 miles south of town, are another possible stop for charters.

The Sitka Wildlife Quest, operated by Allen Marine Tours (tel. 888/747-8101 or 907/747-8100; www.allenmarinetours.com), is a popular marine tour run for many years with naturalists to explain the wildlife. Tours visit St. Lazaria Island when sea conditions permit. Tours are 3 hours and run Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 1:15pm, and Saturday at 1:30pm. On weekday tours, most seats are taken by cruise-ship passengers, but Saturday voyages take more independent travelers. The cost is $120 adults, $79 children. The boat leaves from the Crescent Harbor Visitors Dock late May through early September. Call ahead for schedule changes and to reserve.

For $120 per person, you can charter a six-passenger boat for a 3-hour tour to St. Lazaria Island for whale-watching and to learn about the Sound with a married couple who are both former wildlife biologists, Kent Hall and Beverly Minn, at Sitka's Secrets (tel. 907/747-5089; www.sitkasecret.com). They offer fishing charters, too.

Friendly Davey Lubin of Esther G Sea Taxi also offers educational small-boat marine tours.

Sea Life Discovery Tours (tel. 877/966-2301 or 907/966-2301; www.sealifediscoverytours.com) offers a chance to see the rich underwater life of Sitka Sound from an extraordinary boat with big windows 4 feet below the waterline; it's really cool. They charge $86 for a 2-hour tour; call for times.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.