Whale Watching Канада

Where to Go Whale Watching in the US and Canada

Recent years have seen a global awakening about the degradation of our seas. With ocean conservation being such a hot topic, interest in marine wildlife is also rising, with a surge in demand for whale and dolphin watching excursions.

By Chris
25 August 2020

Did you know that whale-watching experiences are now offered in no fewer than 119 countries?

By the equator, the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers has reported a 60% rise in bookings in 2020, with thousands of tourists flocking to Kilifi County with the specific aim of observing the annual humpback whale migration. From bonnie boat trips along the wild west coast of Scotland to unforgettable excursions under the aurora borealis in Iceland, you’re never far from a whale watching opportunity on all corners of the globe.

And with all the glorious coastline that frames the US and Canada, it’s no wonder North America is also a prime destination for whale watching.

See Magnificent Marine Creatures in Their Natural Habitat

In our oceans, there are 88 different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. These aquatic mammals are known collectively as cetaceans, and together they make one of the most diverse families of wildlife on the planet.

Whales are vital to maintain the delicate balance of marine habitats. In fact, the ocean environment would likely collapse without them, because they support a stable food chain by swallowing up smaller species, ensuring the oceans do not become overpopulated.

Contrary to popular belief, most whales tend to prefer warmer waters, which is why you’ll see them closer to the coastline during the winter months. These highly intelligent mammals migrate to different regions in search of nutrients and the optimum water temperature to ensure they keep their own temperatures high enough.

Nevertheless, giant species such as the blue whale do make their homes in colder waters, including the Arctic and Antarctic. Their huge volume of blubber helps keep them warm enough to withstand the freezing conditions.

The larger kinds of whale tend to split their lives between separate feeding and breeding grounds, and they rarely stay in one place for more than a few months at a time. Even if you venture to a well-known whale hot spot at the right time of year, patience is still key to ensure a sighting.

Whale Watching Tours and Excursions

If you’re on holiday in the US or Canada and keen to engage in a spot of whale watching, we’d recommend booking an all-day tour as opposed to one that lasts a few hours. Longer boat journeys allow you to travel further out into the sea, making a successful whale sighting more likely.

By dedicating a little more time to the experience, successful sightings are more likely and you may even come across a few different species.

Where to Spot Whales in the USA

Alaska, the 49th state, is one of the most spectacular destinations for marine wildlife on the planet.

Besides the many types of bear, deer and birds of prey that populate the mainland, the waters surrounding this uncharted location are home to no less than eight different type of whale. At various points in the year, beluga, humpback, grey, orca, bowhead, blue, right, sperm and minke whales are frequent visitors of The Last Frontier.

From June through to August, Glacier Bay in Alaska is one of the only places you can catch groups of humpbacks lunge feeding. As well as this dramatic spectacle, you can also get a look at orcas in the wild in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, from April to November.

If you’re extremely lucky, you may even see two rarer species. The first is the blue whale, the largest animal known to have ever existed. At roughly the size of ten elephants lined up trunk to tail, their enormity is difficult to comprehend unless observed in reality.

The second is the sperm whale, unwitting star of Moby Dick and the loudest animal in the world. Its communicative clicks have been measured at up to 230 decibels – almost double the volume of the average gunshot.

To the west of the state you’ll find Kodiak Island, which isn’t only known for being the home of the largest bears in the world.

Every April, Eastern Pacific gray whales migrate to its waters, closely followed by fin and humpback whales in early summer. You may even catch a glimpse of minke and sei whales too – two of the fastest swimming whales with top speeds between 25-30mph.

Further south, if you’re headed to Big Sur on a driving holiday, prepare for the possibility of close encounters with blue, gray, and humpback whales. These giants are spotted around the west coast year round.

If you’re undertaking a leisurely cruise along California’s Scenic Highway, make sure you stop every now and then to soak up the ocean views, as you may just spot a whale gliding by.

Whale Watching in Canada

A trip to the wildlife haven that is Canada presents many opportunities to see rare ocean-dwellers up close. The coast of British Columbia, in the western province of Canada, has one of the highest populations of orcas in the entire world. While more commonly known as killer whales, they’re actually a species of dolphin – their name comes from the fact that they hunt larger whale species in packs.

You can also see gray whales, minkes, and humpbacks in the waters around B.C., so just time your visit between April and October. There are a huge amount of whale watching tour operators on Vancouver Island in the lower mainland region.

If you’re planning a driving holiday in eastern Canada, belugas, minkes and humpbacks can also be seen in the predominantly French speaking province of Quebec – and lucky observers may see colossal blue whales or fin whales (the second largest whale species), from May to October too.

