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Top Five Places to go Whale-watching in B.C.

Why hope to get lucky on the ferry when you can book a whale-watching tour with the experts from these diverse B.C. communities




Why hope to get lucky on the ferry when you can book a whale-watching tour with the experts from these diverse B.C. communities

Whale on the starboard side!’ Nothing makes the cameras appear faster than someone spotting one of the incredible orcas, humpbacks, grey and minke whales that visit B.C.’s coastal waters to feast on its rich marine life. While you might get lucky spotting whales from the deck of a Vancouver Island–bound ferry, or even when strolling the seawall in English Bay, whale-watching tours are the best way to get respectfully close to these majestic mammals. Here are five of B.C.’s best places to go with in-the-know guides to spot whales.

For weekenders: Victoria & Sooke

Combine a city break with whale-watching and hop on a tour that leaves directly from Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour. Head out on a thrilling high-speed zodiac ride or opt for a more sedate comfortable cruiser (with washrooms and snacks onboard) to take you towards the Gulf Islands and Washington State’s San Juan Islands. Stay in Sooke, an hour northwest of Victoria, to take a whale-watching trip into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where resident and transient orcas can often be seen feeding and playing. 

When to go: May through October

For urbanites: Vancouver & Richmond

Occasionally a lone whale will find its way into False Creek or English Bay, but you don’t have to go very far out to find its friends. Downtown whale-watching tours operate from Granville Island, Coal Harbour and Richmond’s Steveston Village out to the southern Gulf and San Juan islands. Operators work together, alongside the Victoria-based companies, to find the best spots, giving them an orca- and humpback-sighting success rate of around 90%. 

When to go: June through October

For wildlife lovers: Tofino & Ucluelet

Nature lovers can take a trip to Tofino to combine whale- and wildlife-watching along the sandy shorelines of Clayoquot Sound, where the thick rainforest is home to bears and eagles that come out to feed on the beaches. Greys are the most commonly reported whales in this area, but humpbacks and orcas also make an appearance during migration. Barkley Sound is another hotspot for catching sight of the grey whales, and boat trips operate from nearby Ucluelet. 

When to go: March through October

For kayakers: Telegraph Cove

Known around the world as one of the best spots to see orcas, Telegraph Cove is located along Vancouver Island’s northwest coast. It’s home to the Whale Interpretive Centre, where visitors can see an impressive collection of marine mammal skeletons. Humpback whales are also seen in the area, and around 200 whales (mainly orcas) come to feed in the protected waters of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago every summer. Stubbs Island Whale Watching was established in 1980 as the first whale-watching operation in B.C. You can still join them on a trip to see whales, bears, eagles, sea lions and porpoises in Johnstone Strait. First Nations–led tours and kayak trips are other memorable ways to interact with the whales.

When to go: Mid-June through October

For adventurers: Prince Rupert

Remote Prince Rupert on B.C.’s northern coast is a haven for amazing wildlife in the protected Inside Passage. Giant kelp beds attract feeding grey whales, migrating salmon attract orcas, and humpbacks are frequently seen on the surface as they dive and feed. Prince Rupert is also the ideal place to take a trip with Adventure Tours to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary to see another type of impressive mammal. From Vancouver, Prince Rupert is a 16-hour drive north, but BC Ferries runs a route from Port Hardy in the north of Vancouver Island, or flights are available from Vancouver.

When to go: Mid-July through October