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Whale Watching on the U.S. Pacific Coast

I get absolutely giddy with joy around spring time.  As an avid whale watcher, the spring season means that humpback and gray whales make their annual 12,000-mile journey from cold Alaska waters to breed in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean further south.

Starting now through early April, state parks, recreation departments, and beaches throughout the West Coast have set up a string of whale-watching sites for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of a humpback or gray whale diving, jumping, or gliding over the top of the water.  Volunteers are usually on hand to guide visitors, too.  In Oregon, the parks and recreation department has volunteers stationed at 28 different locations to help curious seekers find good whale-watching spots.

Though the best way to watch whales in the water is to hop on a charter boat tour, you can also watch for free from shore.  Typically, the whale migration route is about one or two miles offshore and there are certain hotspots along the coast where you can sit with binoculars and watch.  On the Olympic peninsula, for example, whales pass right by the town of Westport, WA–roughly three hours from Seattle.

This past weekend, I was able to break away from a family gathering with a few friends and drove to Big Sur on the California coast.  We hiked along McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to McWay Falls in hot pursuit of any early whale migration sightings.  We planted ourselves near the cliff overlooking the cool, blue water while sipping warm coffee and waited.  Though I never did get my chance to see the gray whales that morning, I was excited to pick up fresh eucalyptus leaves on our way back.

Here are a few places that have great whale sightings.  Feel free to send me some of your great sightings, too!

Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach, OR:

You can begin your walk to the whale sighting location by following The Clatsop Loop Trail, which was once a part of the Louis and Clark expedition.

San Juan Islands, 90 miles north of Seattle, WA:

Friday Harbor on San Juan is known for the best sightings of Orca (killer) whales.  You can also spot bald eagles, sea lions, and seals in their natural settings.

Hearst San Simeon State Park in San Luis Obispo, CA:

This is one of the oldest parks in California.  Take the San Simeon Creek trail for the best chance to whale sightings.  The great thing about the park is wheelchair-friendly paths.


Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member MissBliss.


My name: Song Yang

How I earn my keep: I work and play at Travelocity.

Travel ambitions: At the moment, I'm dreaming of whale-watching in New Zealand; hiking the mountains of the Douro Valley in Portugal and motorcycling through rice paddies in Laos.

Best meal I've ever had while traveling: An incredible discovery of pulled-pork tacos in La Paz. The surprisingly delectable treat came from a makeshift taco stand at 1 a.m. Splashing lime juice onto our greasy tacos with fresh pico de gallo, we ate amongst the locals to the sound of blaring mariachi music under Christmas lights. It was fabulous!

Great travel lesson learned: Giving money back to the community by supporting local businesses whenever possible.

Favorite place on Earth: My home: New York City. Can it be possible for another city to be as vibrant as New York? If so, email me.



This is great info! I’ve never been whale-watching, and I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go. My family went (without me) off Cape Cod last summer and absolutely loved it.


I have never seen a real whale before as I am not an an avid whale watcher. Whenever I am on a trip, there are guided tours to see this amazing creature and as usual, I did not book it.

I have seen them on TV, it certainly excites me a little on its activities.

Seems like the West Coast is a good place to catch a glimpse of this creature and if I have the opportunity, I will just lay back on one of these beaches to see if I can spot one while enjoying the sun and reading my book.

Well, if I miss the whales, i can also pick some fresh eucalyptus leaves home just like you.

Rhiannon - Travel Oregon

Very timely piece, as it’s currently Spring Whale Watch Week here in Oregon! There are volunteers posted at 26 sites along the Oregon Coast that can answer questions and maybe even help spot a whale!


I wonder that umpback and gray whales make their annual 12,000-mile journey from cold Alaska waters to breed in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean further south.


Thats great! I have too never seen real whale just in movies ,now i too really am excited to watch it

Domain services

Whales whales whales!! i really love to see them, it gives me extreme joy each time i go with my wife and kids to watch them, I am sure you love them.

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