Most of the whale-spotting excursions around Quebec depart from hot spots such as Baie-Sainte-Catherine – affectionately known by locals as whale and beluga country.

Adventurous explorers should head to northern Canada to the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. This stunning area of Canada consists of thousands of islands and islets peppered along 93 glorious miles.

For the best chance of spotting whales, take a guided boat tour and visit several different islands at once. Enjoy the calm sea breeze and limitless horizons, and scan the water as you go.

Newfoundland and Labrador may be more readily associated with our four-legged companions, but did you know that the most easterly Canada province is also home to a huge diversity of whales? Belugas, minkes, pilots, humpbacks, sperm all venture around the region, and on a good day from May to September, you may be fortunate enough to spot the more elusive blue or fin whales.

Ready to See Whales in the Wild in the US or Canada?

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Whale watching near Vancouver Island, Canada

Last Updated: August 22, 2020

When putting together the plan and itinerary for our 2013 Canada trip, one of the things that were on top of the priority list right from the start was whale watching. Through the Internet, we found several companies offering whale-watching tours, with several types of vessels. We chose for Wild Whales Vancouver, a company that operates three jet boats.

I prefer this to the zodiacs for my photography. You can move around more freely and it just seemed more comfortable to me.

The other thing I liked is that because of the unpredictability of wildlife (they’re not hanging around waiting for tourists) tours could take from 3-7 hours. It is obviously much more fun if you can find the whales rather quickly, but it meant that in case this proved difficult, they would go (literally) the extra mile. I’ve known it differently!

Whale watching Vancouver Island… from Granville Island

This particular tip was starting from Granville Island, worth a visit in itself. Granville Island is really a village, on an island obviously, in the middle of world city Vancouver. Besides the boats you can rent for a scenic ride around English bay or the Granville Island whale watching trips departing there, many other things make this place attractive.

You should visit the public market, with all its fresh local and exotic fruits and vegetables, the fish and the meat stalls, or you could browse the art stores. There are a variety of arts and crafts to be admired and purchased. When you get thirsty, get a beer from the Granville Island Brewing Company. On the waterfront, you’re spoiled for choice for all kinds of restaurants.

So if you’re wondering: “Is Granville Island worth visiting?”, my answer is a clear “Yes!”.

Our experience whale watching in Vancouver

But first we headed to the office of our boat tour company, checked in and went to board the vessel. I had seen killer whales before, but never in the wild, so I was very excited about the trip.

We sailed off in the direction of Vancouver Island. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about whales; she was a biologist and clearly knew what she was talking about. Most of the killer whales roaming these seas are “regulars” and many of them have been given a kind of “serial number” as they all can be uniquely identified. So they are also documented with their number and distinct characteristics.

It appeared to be a good time of year for whale watching as the salmon were starting to head up the Fraser River to spawn, up to 800 kilometers upstream, so for the whales, there was plenty of food.

The trips are well organized and the different vessels stay in touch and pass on the most recent position where the whales were seen. We were kept abreast of the information exchange and so the excitement was building up as we came closer to where the killer whales where. Then we sailed into the Strait of Georgia where the whales were supposed to be and by that time everybody was already on the outlook.

And then we saw them! It was just fantastic. What a joy to see these majestic creatures in their element! They are truly magnificent.

At a certain moment, we were really dazzled by one big killer whale coming right from under our boat. I was even too surprised to take a picture. Of course I had brought a good tele-lens, which is already a bit more difficult to shoot sharp images with handheld, but on a rocking boat with a “moving target” this was a real challenge.

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Still, after a while I had found how to stand more solidly on deck and could capture some really nice images. Especially the “kid” orca tumbling was a real fun subject.

As much as I enjoy photography – and boy did I have opportunity there – after a while I put away the camera to just enjoy the presence and indeed the company of these huge animals.

I was also pleased to hear that there is an “etiquette” the whale watching tour boats have to respect: don’t get to close (although the whales themselves may chose to get close) and don’t cross the path of the animals. And especially, do not chase them!

I believe these are good rules and I also think that this way the animals can be observed without major intrusion into their lives.

Our Vancouver Island whale watching trip trip lasted around 4 hours and I will never forget it. A super experience animated by a super guide. Later that afternoon, Sonia and I were sitting on a terrace on Granville Island, enjoying a beer, and just replaying the images we had seen in our minds eye.

