Whale watching is possible in both Oregon and Washington, and while going on a whale watching boat tour is a great way to spot these magnificent animals, it can also be pretty pricey, especially if you want to bring your whole family.
While those in Western Washington arguably have some of the best opportunities with orcas frequently passing through the waters of the Puget Sound, the good news is that there are multiple places you can see them in Oregon too, all without going out on a boat! Just be sure to bring a pair of binoculars, and a good zoom lens for pictures.
In Oregon, head to any one of these spots:
Ecola State Park
Sea Lion Caves
In Washington, there is a very long list of popular places to see whales, but these are some of our favorites:
Point Defiance. There are a number of viewpoints along Five Mile Drive in Point Defiance Park which provide views of Vashon Island, where orca whales can often been seen circumnavigating when they travel down the Sound. Humpback whales are frequently spotted too. By taking the ferry over to Vashon Island, you might even get to see them up close as they often come less than 50 feet away from the shore.
Lime Kiln Point, San Juan Island. This park is often referred to as Whale Watch Park as it’s one of the best places in the world to see orca whales, and they often come very close to the shore.
If you find you do want get out on the water in the San Juans, consider island hopping with USA River Cruises, where you’ll sail the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and have the opportunity to spot all sorts of whales, as well as seals, porpoise, bald eagles and more.
Point No Point. Point No Point faces Admiralty Inlet to the north and the Puget Sound to the south, and it’s another one of the best for viewing orcas as they pass very close to the shore as they head into the Sound.
Langley, Whidbey Island. Watch for grey whales between late February and early June from the town of Langley, or just about any of the beaches in the southern region of the island. Orcas are often spotted here in late summer through December.
You can find out about recent sightings by visiting www.orcanetwork.org. We’ve featured this fabulous organization here on Best of the Northwest before, if you haven’t seen it, be sure to check it out here:
K.C. Dermody is the author of hundreds of travel articles both online and in print as well as the author of the “Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland.” She has traveled throughout the world and has a passion for imparting what she has learned from her experiences to others, but always appreciates coming home to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.