Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast

People in Oregon are really lucky because they can go whale watching on the Oregon Coast for free. With the headlands along the Oregon Coast you can get up high enough over the water to look down on the whales as they swim past the coastline. No need to go out in a boat.

Grey Whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia in December and January to their mating and breeding grounds in Baja, Mexico.

The males come back past the Oregon Coast in March and early April. The females come back April, May, and June. The best time to go whale watching is in the spring and early summer. The mothers are bringing their calves north and they travel closer to shore to keep the babies away from great white sharks and killer whales.


There are two weeks out of the year that are designated "Whale Watch Week" on the Oregon Coast. As you drive up or down the coast you see groups of people on the road side with signs saying, "Whale watching spoken here." These are volunteers who there to help you spot the whales and give you all kinds of facts and information about whales. The first week is held between Christmas and New Year's Day and the second week is in March around the school spring break time.


Now these are not the only times you can see the whales and it just might be possible that these two weeks are not the best times. The weeks are designated when they are because these are times when there are a lot of people on the coast.

It isn't exactly easy to see the whales. They are under the water most of the time. They come up and take a breath and you will see what looks like a puff of white smoke above the water. Then they go right back under the water. Sometimes they will propel themselves completely out of the water and then land with a big splash. Other times they may raise their tail fins high up in the air. I love it when they do this. It is just so thrilling to see it.

During migration there are whales out there all the time--day, night, and in stormy weather. They travel about five miles an hour. Most of them are grey whales but some are sperm whales and humpbacks.

You need a good pair of binoculars and warm clothing. You will be standing out on the headlands and the wind can get to feeling really cold after a while. Take a lawn chair and something hot to drink.

Where to Go to Whale Watch

So now you need to know where to go to see these beautiful, exciting creatures. Here is a tip: Depot Bay has its own pod of whales that stay there March through December most years.

I am going to start off with my favorite place and move south.

  • Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach
  • Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout (Highway 101)
  • Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
  • Cape Lookout State Park--over a two mile hike
  • Inn at Spanish Head  --go up to the lobby on the 10th floor
  • Depoe Bay Sea Wall--Depoe Bay Whale Center (pictured above)
  • Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
  • Cape Foulweather
  • Devil's Punchbowl State Natural Area
  • Yaquina Head Lighthouse
  • Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site
  • Seal Rock State Recreation Site
  • Yachats State Park
  • Devil's Churn Viewpoint
  • Cape Perpetua Overlook
  • Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center
  • Cook's Chasm Turnout
  • Sea Lion Caves Turnout--south of tunnel
  • Umqua Lighthouse
  • Shore Acres State Park
  • Face Rock Wayside State Scenic Viewpoint
  • Cape Blanco Lighthouse
  • Battle Rock Wayfinding Point, Port Orford
  • Cape Sebastian
  • Cape Ferrelo
  • Harris Beach State Park, Brookings

Go On a Whale Watching Tour

If you would like to go out in a boat to see the whales, there are several touring companies. Just understand that there is no guarantee you will see any whales. It is illegal for the captains to, in any way, chase the whales. The whales can come close to the boat if they want to take a look but they might not.

Marine Discover Tours
800-903-BOAT (toll free)

Tradewinds Charters
Depoe Bay

Carrie Newell, a gray whale researcher and marine biologist, will take you on a whale-watching excursion of a lifetime. Plus you get free admission to the Whale, Sea Life & Shark Museum in Depoe Bay.  You are taken out to sea in a super safe ex-coast guard vessel to see the whales. You need to dress warmly but extra coats, hats, gloves, and rain gear are provided. Get a discount on tickets here which are good for trips through the end of June, 2015 for reservations made before May 31, 2015.

Whale Museum
234 SE Hwy 101
Depoe Bay, OR 97341

See What a Whale Watching Tour is Like

A Day at the Breach - First Encounters with Gray Whales from Erik Urdahl on Vimeo.

Whale Watching