Best Places To See Whales

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WHALES TODAY: current situation and conflicts


Whaling brought most species to the brink of extinction before the International Whaling Commission started rules in 1946. By 1986 members imposed a moratorium on all commerical fishing. That hasn't stopped Japan, Norway and Iceland and from continuing to hunt commercially under the guise of scientific research. Other countries allow indigenous communities to hunt for sustenance.


Although whale meat prices have been plummeting, the governments of whaling nations spend millions on whaling welfare to prop up the industries and try to overturn the ban at , The pro-whaling World Council of Whalers maps the tens of thousands of whales taken each year.


Whales can become entangled in fish lines or crash into ships. Sonar and exlposions from gas and oil exploration have lead to mass strandings of many types of marine mammals.


Gray Whales, which are now extinct in the Atlantic, are still endangered in the Pacific, but 18,000 now migrate along the coast. Killer Whales of the Pacific northwest are dwindling. They are still captured off Russia.


You want to find a way to see the whales but disturb them the least. If you're lucky there may be a place to see them from shore (it's comfortable and free.)


What you would normally consider to be environmentally unfriendly--going out in a huge boat or helicopter--may actually be better for the whales. The bigger the boat, the fewer boats out there to bother whales.


Ask how often they see whales this time of year.


Whale boats tend to be small and manueverable. That means they may bounce around and make you seasick. Consider getting a motion sickness patch from your doctor, such as TransDerm Scop. Remember that it's colder and wetter out on the boat.


Click on the region to see its wildlife-watching spots
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northeast Northeast - See other animals in the Northeast




New England


American whale-watching started in Provincetown. Stellewagen Bank, a shallow area whales visit April-October, is one of the best places to see whales in the world. Boats reach it from Cape Cod, Boston and much of New England. Humpbacks, finbacks and minkes can be seen (along with dolphins, porpoise and seal.)

Dolphin Fleet Whalewatch recommended for its sensitive treatment of whales.
Boston Harbor Cruises big, comfortable catamaran.

Plymouth : Capt. John Boats, Andy Lynn Boats

Newburport: Newburyport Whalewatch


The New England Aquarium says whale sightings have been up in recent years.
New England Aquarium runs early April-late October, $40, 3-4 hours, usually 2x/day
Massachusetts Bay Lines runs May-Oct. 1-3 4-hour, $35 cruises, 60 Rowes Wharf


Boats visit Jeffrey's Ledge or Stellwagen Bank, depending on where the whales are.
Yankee Fleet started with fishing boats in 1944. Has an annual all day whale-watching excursion for tje Center for Oceanic Research & Education. Offer a 3-day tour way out to Georges Bank and Gilberts Canyon.
Cape Ann Whale Watch
Seven Seas Whale Watching
Captain Bill & Sons Whale Watch


Bar Harbor has the most tours in Boats sail 20 miles out into the Gulf of Maine, where humpback, finback and Minke whales live (along with dolphins, seals and seasonal puffins).
Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co (207) 288-2386

Wanderbird offers more adventurous, multi-day trips from Belfast

Kennebunk First Chance Whale Watch

Odyssey Whale Watch has a 5-hour summer cruises that goes all the way to Jeffery's Ledge and the Sagadahoc Grounds.

Boothbay Whale Watch

Bath: Cap'n Fish In June and July they go see Puffins at Eastern Egg Rock.

Lubec: If you don't see any from the gorgeous West Quoddy Lighthouse, a few boaters can take you out. Also try Capt. Riddle Sea Going Adventures


New Hampshire

New Hampshire only has 16 miles of coastline, but touristy Rye, has 2 fleets that visit Jeffrey's Ledge and  the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary. Both tour companies are recommended by the Blue Ocean Society.
Atlantic Whale Watch, Granite State Whale Watch


New York

The Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island
offers overnight cruises to see whales and pelagic birds in the Great South Channel. 