Where to stay on Granville Island

Granville Island is tiny and your best hotel option there is without a doubt the Granville Island Hotel. It’s located a short walk from the beach and just 3 km from the center of Vancouver. WiFi is free throughout the hotel and all rooms are equipped with a flatscreen tv, a minibar, and a coffee machine.

Guests can use the on-site gym or have a drink or a bite at hotel bar and restaurant Dockside.

If you’d rather stay elsewhere in Vancouver, Booking.com has hundreds of options which you can filter based on your preferences.

How to get to Vancouver and Granville Island

If you’re traveling from abroad, the easiest is to fly to Vancouver International Airport. From there, you can take the Skytrain into downtown Vancouver or a taxi straight to your hotel or to Granville Island. Getting to Granville Island by public transportation is a bit of a pain and requires multiple switches.

A taxi will be more expensive but might be the better options if you’re with a group or have a lot of luggage.

Another option is to rent a car at the airport. I’d only recommend this if you plan on staying in Vancouver for just a day or so, to do the whale watching tour, as you’ll need to have a hotel with parking and don’t really need the car to get around the city.

If you do want to get a rental car upon arrival or later in your trip, check RentalCars.com as the compare a ton of rental car companies so you can get the best solution for your trip.

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Hans Couwenbergh is a wine and travel loving photographer. Snapping away, he tells you all about the stories behind his photographs. Check out his website and connect with him on Facebook.

This post contains affiliate links. If you book something through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Your Thoughts

Isn’t whale watching an incredible experience?! I went with a company out of Cowichan Bay on Vancouver Island and it was a day I’ll never forget. Not only were there dozens of whales, but lots of other sealife and birds as well. View some of my photos from the trip here: https://bit.ly/aBGbhv 🙂

Some years ago, we traveled on a cruise ship from Seward, Alaska to Vancouver, Canada, mostly on the Inside Passage. One of the highlights was watching cavorting orcas.

Sounds amazing.
This is actually what’s highest on my bucket list: spotting whales in the wild.

I AM SOOOOOOOOOOOOO jealous! Always wanted to see them, but never went during the right time frame. Love the pics.

Killer whales are among my favorite animals. The trip must have been amazing to see in person.

Such majestic creatures, and you even were able to snap them breaching a few times. I’m just amazed at these guys. Everything from their social structure to ferocious hunting ability is something else.

They hunt sperm whales – save the 50 ton bulls, which are too dangerous to take down – and even blue whales. They attack creatures that are over 100 feet long and weigh as much as any creature on earth.

Amazing Sofie…..thanks so much for sharing.

I’ll tweet this through Triberr.

Thanks for all the comments. I must emphasize the respect for the animals on our trip – as I have seen differently on another whale watching experience.

@Mariska: checked out your photos as well: beautiful, thanks for sharing!

@Suzanne: Inside Passage is on my bucket list as well!

Doug Warnat says

There is a group in Ucluelet Van. Island that takes you to a hot springs in a boat…Usually about 4 to six people and the Indian guide/driver gives you views of whales, sea lions, baby eagles, black bear and a fantastic ride in the coves and rock passages to the hot springs. The trip was money so well spent. Thanks for your post.

That does sound like a great experience! Thanks for sharing Doug.

Whale Watching

Whether you watch from the boat or stay on shore, Quebec’s whale observation is one of the best around the globe

Best time

June–September

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Whale Watching Featured in

Quebec

From June to early October the waters of Côte-Nord, Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park, Percé, Gaspé Bay, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence are full of sea mammals and whales in particular. You can observe them in their natural habitat around Northern Quebec, or take the well-known whale route from Tadoussac to Blanc-Sablon.

This region is proud of belugas and blue whales which dwell in the surroundings and are the largest animals on Earth.

While there are plenty of different ways to meet the whales, kayaks and zodiac boats are probably the best option to see them really close. Another way is to watch whales from land at the Cap-de-Bon-Désir Interpretation and Observation Centre.

Everything you want to know about whale watching in Canada

Bordered by the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Arctic Oceans, Canada has unsurprisingly become a haven for some of nature’s most magnificent marine life – including whales.

Some 30 species of whale have made the 200,000km of coastline surrounding the country their home and, naturally, the country boasts some of the best whale watching on offer around the world.

The opportunity to encounter these striking creatures in their own environment is an attractive prospect for those booking holidays to Canada. The best months to view whales varies by species and region, but in general the whale watching season runs from May to October.

From common whale spotting sites to what to pack ahead of your seafaring trip, follow our guide to answer everything you want to know about whale watching in Canada.

