If one is on the northern West Coast, then this is one of the prime locations for going whale watching and seeing the giant humpback whales. There are some excellent whale watching tours from Seattle in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. There is a range of tours to choose from and most companies even guarantee spotting whales.
For some of the whales, their migrations may be seasonal so it is best to check the whale watching websites for when they offer those tours, for other species, they may be resident year-round, and whale watching is year-round. This region of Washington is alive with marine wildlife and has been called "America's Serengeti" and boasts some of the highest concentrations of whale and dolphin populations of anywhere in the world.
The Local Watch Watching Industry
Some of the wildlife to be seen include humpback whales, minke whales, grey whales, and orcas (also known as killer whales). On these tours, one can watch these majestic animals as they sing, breach, play, feed, and frolic in their natural habitat. There are multiple companies to chose from, five of the best are:
- Island Adventures Whale Watching
- San Juan Cruises
- San Juan Safaris
- Puget Sound Express
- Clipper Vacations
For those interested in seeing other species of whales like the stunning sperm whales, a dizzying variety of dolphins, and even the occasional blue whale (the largest animal ever to have known to have ever lived), consider whale watching in New Zealand's Kaikoura.
Puget Sound Express
One company offering whale watching tours is Puget Sound Express and they bill themselves as the only half-day whale watching tour operator in the Seattle metro area (although others seem to claim that too). They have been offering tours now for three family generations.
Seattle Whale Watching Tour
- Location: Seattle/Edmonds
- Tour Departure Times: April 30 - Sept 26, 9.30 am
- Tour Departure Times: June 18 to Sept 12, 9.30 am and 2.30 pm
- Tour Depart Times: Sept 27 to Oct 31, 11.30 am
- Duration: 4-5 Hours
- Cost: $135 Per Adult, $95 Per Child (Aged 2-10)
Other tours by Puget Sound Express Include:
- Port Townsend - San Juan Island Whale Watching Tour
- Port Townsend - 4 Hour Whale Watching Tour
- Edmonds & Port Townsend Gray Whales Tours
Island Adventures has been operating whale watching tours since 1996. They assure everyone that never has whale watching been better in the area than now. A number of whale species are being seen in record numbers including the minkes, gray, humpbacks, and killer whales (killer whales are actually dolphins and not whales).
Island Adventures has been voted the best in the Northwest for some years now and they claim to have the industry's highest killer whale sighting success rate. The guarantee is that if no whales are seen, then guests can come again for free - for life and on any tour.
- Humpback Whales Range: Worldwide In All Oceans
- Humpback Whales Population: Around 80,000 Globally
- Island Adventures Guarantee: They Guarantee Whale Sightings On Every Tour
Island Adventures' fleet of boats is specifically designed as whale watching vessels and their vessels are not permitted to fill to full capacity so that every passenger can have unobstructed front-row viewing of these incredible marine mammals. No one will be stuck behind other taller guests who pushed their way to the front.
- Drinks: They Serve Cold Local Brews And Hot Beverages On The Tour
- Heating: Indoors The Cabins Are Heated
- The Design Of The Vessels: The Vessels Are Equipped With Large, Low-Noise Propellers And Have An Above Water Exhaust, This Makes It Quieter For The Whales (The Vessels Make Less Noise Than The Rain)
Clipper Vacations is primarily a ferry service between Seattle and Victoria in Canada. So they are not as focused on whale watching but more on their ferry service. The ferry ride takes 3 hours and dolphins and whales are typically spotted en route.
But do offer dedicated whale watching tours as well. They are the only Seattle whale watching tour operator that leaves from the easy-to-reach downtown Pier 69. One of their popular tours is their full-day Seattle to San Juan Island Whale Watching Tour, they also over a half-day Seattle whale watching tour.
- Departs: Downtown Seattle From Pier 69
- Whales Seen In Puget Sound: Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Gray Whales (Seasonal), Killer Whales (Technically Dolphins)
Their tours have an onboard expert naturalist who will keep the guests fully informed about the whales and the conservation efforts throughout the trip. Like other companies, they guarantee whale sightings.
For those really adventurous and who want to explore all of America's stunning West Coast all the way up to Alaska's Aleutian Islands, see here for a guide on how to visit these remote Aleutian Islands.