Whale watching is one of those things that can make even the stoniest of hearts turn to mush. The ocean air, the foamy waves, and then that face. And that tail. And that bus-sized body. When a whale surfaces and you see it up close, it’s one of the most thrilling things in the world. But unless you know where to look, you might never get to see these elusive creatures in person.
So we’ve put together a surefire list of can’t-miss whale hotspots. Find them on your Newverest map and figure out which ones you want to visit first. Make sure and scratch off any places you’ve already been before deciding where to go next. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out our list of The World’s Best Places For Whale Watching.
Santa Barbara, California, USA
What type of whale are you looking for? Santa Barbara has more than most. From November through April you can spot the mighty gray whale, and in spring and fall, humpback whales start to make their presence known. You’ll also find colossal blue whales—not just the largest whale on Earth, the largest mammal period. The rest of the year brings over 27 types of whales and dolphins, plus other marine life.
Saguenay - St. Lawrence Marine Park, Québec, Canada
The Saguenay – St. Lawrence Marine Park is a Canadian national park that protects a strictly marine environment. It’s huge, beautiful, and the home to both humpback and beluga whales. There are a variety of boats for you to choose from for your whale watching excursion, all piloted by captains who know the best spots for seeing these mammals up close and personal. Here, you’re guaranteed a whale sighting.
Hervey Bay, Australia
Hervey Bay is a great place to catch humpback whales on their way to Antarctica. These waters afford them the opportunity to eat, play, and relax without having to worry about predators. A lot of tour boats here offer 4-hour long whale watching tours on boats that have hydrophones—a cool listening device that actually lets you hear the whales sing.
San Juan Islands, Washington, USA
San Juan is a fun place to visit if whale watching is at the top of your priorities list. Not only are the islands beautiful, but you’ll find Orca whales, also known as killer whales. A fun fact about Orcas? Despite their name, they’re not actually whales, they’re dolphins! The largest of their kind. But you’ll also spot minke, humpback, and gray whales off these shores, so there’s plenty to see.
Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctic Peninsula
You might think the Antarctic waters are too cold for any kind of life, but whales thrive here on a diet rich in krill. You’ll see humpbacks, who like to hang out here for a few months before migrating to other waters, as well as minke and killer whales. Don’t worry, the killer whales are only looking for fish and other sea life to feed on. Stay in the boat, and you’ll be safe.
Kodiak Island, Alaska, USA
In April, Kodiak Island hosts the 10-day long Whale Fest Kodiak. It’s centered around the Eastern Pacific gray whales that return to Alaska during this time. But these magnificent gray whales aren’t all you’ll see. From June through November, you’ll find humpback, sei, minke, and fin whales as well as plenty of sea otters ad other marine life. Have fun exploring these rich Alaskan waters.
Tonga, Polynesia, South Pacific
If you want to do more than just see the whales, Tonga is the place to visit. Here, you can actually swim with humpback whales. It’s an amazing opportunity to get up close to these magnificent creatures. Don’t worry, your trained guides stay with you every step of the way, and guests are kept to a minimum so as not to scare these creatures or get in their way. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
If you want something fun to do during the winter months, check out Virginia Beach. From December through March you can spot both humpback and fin whales surfing through these waters. Take a boat tour and see them up close. Once warmer weather strikes, you’ll also get a peek at bottlenose dolphins, who like dipping their fins into the blue waters of Chesapeake Bay.
Disko Bay, Greenland
Disko Bay is a great place to see whales you can’t spot everywhere else. It’s not just home to humpbacks, there are over 15 types of whale that live in these waters. In addition to the minke, humpback, and fin whales, you’ll also get a look at narwhals, bowheads, and belugas. The water here is cold, so you might not want to dip your toes in. But trust us, the whales love it.
Bar Harbor, Maine, USA
The summer months in Bar Harbor are a prime whale watching opportunity. Despite the hot weather, the Maine water stays cool, and humpbacks love swimming around in it. Watch them hunt for fish and plankton while playing off the Bar Harbor coast. Once October hits, they head for warmer waters, so make sure and catch them while you can.
Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa
Hermanus doesn’t really have a whale-watching season. Here, anytime is a great time to see whales. Boat tours go out daily and last about two hours. Due to South African law, the boats can only get up to 165 feet from the whales before they have to stop. However, if the whales choose to come closer and investigate, which many do, that’s considered their right and you’ll get an up-close view of these mighty mammals.
So what do you think? Is a whale watching trip in your near future? Grab a pen and add it to the top of your bucket list. You can write it directly on your Newverest scratch map or start a brand new bucket list all your own. How many of the places on our list can you find on your Newverest map? Get a push pin and mark the ones you want to visit this year.
And of course, when you get back, make sure and scratch it off your scratch map so you never forget the adventures you had. And definitely let us know what kind of whales you saw! We love hearing whale watching stories.