Where and when to whale watch

With its three adjacent oceans supporting various whale migratory routes, the chances of seeing these giants of the sea up close are significantly increased. That’s not to say, however, that every whale trip will be a success. Depending on the time of year, weather and where in the country you choose to visit, the whales can sometimes be a little hard to spot, but for many, the scenery aboard your vessel of choice is half the excitement in whale watching anyway. Plenty of tours also offer to take you out again for free if you don’t spot a whale on your first trip!

As a general rule, the map below shows the provinces and species that frequent the Canadian coastline.

There are some areas that prove more fruitful for spectators, as we learn from whale experts Orca Dreams:

“There are a few areas that are popular for whale watching. The area around Victoria is well known for their southern resident killer whale (orca) populations. There are about 90 whales in the group consisting of 3 pods. Victoria is a very convenient place to go whale watching from, as it is a hub of tourism for Vancouver Island. Most of the whale watching is within the protected waters of the Gulf Islands so in most tours during the summer months, the sea conditions can be quite comfortable.

“The west coast of Vancouver Island is another great place for whale watching, most notably out of Tofino or Ucluelet. It is possible to see killer whales, humpback whales and gray whales. The west coast is most famous for viewing the gray whales as they migrate close to the Vancouver Island shore in the spring and fall. On a calm day it is possible to watch whales pass by from the many beaches and trails that extend along much of the coast between Ucluelet and Tofino.”

Providing an immersive experience, Orca Dreams caters to wildlife watchers (and zoologists in the making) at their whale watching camp in the stunning Broughton Archipelago off the mainland British Columbia province in western Canada.

Day tours and safari camps like Orca Dreams’ run throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. The shores around Vancouver also prove a practical destination to see whales for those making the most of the vibrant city in British Columbia, before heading on an extended tour of sorts aboard a scenic Vancouver and Alaska cruise towards the arctic waters of the Gulf of Alaska.

Towards the eastern shoreline, the maritime regions of Quebec boast some of the best whale-watching sites in the world.

Bringing together the four coastal regions, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspesie, Cote-Nord and Iles de la Madeleine, tourist guide Quebec Maritime gives us the low down on whale watching in the French-influenced province:

“Tadoussac is where most of our whale-watching activities take place. In some places you can even watch them from the shore. Hundreds of whales make it their annual destination after a long migration of thousands of kilometres. Why? The St. Lawrence is teeming with fish and plankton, and feeding is the main activity of the summer. It is a genuine open-air buffet for whales!

“Between May and October, up to 13 species of cetaceans are found in the salty waters of the St. Lawrence (River and Gulf), including blue whales, the largest animals on the planet, and impressive humpbacks.”

For those interested in learning more about the whales that frequent Canada’s waters, Quebec Maritime suggests visiting the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre in Tadoussac. Just three hours down the coast from Quebec City, visitors can make the most of Canada car rental with a road trip to Tadoussac – being sure to take in the sea views on the way. Owned by the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals, a visit to the centre is the perfect complement to any whale watching excursion and with a friendly biologist on site, you can ask all the questions you want.

Planning ahead of your trip

For first-time passengers, the excitement of encountering one of the ocean’s greatest creatures will be unrivalled, but ensure you’re well prepared before you takes to the waves.

Before you depart

When booking a day trip or tour, Destination Canada recommends checking whether the company you are booked with offers the chance to rebook for free if you don’t see whales. As they say: “bear in mind that this is nature, not a ‘show’ that you can turn on or off. Sometimes you can return without having seen whales so be prepared to manage your expectations.”

Remember: “Whales are wild animals and can travel up to a 100 miles in a day making sightings very unpredictable. One day you may be able to see several pods while the next day you may not see any. Enjoy being out on the water as there is so much to see, being close to whales is only part of the experience,” adds Orca Dreams.

If you are prone to sea sickness, take medication prior to departure. Better yet, choose a location that is in more protected waters such as Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago or near Victoria.

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Dressing the part

“One of the main tips would be to dress warm even during summer season” says Quebec Maritime.

“Even if it is 20 degrees on the land, the St. Lawrence stays at a temperature of about 4 degrees. Add humidity to that, and wind, and it can get really cold during your sea excursion. If you go on a cruise boat, bring a jacket with you, warm socks and don’t hesitate to bring gloves, toque, or scarf. Better to be warmer than cold!”

When whale watching, you’ll likely be out on the open water for a few hours. The water magnifies harmful rays from the sun, so make sure you also have sunscreen. Polarizing sunglasses will also help reduce glare and enable you to see whales further in the distance.