Rhode Island

Boats leaving from Naragansett, RI, take advantage of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to spot Finback, Humpbacks, Minke, Pilot, False Killer, and Sei whales.
Frances Fleet offers $40, 4.5 hour tours at 1 pm, 401-783-4988



You can try to find whales off Lewes, Delaware during the season, May to September. Even the tour company seems to think it's iffy Fisherman's Wharf



New Jersey

Cape May, at the southern tip of New Jersey, has several tour operators who take you out to the open water to see whales and bottlenose dolphins. Some have a "marine mammal" guarantee--so you'll at least see a dolphin.
Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center
Cape May Whale Watcher

Wildwood, the amusement park barrier island, has NJ's most whale watching tours.
Starlight Fleet, Capt. Shuman's

south South - See other aninals Down South
whale Virginia
Virginia Beach Rudee Tours
out west The West - See other animals out West


The Whale Watching Center is HQ to Oregon's incredible "Whale-Watching Spoken Here" effort that plunks volunteers on 26 coastal locations during the peak weeks to see migrating gray whales. In late December whales head south; in March they head back. But you might see them anytime. (541) 765-3304
They also provide a list of charter planes and boats.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Ilwaco, Washington 

  1. Ecola State Park   
  2. Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout on Highway 101 
  3. Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint   which also has a colony of murres and many bald eagles.
  4. Cape Lookout State Park  - 2.5 mile hike to site at tip of Cape
  5. Cape Kiwanda 
  6. Inn at Spanish Head  Lobby on 10th floor 
  7. Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint 
  8. The Whale Watching Center/Depoe Bay Sea Wall
  9. Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint 
  10. Cape Foulweather 
  11. Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area 
  12. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
  13. Don Davis City Park 
  14. Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center  
  15. Cook's Chasm Turnout
  16. Sea Lion Caves Turnout - large Highway 101 turnout south of tunnel 
  17. Umpqua Lighthouse, near Umpqua Lighthouse State Park 
  18. Shore Acres State Park   
  19. Face Rock Wayside State Scenic Viewpoint   
  20. Cape Blanco Lighthouse, near Cape Blanco State Park 
  21. Battle Rock Wayfinding Point, Port Orford 
  22. Cape Sebastian   
  23. Cape Ferrelo 
  24. Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon   
  25. 9th Street Beach, Crescent City, California
  26. Air Tour of Gray Whales from Tilamook, OR
    When gray whales migrate up and down the coast, you can even see them from the air. Tillamook Air Tours takes you up in a restored 1942 Stinson Reliants.
    (503) 842-1942 Tillamook Airport


The San Juan islands has lots of tours to see killer whales that are most visible in summer. The Whale Trail highslights places you can see them from the shore, like Lime Kiln Point State Park

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters has a biodiesel boat that may pass Spieden Island, home to European Fallow Deer, Sitka Deer and Moufalon sheep, which were introduced and now protected.

Anacortes Island Adventures

Port Townsend PS Express Bellingham Island Mariner Their naturalists can id which pods the killer whales belong to.
Victoria San Juan Cruises

CA California -- See other animals in California
gray whale


San Francisco

Right out of San Francisco, you can vist marine sanctuaries: Cordell Bank, the Farallon Islands, which has harbor seals, elephant seals, harbor porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, rockfish, and the Tufted Puffin.You'll pass lighthouses, and possibly see blue or gray whales and sharks who come to eat seals and sea lions. It's the biggest seabird breeding colony in US--more than 400,000.
Gulf of the Farallones Natural History Tour (415) 331-6267


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to seals, sea lions, otters, rockfish, loons, brown pelicans,  The seals and sea lions sometimes approach kayakers. You may even be able to see migrating gray whales from the shore in one of the many parks because there's a deep canyon right offshore. Fall and Spring: gray whales. Mothers and calves head from Baja to the Bering Sea, watching out for Orcas. Humpback and Blue Whales also pass. Monterey Bay Whale Watch is run by a marine biologist

Los Angeles

Boats from Newport Landing go out all year. May to Nov., you may see blue, killer or finback whales, seals, or thousands of dolphins. Dec. - April gray whale migrate through. Some trips go by the Catalina Islands. A prime watching area is the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which keeps track of marine mammals seen.

