The calm, bountiful waters of Sitka Sound provide a refuge for many types of gentle giants: humpback whales, gray whales, orcas, and porpoises. Lush kelp forests teem with wildlife, and at low tide, we can see many of our smaller marine neighbors up close.

Sitka WhaleFest is a chance for visitors and Sitkans alike to celebrate the natural world around us, and the wildlife we share it with. The annual festival is highly anticipated, with attendees arriving from around the state, country – and even the world. In the weeks and months prior to the event, you can feel the excitement building as community members buy their tickets and visitors book their flights to Sitka. 

“Sitka WhaleFest is really the best of Sitka as a community. It’s an annual event where we celebrate the marine environment,” says Lisa Busch, the Executive Director of the Sitka Sound Science Center, the organization which holds the festival annual. “The spine of SWF is a science symposium so we invite scientists from around the country to talk about current research to community audience. The audience is made up of fishermen, students, retirees, teachers – anyone who is interested in the natural world.”

The Sitka Sound Science Center is a research center with an on-site aquarium and hatchery

Bring a notebook with you, because whether you’re eight or eighty you’ll hear something you want to write down! This year’s theme is Predators & Prey – A Delicate Dance, exploring the relationship between the two and how they adapt accordingly.

In addition to the symposium, the festival includes a line-up of fun, engaging community events. Past events have included auctions, craft bazaars, student exhibitions, a 5k, and open mic nights. At the event, you really get a sense of how close-knit, supportive, and vibrant our community is. 

What better way to celebrate WhaleFest than by whale watching while you’re here? Keep an eye out for whales offshore or book a Wildlife Tour to get on the water. Visit the aquarium and hatchery at the Sitka Sound Science Center to learn more about our surrounding ecosystem and marine life.

A humpback whale diving in Sitka Sound