Of course, binoculars are ever a useful tool for seeing whales up close from the safety of your vessel. Providing a greater view of whales, binoculars will also help you pick out other wildlife and details in your surroundings.

Capturing the moment

For many, whale watching is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and, naturally, you’ll want to capture the moment to refer back to later when telling friends and family about your travels in Canada.

Taking a camera with an appropriate lens is recommended, but as Destination Canada explains: “If your camera is only small you may be challenged to get a good shot of the whales that captures their size and magnitude in the ocean.

“You may want to make a decision in advance as to whether you will just observe and enjoy the moment for yourself.”

It’s worth remembering that if you’re constantly looking through the eyepiece of a camera or zooming in with a smart phone, you might miss spotting a whale outside of this limited field of vision. Capturing the moment is important but so too is just simply appreciating the outstanding natural beauty and incredible wildlife Canada has to offer.

Canada whale-watching: Leviathan II boat sinking kills five

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A whale-watching boat has sunk off the coast of British Columbia in western Canada, leaving at least five people dead.

The boat carrying 27 people sank near Tofino on Vancouver Island, the coastguard said. Sea conditions at the time were reported to be calm.

Emergency officials said 21 people had been rescued and one other person was still missing.

The nationalities of the victims are not yet known.

Melissa Kai, of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center in Victoria, British Columbia said the search-and-rescue efforts had «concluded», and the case of the missing person has been turned over to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The boat, Leviathan II, made a mayday call late on Sunday afternoon before sinking about 8 miles (12km) west of Tofino.

Within 30 minutes, a rescue helicopter and boat were on the scene. Other boats in the area were already attending the scene.

The first rescue boats to arrive belonged to the nearby Ahousaht First Nation community, aboriginal councillor Tom Campbell said.

He said he saw the first survivors brought ashore.

«Their looks tell the whole story,» he told the Associated Press (AP) news agency. «You can’t describe looks on people that are lost. They look totally lost — shocked and lost.»

Valerie Wilson, of the Vancouver Island Health Authority, told the AP that the survivors had been admitted to Tofino General Hospital, and three of them had since been transferred elsewhere.

Canadian broadcaster CBC said the boat appeared to have sunk some distance from the shore.

The 20m (65ft) boat was operated by Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Centres.

Whale watching off British Columbia

  • Tofino is a popular surfing and whale watching resort near the Clayoquot area
  • Whale watching season in Tofino begins in March and ends in late October
  • The area’s rugged coastline and national parks attract tens of thousands of tourists every year
  • Canada has over 200,000km (124,000 miles) of coastline, meaning it is one of the best locations for whale watching
  • The last whale watching acc >

In a statement on the company’s website, owner Jamie Bray said: «It has been a tragic day. Our entire team is heartbroken over this incident.

«We are doing everything we can to assist our passengers and staff through this difficult time. We are co-operating with investigators to determine exactly what happened.»

Tofino is a popular destination for tourists wanting to spot humpback and Pacific Gray whales, and trips usually last up to three hours.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected by any of the issues raised in this story? You can share your comments and experience by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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  • Send an SMS or MMS to 61124

Whale watching in Canada

From the Pacific to the Atlantic, Canada is one of the best countries in the world for whale watching. Lyn Hughes looks at some of the top locations

1. North

Hudson Bay

Churchill is the best place in the world to see belugas. Also good for birdwatching, plus the possibility of seeing polar bears and caribou.

Where to go: Churchill.

When to go: Mid-June to mid-August.

2. East coast

St Lawrence River, Quebec

The food-rich waters of the St Lawrence River at its confluence with the Saguenay River is home to many species of whale, even though it’s 200 miles upstream from the Gulf of St Lawrence. The river is best known for its belugas, which live here year round, the only population not to winter in the Arctic. There used to be many thousands here, but pollution has led to numbers falling to around 500-600.

Other whales seen in these waters include minkes, fins, humpbacks and even blues.

Where to go: Tadoussac and Baie Sainte Catherine at the mouth of the Saguenay. Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. Percé on the Gaspé Peninsula at the mouth of the St Lawrence.

When to go: Summer and autumn, as this is when most whales congregate to feed. Belugas are seen year-round, although are so protected that boats are not allowed to approach them.

Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

The endangered northern right whale is the big draw here. They come each summer to feed in the cold food-rich waters of the Bay of Fundy. However, numbers are so low, and they are so slow to reproduce, that there are fears that this species is close to extinction.

