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5 most likely places to see a whale in B.C.
Don’t let seeing these creatures become your white whale
October 3, 2016
Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and experience the natural, autumnal beauty of British Columbia—before the rainy months return. It’s also the ideal season for whale watching. If you’re lucky, you’ve experienced the thrill of spotting a whale or porpoise while riding the ferry to Vancouver Island. There are many more whales to be spotted, however! B.C.’s coastal waters are a rich marine environment, home to the city’s most famous whales—Orcas—as well as humpbacks, minkes, and grey whales.
From family-friendly trips to romantic weekend getaways to epic northern adventures, here are the five best places to seek out B.C.’s gentle aquatic giants.
Vancouver & Richmond
If you’re looking for an adventure without straying far from home, there are plenty of whale watching tours available right out of Vancouver and Richmond. Their success rates for finding local Orcas and humpback whales is around 90 percent. Why so high? Tour operators in this region work together, communicating with other guides, fishermen and ferries in the region, to share sightings with each other, meaning your tour guide will take you where the whales are—rather than waiting and hoping. What’s more, the easiest and safest way to explore the B.C. coast and spot whales is from guided tours.
When to go: June to October
Tofino & Ucluelet
The west side of Vancouver Island is famous for its surfing (and its Prime Ministerial wedding photobombs), but it’s also home to some of B.C.’s most spectacular scenery. From thick rainforests to soft, sandy beaches, Tofino and Ucluelet are beautiful weekend getaways for urban Vancouverites. Explore the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound from Tofino or Barkley Sound from Ucluelet and watch barnacle-speckled grey whales migrating south for the winter. Keep an eye on the shoreline, too—you may just spot some furry friends.
When to go: March to October
Victoria & Sooke
If you’re an Island native or are making a weekend trip to the province’s capital, board a comfortable cruiser boat in Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour, right across from the Empress Hotel. These enclosed boats are complete with on-board washrooms and snacks, making them a comfortable way to sight-see in all kinds of weather. If you’re up for a wilder ride, don a floatation suit and take a tour on a high-speed zodiac, bringing you closer than ever to the whales. Victoria tours generally head towards the beautiful Gulf Islands and down towards Washington State’s San Juan Islands for optimal viewing spots. If you’re leaving from Sooke, expect to visit wildlife in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
When to go: May to October
The postcard-perfect Telegraph Cove, located along the Island’s northwest coast, is one of the best places in the world to see Orcas. These protected waters in the Johnstone Straight and the Broughton Archipelago are home to around 200 whales each summer, including humpbacks. These tours even offer the chance to hear Orcas “singing” to each other via underwater microphones. If you want to get truly up close and personal with these amazing animals, take a guided kayaking tour. Top off your trip with a visit to the Cove’s Whale Interpretive Centre to see its impressive collection of marine mammal skeletons.
When to go: Mid-June to October
This remote area along B.C.’s northern coast is home to spectacular wildlife. Nestled amidst old growth forests, Prince Rupert is accessible via BC Ferries from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island or via plane. The region is a popular destination for whales, too: giant kelp beds attract feeding grey whales, migrating salmon attract Orcas, and humpbacks are frequently seen along the surface waves as they dive and feed. Tours are available through Adventure Tours, or if you’re looking to experience B.C.’s wildlife on land, visit the popular Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary.
When to go: Mid-July to October