Yes! Whale watching can be an exciting adventure on the water in Puget Sound. It's a great thing to do for making memories taking beautiful photos of seabirds, dolphins, and various types of whales. Imagine breathing in the fresh smell of the ocean while scanning the horizon for a whale spout.
Yes! It's one of the best! Seattle is a great place for whale watching and offers a unique opportunity to see several species of whales and other marine wildlife in their natural habitat. Visitors to the city can enjoy whale-watching tours throughout the year, with the best times for viewing depending on the specific species of whales one hopes to see.
Every year whale watching is one of the most popular things to do for both locals and tourists. Migrating whales can be seen year-round, along with resident Orcas. The peak whale-watching months are between late Spring and early Fall.
The best time for whale watching in Seattle is in the Summer between May and October. Here's a breakdown of best times to see each type of whale you can encounter in the Puget Sound.
BIGG’S ORCAS (AKA TRANSIENTS)
Bigg's orcas can be seen in the Puget Sound area throughout the year. However, the best time to see them is during the summer months (June to September) when they are more active and hunting for prey.
Humpback whales can be seen in the Puget Sound area from May to October during their annual migration from their breeding grounds in Hawaii to their feeding grounds in Alaska. The peak season for humpback sightings is usually in August and September.
Gray whales can be seen in the Puget Sound area during their annual migration from mid-February to mid-May. The best time to see them is in March and April when they are passing through the area on their way to Alaska.
Minke whales can be seen in the Puget Sound area from May to October during their migration from their winter feeding grounds in the south to their summer feeding grounds in the north. The best time to see them is usually in August and September.
The waters of Puget Sound are home to a diverse array of marine life, including several species of whales. You can see both resident and transient Orcas, sometimes known as killer whales, in addition to Humpback Whales, Gray Whales, and Minke Whales. You can also see other kinds of wildlife, including various seabirds, seals, otters, and more!
Here's more information about each type of what you can encounter in the Puget Sound:
Transient Orcas, also known as Bigg's Orcas, are mammal-eating apex predators that hunt for harbor seals, sea lions, and even dolphins and small whales. These orcas travel in small groups of 2 to 6 and can be spotted in the waters of Puget Sound from Southern California to the Arctic Circle. Catching a glimpse of these orcas after a successful hunting foray is a truly unforgettable experience.
Resident Orcas are a beloved fixture of the Puget Sound, and there are three pods - J, K, and L pods - that live in the area year-round. These orcas are also known as Southern Resident killer whales and are a unique population that is genetically distinct from other orcas. They are also endangered, with only around 70 individuals left in the wild.
If you're hoping to catch a glimpse of the resident orcas, the best time to go whale watching is during the summer months, from May to September, when the salmon runs are at their peak. There are several tour operators in the area that specialize in whale watching and offer a chance to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Keep in mind that because the resident orcas are endangered, it's important to observe them from a safe distance and to minimize any disturbance to their habitat.
Humpback Whales are baleen whales with a distinctive body shape, featuring long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. Adults can grow up to 52 feet in length and weigh nearly 40 tons. They are known for their breaching and other surface behaviors. After being hunted nearly to extinction, humpback whales have rebounded in numbers, and we are lucky to have them back in our waters.
Gray Whales are baleen whales with a dark slate-gray color and are frequently covered in scars from parasites. Adults can grow up to 49 feet in length and weigh up to 40 tons. Every spring, they migrate from southern waters near Baja north to Alaska, and a small group nicknamed "Sounders" sometimes turns into Washington's inland waters during their migration.
Minke Whales are among the smallest baleen whales and are widely distributed throughout the North Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They can range from 23 to 33 feet in length and weigh up to 10 tons. They migrate seasonally from polar feeding grounds to equatorial waters, where they breed and calve. These elusive creatures feed on small schooling fish, crustaceans, and plankton.