More common whales seen include the fin whale, humpback, pilot and minke. Grand Manan Island in particular is also a great area for birdwatching.

Where to go: Grand Manan Island, Deer Island, Campobello Island.

When to go: July, August and September

Digby Neck and Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Digby Neck consists of a skinny peninsula and a couple of islands that jut into the Bay of Fundy. Set closer to the open ocean than the New Brunswick islands, again it’s a great spot for seeing fin, humpback and minke whales, but there is also chance of seeing northern right whales and blue whales.

Cape Breton is at the northern end of Nova Scotia. Known for its rugged beauty, it is also a good place for viewing pilot whales in the summer. Fin whales and other species are sometimes seen.

Where to go: Westport (Brier Island), Tiverton (Long Island), East Ferry on Digby Neck. Cheticamp, Pleasant Bay, Bay St Lawrence on Cape Breton Island.

When to go: June to October for Digby Neck, July and August for Cape Breton.

Newfoundland

Newfoundland is rugged and unspoiled, and offers superb opportunities for wildlife lovers. Many species of whale feed in the icy waters here, with humpbacks, minkes, pilot and fin being regularly seen. If you’re lucky you may see blue, northern right or sperm whales. This is also a great spot for seeing puffins and numerous other seabirds.

Where to go: St John’s, Bay Bulls, Witless Bay.

When to go: June, July, early August

3. West coast

Vancouver Island

British Columbia’s Vancouver Island is blessed with a mild climate and plentiful wildlife. As well as whales, look out for bald eagles, golden eagles, porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins and Steller’s sea lions.

Grey whales migrate past here in the spring and autumn, while a few stay on over the summer. The Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast is the best place to spot them either from the shore or on a boat or kayaking trip.

On the other side of the island it is orcas that are the big attraction. Several resident pods live in the waters around here year-round. In the summer, they congregate in Johnstone Strait to feed on the abundant salmon.

Where to go: Tofino and Ucluelet for grey whales. Telegraph Cove and Port McNeill for orcas. Victoria for the possibility of either whale, especially orca.

When to go: June to October is best for orcas, although you may be lucky enough to see residents at other times of the year. March to May for grey whales.

5 Best Places to Go Whale Watching in Canada This Summer

Surrounded by three oceans, it’s no wonder that Canada is an amazing destination for whale watchers.

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Canada is strategically situated on the borders of the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans making it a popular destination for whale watchers. The Canadian waters are rich in a variety of whale species which are easily visible during summer. Over 33 species of whale can be viewed either from the shore or by use of sailing boats, kayaks cruisers, and zodiacs.

5. Newfoundland and Labrador

The Canadian province of Newfoundland & Labrador lies in the nation’s Atlantic region. It encompasses mainland Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. The region is one of the most prime whale-watching spots in the world. 22 whale species have been recorded from the province’s waters including minke, blue, humpbacks, orca, fin, pothead, and sperm. The whales prey on the abundant krill, capelin, and squid. The peak season for whale watching in this region is between May and September, and they can be seen from the shores. Visitors can take a boat or a sea kayak or spot the whales while on sea-trails.

4. Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill Town lies on Hudson Bay in the Canadian Province of Manitoba. The town is famed for the presence of polar bears which have facilitated the growth of a tourism sector. Whale watching is another of the city’s attraction as it is located at the estuary of the Churchill River. Beluga whales, thousands of them, migrate to the warm Churchill River estuary from July to August to calf. These whales are known for their high-pitched sounds and white color. Visitors use kayaks and boats while the more adventurous people can opt to snorkel and watch the whales up close.

3. Tadoussac, Quebec

The village of Tadoussac in Quebec is situated at the meeting point of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers. The Saguenay River has freshwater while the St. Lawrence has salty water. At the confluence of the rivers is a rich marine region and whales gather to prey on the abundant krill. Among the whale species commonly spotted are blue, humpback, minke, and beluga whales. The whales are best seen on a Zodiac which is offered by numerous excursion companies. Enclosed whale watching cruises departing from the village offers the ultimate experience.

2. Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia

The Cape Breton Highlands, also known as the Highlands, is a mountainous region in Northern Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The Highlands is recognized as a prime whale-watching spot from the shores. Humpback whales, fin whales, and pilot whales are some of the most common whale species in the Highlands’ waters. The peak season to spot whales in this region is July and August.

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1. Tofino, British Columbia

The district of Tofino lies off the west coast of Canada in British Columbia. In summer, Tofino becomes crowded with tourists from whale watchers, surfers, fishers, to bird watchers. The waters of Tofino become a migration route in March when gray whales move north from the Baja Peninsula. This movement is celebrated with the annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival. The whales travel south in October. Numerous tourist companies take visitors to see the pods that stay in the nearby Clayoquot Sound for summer.

