Go Whale Watching
Welcome to Puget Sound which is the heartbeat of our region. An entire delicate ecosystem exists out in the Sound, and below in the water, you’ll find amazing creatures large and small, with the largest being the region’s whales and dolphins. Most visitors will consider it lucky to spot a single whale while here, but those with a keen eye to the water may see multiple whales. There are seven species of whales and dolphins that frequent the Puget Sound and the Salish Sea: orcas, transient orcas, gray whales, humpback whales, minkes, fin whales, pacific white-sided dolphins, and pseudorcas. Minke, humpback, and orcas are commonly seen between May and October, while gray whales are common in March and April as they head north for the summer.
The best way to monitor whales' activity is to follow the Orca Network across their social media platforms and their website. On its Facebook page, Twitter feed, and whale sighting page, you’ll be able to see the latest whale activity in the region, including where people spotted the whales, this will enable you to quickly get out to see a nearby whale for yourself from the nearest beach. The network offers whale watching events and great information on everything you hope to know about our region’s orca population.
Once you have confirmed that whales are in the area, head to a local beach and water access points to catch a glimpse of them. Washington State has 46 sites that are designated whale watching areas, called the Whale Trail. Each spot is beautiful in its own right, giving you a glimpse of Washington’s marine life nearly every day of the year. When heading to the beach or an overlook to scour the seas for whales, make sure you pack a pair of binoculars and have some patience. The most popular place to go to spot whales is Edmonds, Shoreline, and Alki Beach, where you’ll have great beach access and miles of water to view. Golden Gardens and Discovery Park are two more great locations to see whales when you are in here area.
Whale Watching Boat Tours are the most popular and easiest way to see whales and orcas. From Bellevue, you have a few options for whale-watching tours, and most offer half-day and full-day options. One of the local favorites is the Puget Sound Express, which has been operating for 34 years. The company guarantees that you will see a whale on your tour, and if you don’t, it comps another trip. San Juan Safaris offers packages and experiences to view orcas, seals, sea lions, eagles, and more
Another option from Bellevue is the San Juan Clipper. Leaving Seattle and heading to the San Juan Islands, the mecca of whale watching in the Pacific Northwest, this whale-watching tour also guarantees whale sightings and even gives you enough time to explore the town of Friday Harbor and the Whale Museum.
Kenmore Air’s Scenic Flight and Whale Watching Boat Tour is the ultimate whale-watching trip out of Bellevue. From March through October, the full day package includes a 45-minute flight on a seaplane, leaving from Lake Washington and heading to Friday Harbor, where San Juan Safaris will give you a three-hour, naturalist-led cruise with what the company says is a 90 percent chance of seeing whales. After the tour, hop back on the seaplane and return to Bellevue. Few trips that show off the beauty of the Pacific Northwest on a sunny day as well this one, with views of the region, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains, and even Mount Baker.
Washington is truly blessed with natural beauty that is pretty easy to access—like the nearby San Juan Islands. The San Juan Islands offer another great way to see whales in the Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. You can easily take a day trip with a car or select a car ferry, you’ll have the opportunity to see numerous whale-watching areas and tours, either by tour boat, car, ferry, or kayak tour. If you prefer to go self-guided, one of the best whale-watching spots in the world is Lime Kiln Point State Park or Fort Ebey State Park these destinations is on the western side of San Juan Island and gives you unrivaled views in the whale-friendly waters of the Salish Sea.