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Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

California
5 posts
Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

I'm planning on flying into Sitka mid-July to visit a friend. It'll be my first time in Alaska and I really want to take in the culture, scenery, and wildlife. I do plan to do some moderate hiking and hopefully take either a boat tour or a float plane tour, possibly even kayaking. My question is...should I stay in Sitka for a week and a half, or should I see some of the other areas in the southeast islands?

I want to go to Vancouver after that leg of the trip. What would be the easiest but most rewarding way to eventually get to Vancouver? I've looked at flights leaving Sitka, and they all seem to connect in Seattle prior to going to Vancouver, making the flight more expensive. Would flying out or taking a ferry from a different location make more sense to get to Vancouver? I wasn't planning on going to Victoria, but would that make it easier to eventually get to Vancouver?

With all this being said, my time is flexible and can be shortened or lengthened accordingly, yet I would like it to still be somewhat affordable. Thank you all for your time and advice in advance!

Anchorage, Alaska
Level Contributor
305 posts
17 reviews
1. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Flying is the easiest option, even with the stop in Seattle (no way to avoid Seattle).

The Alaska State Ferry gets quite complicated. Ferry 1: Sitka to Juneau. Ferry 2: Juneau to Prince Rupert. Ferry 3: BC Ferries to Port Hardy, Vancouver Island - then you have to somehow get from there to Vancouver. That would be a lot of schedules that aren't necessarily going to align well. Another option would be AK Ferry from Sitka to Bellingham WA (with very short stops in a number of places - sometimes not enough to disembark but you get to see more of SE Alaska from the ship). Amtrak connects Bellingham to Vancouver, as do some bus services.

If you want to branch out and see a bit more of southeast Alaska you could fly or take the ferry from Sitka to Juneau and then fly to Vancouver from there - but you'll still be going via Seattle.

Ketchikan
Destination Expert
for Ketchikan
Level Contributor
2,293 posts
56 reviews
2. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

There is no easy way to get to Canada from Sitka. You have to go to Seattle first and then take the train or a jet to Vancouver. The ferry would be madness as much as I love the ferry. With twice a week sailings to Rupert or Bellingham nothing would line up easily. Victoria is fabulous but has nothing to do with getting to Vancouver. I think you are vastly underestimating the DISTANCES in SE Alaska and the relative lack of transportation options as we are all on islands and, as Alaska Airlines constantly reminds us when we complain about high airfares, lucky to have jet service given the size of our towns. Vancouver is about 800 miles south of Sitka. It takes a lot of money and time for us to move between the cities and our remote communities.

California
5 posts
3. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Thank you both for your replies. I think I was underestimating the distance between the islands (they look so close on the map lol), and I apologize for that.

I think I will take your advice Navraq and ferry to Juneau to see the sites for a few days then fly to Seattle from there. The other option I've been weighing is if I should fly to Juneau and then ferry SIT and fly from SIT to Seattle. Is there any advantage or preference from one to the other?

I did a bit of research and if I go to Sitka then Juneau then Seattle, I would land in Sitka at almost 8pm and have about 6 days in Sitka (where a friend lives, yet all days would be those that she works(she is only off 1 day a week)) then ferry (9 hours) out on the 7th day to Juneau (arrive at 4pm) (amount of days is flexible but I'm thinking of having 3 full days and fly out the morning of the 4th day to Seattle)

....OR if I go to Juneau then Sitka then Seattle, I would land at 9:40pm in JNU airport and have 3 full days before leaving on the 4th day via ferry (4.5 hours) to SIT (where I'll probably stay about 5 days before flying out to Seattle; most days would be during the time my friend works but at least I would be there for her only day off too)

-- Note: There is a slight difference in price between the 2 options, with fly into JNU --> SIT --> Seattle being a bit more expensive

*Questions:

1. If I land in Juneau at almost 10pm, is there transportation at that time (cab, bus, etc)? Also, for getting to the ferry port, is there any transportation there? Is a car recommended in Juneau?

2. For Sitka, I read there was a shuttle from the ferry and aiport to downtown-- is this correct? Does it run at 8pm at night and on Sundays? I won't be renting a car in Sitka, but my friend has resources should we need one during my stay.

3. For the ferry, is it a good time to take in the scenery and marine life? Can you at times see whales and such? If so, would it replace boat tour for one of the islands?

4. Also (and I think this is very unlikely) but is there any flying tour that I can pay for tour and the flight from Juneau to Sitka or vice versa? I know this would be expensive, if it even exists, but I'm planning to do some excursions on both islands and with the price of the ferry, it may be worth it

Thank you again for all your time, and I apologize for the long post!