Santa Barbara

Blue whales, the largest creature on earth ever, migrate by Santa Barbara each summer. It's the biggest concentration anywhere. You can also see gray whales move up and down the coast in winter and spring.
Condor Express has $48-$98 cruises and a handy schedule
Harbor Breeze Cruises

Hawaii Hawaii --- See other animals in Hawaii



Up to 10,000 giant, endangered humpback whales winter around Hawaii. NOAA's Hawaiin Island Humpback Whale National Sanctuary lists plenty of places where you can see whales from shore.
The reserve is not contiguous--as you can see from its map. The $20 million Hawaiin whale-watching industry has boats going out all over the islands, too.
On the the last Saturday of January, February and March volunteers help count the whales from the islands of O`ahu, Kaua`i and Hawai`i.

Atlantis Adventures runs submarine cruises out of Waikiki, Maui and Kona. They have all kinds of permutations on the cruises on all kinds of submarines, including a whale lunch cruise in season. They range from 35 minutes to several hours, with some including elaborate meals or an extra charge for a good view. Up to $150 in 2009.

The Pacific Whale Foundation has nine different, reasonably priced whale tours from both the Ma'alaea and Lahaina Harbors depending on the season. The group also offers dolphin tours, including all-day snorkeling, off Lana'i and Maui.


Sea Quest has snorkel and inflatable boat tours to see whales and natural features
Captain Zodiac goes out all year to see dolphins and in the winter to see whales
Off Oahu you can snorkel with dolphins and turtles all year or go out in a boat to see whales in the winter.  Under the Sea offers really small tours with six or fewer people and a crew that's usually all women.
Ko Olina Ocean Adventure gives you an underwater camera (808) 671-2512

Big Island

Huge, endangered humpback whales winter around Hawaii from December to April. Locals brag it's the only place in the country where whales breed and calve.

In the winter you can see humpbacks. Other times you may see spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, black whales, manta rays, sharks or sea turtles. 
Blue Sea Cruises Inc
Alaska Alaska - See other animals in Alaska

Many whale-watching boats paired with cruise ships take off from Juneau's Auke Bay in search of humpback whales and orcas. You may also see bald eagles, seals, sea lion, dall's porpoise and the harbor porpoise.
Gastineau Guiding offers land and shore wildlife trips
Dolphin Jet Boat Tours goes out a few times a day
Allen Marine Tours offers boats in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, working with the big cruise lines. They sometimes see bear and say they've always seen whales for 10 years.





Anchorage is right in the middle of several great ports that go out to look for humpback, killer and gray whales. Along the way, animal tourists may see bald eagles, seals, porpoises and puffins.

The tours leave from different cities (Seward, Valdez, Whittier) and scope out various bodies of water (Prince William Sound, Resurrection Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park) but they usually have convenient transportation from Anchorage. And they're are all looking for the same animals from May to Sept. The exception are the gray whales, which can only be found in April and May.
Prince William Sound Glacier Cruises Seek otter and bear and have overnight glacier trips.
Renown Tours gray whales in early summer.

Canada Canada -- See other animals in Canada






Saguenay--St.Lawrence Marine Park

Where else can you see whales migrating hundreds of miles inland? 13 whale species (including the blue whale) and seals migrate through where the St. Lawrence meets the Saguenay Fjord. You can sometimes see whales from there shore, but there are plenty of whale watching cruises in this Quebec park. Whales visit the St. Lawrence Seaway from June to September. Their favorite spot seems to be the mouth of the Saugenay Fjord.

Essipit Croisières Essipit by Zodiac

The closest whale watch to Quebec City is out of Saint-Siméon, but Croisières runs buses out of the city for one-day excursions. Croisières Charlevoix / Whales Watch

Labrador & Newfoundland

Labrador and Newfoundland have compiled a list of sites to see whales either from the shore or by boat.

Cape Spear (Near St. John's)
The fishing village of Twillingate
The MV Iceberg Alley sees humpback, minke and finback whales, dolpins, seals, terns, black quillenot, kittewakes, seagulls, puffins, murres, and shearwaters.


New Brunswick

Campobello Island

Not only does Capt. Mac Greene of Island Cruises take people out to see whales, he also rescues them as part of the Campobello Whale Rescue Team. That means when you go out on this dog-friendly, family-run boat, you get to hear stories of saving whales and bald eagles, which hang around the harbor near the East Quoddy Lighthouse. You may see minke, humpback, finback or northern right whales.
62 Head Harbor Rd, Campobello Island, New Brunswick 506 752-1107


Nova Scotia

Lunenberg Whale Watching goes out several times a day and says you get so close you could touch the whales. Best time is summer.

