Whale watches give you the opportunity to see just how big these mammals are up close as they show off their massive flippers and swim right under your boat! There are plenty of places to go watching around the world, but here are some of the best spots that are guaranteed to give you a whale of a good time.
Alaska is known for its orca, beluga, and humpback sightings. Spectators often see humpbacks construct their unique fishing nets with bubbles to catch herring. The humpbacks are known to launch themselves into the air at 300 miles per hour with their huge mouths wide open.
Glacier Bay National Park is a beautiful place to watch this spectacle between June and September, with August being the peak time. As a bonus, you might even see bald eagles and brown bears during your guided tour.
Humpback, minke, orcas, white-beaked dolphins, porpoises, and blue whales — the largest species on the planet — are some of the incredible creatures you might find during a cruise off the coast of Iceland. Whale watches out of Reykjavík, Húsavík, or the quaint fishing town of Grundarfjordur boast breathtaking views of the ocean just below the Arctic Circle. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the northern lights! The best time to go whale watching in Iceland is May through September (blue whales can be found in June – July).
3. The Azores, Portugal
The Azores are a common stomping ground for whales, either for those migrating or as a permanent home for a variety of whale species such as sperm whales, sei whales, humpbacks, baleen whales, fin whales, and even the famous blue whales. Blue whales can be spotted in February, but the best time to see them is in March. Spend the afternoon on a guided whale watch tour. Most of them leave from Ponta Delgado on the island of Sao Miguel.
4. Strait of Gibraltar, Spain
In search of bluefin tuna, orcas, pilot whales, and dolphins during early spring to summer months? The azure waters off of the port of Tarifa make the Strait of Gibraltar a permanent home for most of these whales. Pilot whales are known to be the most social of their kind, and are sure to make an appearance! While the strong winds in this area might prevent you from going on a whale watch tour, on a calm day it will be worth the wait.
5. Nunavut, Canada
Have you ever wanted to see the uniquely famous narwhal whale in person and not just in photographs or on TV? Nanuvut, in the far north of Canada hosts narwhals in their waters year-round. Known for their unicorn-like tusk, in the winter the narwhals dive 5,000 ft underneath the ice to feed on squid and flatfish. The summer is when you’ll catch the best glimpse of these exciting whales. Since in June it’s daytime in June 24/7 in Nunavut, the narwhals can be spotted in pods at the water’s edge.
This one is definitely out-of-the-way. But on the bright side you’ll definitely be the only people you know who’ve ever been to Nunavut.
6. Hervey Bay, Austraila
Protected by Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is a peaceful resting place for humpbacks between August and November. In the summer months, you’re sure to spot whales as they feed, mate and give birth before migrating back to Arctic waters. The protected bay serves as a haven for 7,000 whales and calves to rest and play.
7. Kaikoura, New Zealand
In Kaikoura, New Zealand, sperm whales can be spotted year round. The coastline of Kaikoura is full of nutrients that the sperm whales like to feed on. The whales like to congregate in the Kaikoura canyon which is over a mile deep. Due to the currents in the canyon, the waters are rich with fish and nutrients for the sperm whales to enjoy. You may also have the chance to see dusky dolphins, Hector dolphins, and New Zealand fur seals.
8. San Juan Islands, Washington
Magnificent orcas (killer whales) can be found in the San Juan Islands off of the state of Washington. Due to the presence of chinook salmon, orcas love to feed in these teeming waters from late May to mid-October. The best spots to see the killer whale pods are from Lime Kiln Point State Park, (known by locals as Whale Watch Park) where they can be seen close to land. You can also hop on a whale watch tour to get up close to the orcas. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, try a kayak tour where you will not only see orcas, but you might see bald eagles, dolphins, minke whales, seals or sea otters.
If you have the chance to visit one of these whale watching destinations, you’ll be glad you did! Make sure to plan your trip according to the whales’ migration schedule and peak sighting months, so that you’ll have a better chance of spotting our seafaring distant relatives! Bring a camera: this is sure to be a once in a lifetime experience.