Where is the Best Place for Whale Watching in Canada?

Some of the best places for whale watching in Canada include Tofino, the Cape Breton Highlands, Tadoussac, and Churchill.

Canada Whale Watching Hol >

April to October is prime whale watching time in Canada – the best time to seek out some of the 33 plus species of whale that live in Canada’s oceans. Whale watching trips are offered in small zodiacs, sailing boats, comfortable cruisers and, in Newfoundland, from the shore.

On the Pacific west coast, the Johnston Strait, between Vancouver Island and the British Columbian mainland, is one of the best places in the world to see orcas. From late June to October this spot is home to nearly 300 of these majestic, playful creatures. Experience the thrill of kayaking with orcas and on a boat cruise look out for humpback and minke whales, porpoise, seals and otters too. Enormous grey whales can be seen blowing fountains of sea water off the coast of Vancouver Island as they migrate northwards between March and April.

Over in eastern Canada, the spring thaw sparks a food-chain reaction in the Gulf of St Lawrence that lures a variety of whales, including beluga, fin, minke, humpback and blue. Spend time with the world’s largest population of humpbacks off the Newfoundland coast, an astonishing 5000 humpbacks visit during the summer months. Witnessing the sight of 50 tons of whale breaching and landing in an explosive splash is a truly memorable experience.

One of the top spots in the world for seeing beluga whales is where the warm waters of the Churchill Riverflow into Hudson Bay. Over 3000 belugas frolic, feed and raise their young before migrating north to the Arctic Ocean at the end of the summer. Setting out from the frontier town of Churchill, boat trips promise a close encounter with the inquisitive white whales or you can even kayak or snorkel with them.

Whale Watching and Polar Bear Encounters in Canada

I felt the kayak rocking beneath me and glanced down. A playful, grinning white face looked back up at me, her head cocked to the side as only Belugas (and Narwhals) can do. We checked each other out, she whistling and me squealing in delight, equally curious about the other creature we were seeing.

I went to Churchill in the far north of Manitoba in Canada with the express purpose of seeing Beluga whales. Each summer between June and August, 60,000 of them swim into the brackish water of the Hudson Bay where the temperature is slightly warmer and more hospitable for their calfs.

They reminded me of the bottlenose dolphins I grew up seeing off the coast of California, playful, curious, and not the least bit shy. I always felt a kindred tie to them, being as much of a fish myself as a person can be.

In Churchill there are several ways to interact with them, both dry and wet. First, we took a zodiac boat out and watching as they get closer and closer, swimming under and around the boat.

Things got even more exciting when we climbed into kayaks that afternoon, paddling in the calm bay while slowly but surely, they came over and started bubbling up around us and even getting close enough to bump my boat. I kept giggling and squealing (which you already know if you watched in my Instagram story from the day).

They got so close!

We also snorkeled with them, donning dry suits and floating in the frigid water. I know it was cold but, to be honest, I hardly even noticed because I was so engaged with what I was seeing below, listening to the whistles of the belugas and almost crying with delight while they floated under me, looking up and smiling.

The belugas from up above

Few animal activities have allowed me to get this close to the wildlife. There was the standout experience of seeing a Manta ray glide right over my head in Komodo, Indonesia, and the magic of standing just a few feet away from Gorillas in Uganda, and now this rounds out my top three wildlife experiences.

The zodiac boat

That’s not even all there is up in Churchill, though. It’s a triple threat, with possible polar bear and northern lights sightings as well.

SO CUTE (and deadly)

I visited with Lazy Bear Expeditions, which also took us out on a boat up north to see if we could find some bears as well. Though they’re much more common in the autumn months, unfortunately the belugas are already gone by then, and they were my main draw. By heading up in late July, I got to have both.

A mother and baby beluga (you know the song!)

As far as I know, Lazy Bear is the only outfit in town with a boat of this size that takes you out to see the bears in the summer. Otherwise, in the fall, it’s all about the arctic crawlers in the tundra, so this is a unique experience.

We got pretty close I was able to snap this This too

The trip also includes other extras, like exploration around town to this downed aircraft.

You can climb in and around it, which I absolutely loved, as did the kids on the trip.

You can also kindly ask for a wake up call if the aurora activity is high enough and the skies are clear. Since Churchill has the possibility of seeing the northern lights 330 days of the year, you just might see them, even in the summer.