Anchorage, Alaska
Level Contributor
305 posts
17 reviews
4. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Before you settle on which direction for your "loop" you must first have a look at the ferry schedule for your dates of travel to even see if it is possible. (It sounds like maybe you've already done this but just in case...). Ferries between Sitka and Juneau do not run daily. You can try looking up on the official ferry site http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/schedules.shtml) or you can call their reservations and customer service # at 800-642-0066.

The ferry ride is quite scenic - no guarantees what wildlife you might see.

I don't know anything about public transport in Juneau or Sitka but I feel quite certain taxis operate 24hrs.

As for a "flying tour" - that is possible either by chartering a small plane or by taking a scheduled air taxi from Sitka to Juneau. I just randomly googled and found at least one company that might work for that sort of thing - Harris Air in Sitka (http://www.harrisair.com/index.html). There may be others as well.

Ketchikan
Destination Expert
for Ketchikan
Level Contributor
2,293 posts
56 reviews
5. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Oh my goodness, just reading your post hurts my brain. Think of the big picture. Alaska Airlines flies a big jet up from Seattle and back down several times a day hopping from island to island so you can easily fly into one island city like Juneau and out another like Sitka with no real difference in price except Juneau and Anchorage get all the sales because other airlines, like Delta, fly in there. As for the ferry, it is a magical ride but I would not count on seeing wildlife in our major marine transportation zones. A ferry ride is not an excursion. it is an enormous working boat taking the same routes as the cruise ships. Marine mammals tend to avoid those routes and go around them. Since we are talking islands and inlets, they usually have lots of travel choices. Yes, sometimes you see a whale in the distance, and the captain will point out any things to see, but generally not. A whale watching tour out of Juneau or Sitka is what you want for 100 percent whales.

For your other questions, cabs run 24 hours a day in both towns, and shuttle buses meet the ferry schedule, not the other way around. That's how they make their living but don't delay getting off the ferry because when the shuttle leaves then that's it.

I am curious why you want to go to Juneau at all? Sitka has virtually everything Juneau has in a much more scenic, relaxed environment. The totem park, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Russian Bishop House, Fortress of the Bear, the raptor center, kayaking, whale watching, movie theaters, hiking, good restaurants, and shopping should be plenty to keep you busy and you don't need a car for much of the fun. Juneau is spread out, difficult to get around, packed with tourists in their increasingly run down downtown and just nowhere near as fun a place to be. Unless you absolutely have to tour the new state museum in Juneau I personally would skip it.

California
5 posts
6. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Thank you both for your replies. I don't mean to cause any headaches. I'm just trying to understand how to best use my time while in the islands. I appreciate all the clarification regarding the transportation into and out of the islands. It makes much more sense to me now.

In regards to Juneau, I just felt that since I was there I should see more of the surroundings. I'm interested in glaciers and I was planning to go there to see Mendenhall glacier and go on either a Tracy Arms tour or a kayaking tour. Would this not be recommended? Is there any other island that I should look into that is close to Sitka. Other than my time with my friend in Sitka, I'm flexible with where I go. I can also extended my time in Sitka to a full week and do a few days on a different island other than Juneau, if that's recommended. Any advice you have is greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your time!

Edited: 08 June 2016, 12:54
Ketchikan
Destination Expert
for Ketchikan
Level Contributor
2,293 posts
56 reviews
7. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

Sitka has great kayaking with Sitka Sound Ocean Adventures. http://www.kayaksitka.com/ There's nothing wrong with going to Juneau to see Mendenhall Glacier or taking a tour to Tracy Arm but just be aware of the travel time and expense involved. There is no quick and easy way to get in and out of Juneau as we have mentioned. The ferry will take a full nine hours one way at $57 plus meals. Airfare will be about $100 one way and involve the usual sitting around waiting to board the plane, security, etc. There are charter flights but they cost even more. Juneau is not an easy place to get around by any means. A cab ride from the ferry terminal or airport to downtown runs $50. I would strongly recommend you rent a car if you can get one in July when competition is fierce. You'll have to stay at least two nights because the Tracy Arm Tour leaves at 7:45 in the morning. Budget at least $200 a night for lodging plus $160 for the tour. Add food and return trip to the airport and you are talking a minimum of $800-900. Only you can decide if that is worth it to you. There really isn't any other place quicker or easier to visit from Sitka than Juneau. The further afield you go, the longer the travel time.

8. Re: Flexible schedule & flying into sitka. Go anywhere else?

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