West Brier Island. Mariner Cruises Whale & Seabird Tours offers this schedule:
LATE SPRING: Finback Whales, Minke Whales and Harbour Porpoises
JUNE: Humpback Whales return along with White-sided Dolphins
JULY-FALL: Everybody's there to see


Vancouver and British Columbia

From May to October boats go out of Port McNeil to look for orca. You may also see minke whales, humpback whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, harbour seals, Steller sea lions, and nesting eagles.
Stubbs Island Whale Watching BC's first whale watching company

Mackay Whale Watching

Tofino, a tiny former fishing town, is a base to see killer, gray and humpback whales, bears, huge storms and the Clayoquot Sound, a United Nations World Biosphere Reserve.

Ocean Outfitters has both bear and whale viewing.

Jamie's Whaling Station tours Wouwer Island in Barkley Sound, where 2,500 California and Stellar Sea Lions visit in August and September.

Latin America Latin America -- See other animals in Latin America
gray whale


The curiously friendly gray whales in Charles Siebert's New York Times Magazine piece Watching Whales Watching Us seem to know that the people here are safe and seek out interactions with them. Behavioral biologist Toni Frohoff says these whales show we may be able to forge a new kind of relationship with animals--one where they get something out of it, too. The gray whales migrate to this area from January to March and can be found primarily in 3 areas off Baja, California:

San Ingnacio

You can support Ranulfo Mayoral, the first fisherman to realize the local whales were friendly and wanted to say hi, by using Pachio's Eco Tours. The hard part is getting here; San Ignacio is 170 miles from Loreto (LTO) airport.


Puerto San Carlos - Bahia de Magdelena

Ssee gray and humpback whales and sea lions and their pups.


Laguna Ojo de Liebre, AKA Scammon’s Lagoon

Closest to a big airport



The Bahia region of Brazil is developing a whale-watching industry to see the humpbacks that spawn in the National Marine Park of Abrolhos from June to November. The Institute Baleai promotes the tours. A real bonus species: you may see penguins


Dominican Republic

The Silver Bank in the Dominican Republic has been a sanctuary for breeding humpbacks since 1986.
WhaleRoute says the whales can be seen    in winter and spring around Silver Bank, Navidad bank and Samana Bay in DR and  Mona Passage, Puerto Rico; Virgin  Bank and Anguilla Bank.   The sanctuary has rules, but lets people get in the water with humpbacks. Conscious Breathe Adventures describes this as Soft-in-Water experiences where you let the whales approach you.

Europe Europe - See other animals in Europe





Hebrides, Scotland

The Herberdes islands off Scotland are an important home to whales, dolphins, porpoises and even basking shark in summer. Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust keeps track of which species are seen when and where and has a visitor center at 28 Main St., Tobermory, Isle of Mull, PA75 6NU, UK 01688 302620
  • Ardnamurchan Point, Ardnamurchan Peninsula – minke whales and dolphins
  • Iona Sound – bottlenose dolphins
  • Tobermory Lighthouse, Mull – good for porpoise watching
  • Neist Point, Skye – all cetaceans possible here
  • Canna Harbour – minke whales and basking sharks
Wales Off of Wales, St. David's and Ramsey Island offers a chance to see dolphins and killer whales.You actually depart from Justinian, then head out to the Irish Sea. Along you'll see porpoise almost all the time, dolphins 95% and whales 30%, according to Offshore Islands Voyager.
Whales seen: Orca, Minke, Fin, Pilot
Birds: Island of Grassholm breeds 60,000
Bonus Species: Atlantic Grey Seals, basking shark
Dolphins: Common, White Sided, Bottlenose and Rissos Dolphin,
Orca: June, July, Sept.