Sadly due to a combo of low activity and clouds I didn’t see them this time but that’s okay, I did in Iceland and Finland and I will again one day, I’m sure of that.

Some caribou on the shore

Before visiting Manitoba I had no idea how many cool things there are to see there. I was shocked that so few of my travel blogging peers had made it up to Churchill, considering how incredibly cool it is to see Belugas, and how close I was able to get to them.

Manitoba is so underrated. Go for the animals, and stay for the provincial parks and 100,000 lakes.

Do it yourself:

Getting there: After a flood wiped out a section of tracks this year, now the only way to get up to Churchill is to fly. Lazy Bear offers a chartered flight as part of their package.

Costs: The base rate for the trips with Lazy Bear start at $4,000 CAD (roughly $3100 USD at the time of this writing), which includes the flight, accommodation, most meals, and most activities with a few add-ons.

For solo travelers: This isn’t a trip that’s easy to do independently. You need someone around who has a gun (just to scare off the bears if needed), and to be in a group for safety reasons. The kayaks and the trips are all tied to various lodges, so book ahead before traveling to Churchill.

*This post was brought to you in collaboration with Lazy Bear Expeditions. All thoughts on the amazing Beluga encounters are my own.

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Comments

Looks absolutely incredible to be able to get so close to those whales. Can’t believe how many there were of them!

I wonder what’s the story of the plane, I can’t enough of the abandoned things and places…

I wrote about that too! Next article on Wednesday ��

What an amazing experience! Snorkeling with the whales is something I must do ��

Ijana Loss says

This sounds awesome! Sounds like one of those trips that costs a bit of money but is 100% worth it

I had never even considered visiting Manitoba before – but it is now on my list! Beluga whales and polar bears, oh my!

What made you decide to visit Manitoba? How did you even hear about this amazing place?

I wanted to see the Belugas!

Fantastic photos! Sometimes its so worth it to pay a little extra for a tour that really leaves you breathless…and gives you an up-close experience with some amazing animals! My up-close-and-personal experience with the swimming pigs in the Bahamas was certainly something I´ll never forget!

I’d love to see those guys!

What an incredible experience. We baulked at heading to Churchill during our recent trip to Canada as our budget was getting tight, but this post has renewed our interest. If it’s anywhere near as incredible as mantas and gorillas then we’d be crazy not to put it right at the top of our bucket list. Better start saving . . . . thanks for the inspiration!

The video and description of your encounter with the belugas was nothing short of unbelievably cool! Your videos get better each time. My only experience with belugas are in the aquarium and I worry about them because even if it is the biggest tank in the world it isn’t nearly enough space! To swim with them would be worth the trip to Churchill alone! What a big pull for me. I am into marine life. Hope to experience a loggerhead nesting, swim with manatees and let’s add belugas to the list! Did not realize Churchill had so much to offer with the museum, art work rivaling any big city in the U.S. (with the limited resources too!), polar bears and beluga experiences in the same week (in addition to scientific research which is what I am into, the bay itself, the interesting history, other wildlife, etc.)! I am most familiar with Churchill more from the meteorological side with it being a favorite place to mention in weather forecasts about arctic chills coming down to the United States. Little do they know it can reach 99F (37C, well it is the record high) in addition to sub -40F (and C) in the winter. The big deal up there I think is reaching freezing in January. It has never happened in recorded history in Churchill. The record high is 30F and they have kept records for a long time. I remember they forecasted freezing a few years back and everyone was worrying about climate change but it hit 30F. If that ever happens, it will be a really big deal there. Something like thunderstorms in Barrow, Alaska several years back which is super rare.
It is great how you support these small communities and less known jewels by your site. It is a great side effect of your work! Hope they get that train back up and running, feel bad it is an American company that is sitting on their heels, maybe the locals can buy it and fix it!
As a point of discussion for all: Let’s not let climate change be an excuse to abandon these northern communities in favor of another area. Sometimes a real big problem can be exploited politically to push another agenda. You really can be exactly sure what will happen. Sure the frozen road might last shorter and there might be higher water levels, but you can adapt and who knows what will happen exactly there versus elsewhere (e.g. the Yukon)! Some things are obvious like coastal city management and adaptation, but assuming stronger monsoons in SW U.S. or SE Asia versus weaker and stronger versus weaker hurricanes/typhoons in the Gulf coast/SE Asia is not so clear!
I might revisit this with the next post you made if that is okay with everyone!

Ugh, meant “really can’t be sure!” in the last paragraph!

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