Whale watching is a popular activity on the Oregon coast, and the state is home to a number of whale species that can be seen from the shore. The waters off the coast of Oregon are rich in marine life, and they provide important habitats and food sources for a variety of whale species.
Just want to know when to go?
The best time to see whales on the Oregon Coast depends on the type of whale but migration related sightings peak from mid-December to mid-January and from early March to late June. Okay, let’s get into some details.
Here are the species you should expect to see and when the best time of the year for each is:
More than 20,000 gray whales pass by Oregon’s shores during their spring and winter migrations.
The most common species of whale that can be seen on the Oregon coast is the gray whale. Gray whales are migratory animals, and they can be seen along the Oregon coast from December through May. During this time, the whales migrate south from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to their breeding grounds in Baja California.
Gray whales can be seen from a number of locations along the Oregon coast, and they are often spotted near the shore. The whales often come close to the shore to feed, and they can be seen from the beach or from a number of overlooks and viewpoints along the coast.
When can I see them?
During the winter months, gray whales can be seen in smaller numbers as they migrate south to warmer waters.
In the spring, gray whales can be seen in good numbers from late March to early June as they head north from their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico towards their feeding grounds in the Alaska.
In the fall, from June to mid-November, they can be seen as they head south towards their breeding grounds. This time of year, head to Depoe Bay where as many as 200 whales come near the shore to feed.
Humpback whales are a type of baleen whale that is found in the waters along the Oregon coast. They are known for their distinctive body shape, which includes a large hump on their back, long pectoral fins, and a small dorsal fin. They are migratory, and they travel to the waters along the Oregon coast to feed on small schooling fish, krill, and other marine animals.
They are known for their elaborate vocalizations and acrobatic displays, which often include breaching, tail slapping, and pectoral fin slapping. Humpback whales can reach lengths of up to 52 feet and can weigh up to 40 tons! Remember, they are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act and you cannot approach them in your boat.
When can I see them?
They are most commonly seen on the Oregon Coast between September and January. This is when they are most active and tend to be closer to shore, which makes them more easily visible from the coast or on whale-watching tours.
Minke is one of the smaller species of baleen whale, reaching lengths of about 25-30 feet and weighing up to 10 tons. They have a distinctive body shape, with a tall, narrow dorsal fin and a pointed snout. They are fast swimmers and are known for their acrobatic displays, which can include breaching and tail slapping.
Minke whales are found in a variety of habitats, including offshore waters, coastal waters, and even rivers and estuaries. Minke whales are not as well-known as some other whale species, and they are often difficult to spot due to their small size and elusive behavior.
When can I see them?
In general, the best time to see minke whales from the Oregon coast is during the summer months, when they are more active and tend to be closer to shore. This is also the time of year when the water is generally clearer and visibility is better, which makes it easier to spot minke whales and other whale species.
Orcas, also known as “killer whales”, are a type of toothed whale that are found in the waters along the Oregon coast. They are the largest species of dolphin and are known for their distinctive black-and-white coloration and tall, triangular dorsal fin. They are highly intelligent and social animals, and they live in complex and close-knit family groups called pods. Orcas are highly adaptable and are found in every ocean on Earth.
In the waters off the Oregon coast, orcas can be seen on whale-watching tours or even from the coast. However, they are not as commonly seen as some other whale species, and sightings are relatively rare. Orcas are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Orcas can be found in the waters off the Oregon coast year-round, but they are more commonly seen at certain times of year. In general, the best time to see orcas from the Oregon coast is during the spring and summer months, when they are more active and tend to be closer to shore. This is also the time of year when the water is generally clearer and visibility is better, which makes it easier to spot orcas and other whale species.
When can I see them?
It’s worth noting that orcas are a highly migratory species and their movements can vary significantly from year to year. Some years, they may be more commonly seen in the waters off the Oregon coast than in other years. The best time to see them is between May and September with upticks in sights in June.
Whale Watching Tours
Whale-watching tours are a great way to see whales up close and to learn more about these fascinating creatures. The tours are typically conducted on boats that are specifically designed for whale watching, and they are led by experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the whales and the local ecosystem.
On a typical whale-watching tour, you will have the opportunity to see a variety of whale species, as well as other marine life, such as sea lions, seals, and seabirds. The tours typically last for several hours, and they offer an up-close and personal look at the whales and the marine environment.
In addition to organized tours, there are also a number of other ways to see whales on the Oregon coast. Many of the state’s lighthouses and scenic overlooks offer excellent vantage points for whale watching, and you can often see whales from these locations without going on a tour.
Where should I go?
There are the many Whale Watching sites. With or without a volunteer to assist, these are the best locations along the coast to spot whales. Here they are from north to south.
- Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Lookout State Park
- Cape Kiwanda
- Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
- The Whale Watching Center and Depoe Bay Sea Wall
- Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Foulweather
- Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area
- Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
- Don Davis City Park
- Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center
- Cook’s Chasm Turnout
- Sea Lion Caves Turnout
- Umpqua Lighthouse, near Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
- Shore Acres State Park
- Face Rock Wayside State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Blanco Lighthouse, near Cape Blanco State Park
- Battle Rock Wayfinding Point, Port Orford
- Cape Sebastian
- Cape Ferrelo
- Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, Oregon
Resources to Plan Your Trip
Whale Watching Tour Companies:
- Whale Research EcoExcursions
- Dockside Charters
- Marine Discovery Tours
- Whale’s Tail Charters
- The Whale Watching Center
- Tradewind Charters
If you can’t make it to the Oregon coast this year you can watch recorded live streams from previous Whale Watching Weeks on Oregon State Parks’ YouTube channel.
You can also download this Whale Watching brochure made by the Oregon State Park.