Húsavík, Iceland, considers itself the whale capitol of Europe.
The Húsavík Whale Museum is, predictably, pro-whaling. 
Gentle Giants Whale Watching
North Sailing
Species seen: Killer, Blue, Minke, Dolphin

Reykjavík, Iceland, has so many whale watching boats you can pretty much turn up in the harbor to find one. They have 95% success. Some are fishermen when they aren't taking you out. Many are tiny boats, so be prepared for sea sickness.
Species Seen: minke, blue, humpback whales, sei, fin and killer whales
Bonus Species: Puffin, white-beaked dolphin, porpoise
Tour companies: Elding - Reykjavík Whale Watching, Life of Whales, Eskimos, Iceland Travel, Iceland Excursions - Gray Line Iceland, Touris, Iceland on Track ehf.
Tysfjord, Norway
You can see killer whales from the land in Tysfjord, Norway, according to the Complete Whale-Watching Handbook. The orcas are here for the herring, which some have noticed is declining in recent years. The tours, which go out in winter and even offer snorkeling, are expensive, nearly $200.


A biologist leads an educational trip through Responsible Travel to study sperm whales and the giant squid they eat in the Ionian Sea.

Season: May, September
Species Seen: sperm whales
Bonus species: giant squid; common, bottlenose and striped dolphin



Azores, Portugal
Sperm whales are the big attraction in the Azores. Boats leave from São Miguel and other islands.
Species seen: sperm, pilot, killer and Sowerby's beaked whales
Bonus Species: Risso, Atlantic Spotted and Striped dolphins
Responsible Travel Package
Africa Africa
Hermanus, South Africa
Hermanus, South Africa, has a whale festival every September. You can see right whales here from June to November from the shore on a scenic cliff-top walk. Or plenty of guides offer boat tours.


The Wildlife Conservation Society helps run the whale-watching operations out of Madagascar's Bay of Antongil. Humpbacks come up from Antarctica to breed here. You might also see them from Nosy Be, Tuléar, Fort-Dauphin or Morondava
Season: June-Sept.

Asia Asia





The island of Shikoku has whale cruises from many of its fishing ports.
 Whaleroute reports this schedule:
Humpback (Feb - April)
Year round: spinner and bottlenose dolphin Sperm whale (summer - autumn)

Kerama Islands Humpback whales breed around the Kerama islands in early spring. You may see them from shore on Tokashiki-jima or Zamami-jima Islands. Zamami has plenty of tour boats, too.

Ogasawara Islands You can only get to the Ogasawara Islands by taking a 25-hour ferry from Tokyo. But once you get here, you have a 90% chance of seeing humpback whales. From February to April, you can see humpbacks from land. Sperm whales are seen in summer and fall. Dolphin swims year-round.



Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka may be the best place in the world to see blue and sperm whales. Wildlife Extra claims it's the calm seas that make it so easy to see the giant whales so close to shore. 
You have a few tour choices that use local fishermen's boats. EcoTeam, Responsible Travel, Jetwing
Season: Dec-April
Species Seen: Blue, sperm, killer, bryde's, humpback whales
Bonus Species: dolphin, tiger
Oz Australia



New Zealand

Kaikoura, NZ has year-round whales. Responsible travel recommends Whale Watch a Maori-owned
Seasons: High Season Nov-April, humpback: June, July, Orca: summer
Species Seen: Sperm, Killer Whale
Bonus Species: Hectors and dusky dolphin, New Zealand fur seals and the Royal Albatross.




Tongans let you swim with the 450 giant humpback whales that visit its islands each year. Whether this is a good idea for your or the whales is another question. Various tours offer sailing, kayaking, snorkeling with whales.
Some operators: Responsible Travel, Sailing Safari
Vava'u, Tonga
Season: July - October







Got a hot whale spot? We'd love to hear about it. Please email us.


Best Locations List
friends of the dolphin
Whale and Dolpin Conservation Society
American Cetacean Society
Erich Hoyt
Whale Wars
ARKive Map of Threatened Marine Mammal Species
Cetacean Habitat
TerraMar Research
Trans-Species Institute for Learning
Oregon Parks & Recreation
International Fund for Animal Welfare Whale Campaign
Defenders of Wildlife
Humane Society of the United States
World Wildlife Fund
Audubon Society (Seattle)
wildlife reading
Economics of Subsidies to Whaling--WWF
International Whaling Commission
Toward a New Ethic in Watching Dolphins and Whales -- Erich Hoyt
WDCS : Best Whale Watching in Europe
Letter Protest to Whaling Countries
Whale Watcher Journal








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