Oregon’s whale-watching season peaks twice a year: during winter (mid-December–mid-January) and spring (late February–May), when as many as 20,000 gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to the shallow lagoons of Baja California, Mexico.
To celebrate this migration (and teach folks more about whales and the ocean), Oregon Parks and Recreation hosts biannual Whale Watching Weeks, stationing volunteers at roughly 20 sites along the coast during peak migration times. Trained volunteers answer visitor questions and provide information that can enhance your whale-watching experience. Visit Oregon State Parks’ whale-watching website for more information and dates. (You can also watch recorded live streams from previous Whale Watching Weeks on Oregon State Parks’ YouTube channel.)
Questions About Whale Watching and Whale Watching Week
How do you spot a whale?
When can you see whales in Oregon?
What’s the best place for whale watching on the Oregon coast?
The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is a popular whale-spotting destination due to its prime location, large viewing deck and helpful staff. Binoculars are available, and there are informative displays for visitors.
How far is Depoe Bay from Portland?
What are some commonly seen whales in Oregon?
Where to See Whales on the Oregon Coast
The prime whale-spotting locations in Oregon are along the central coast, but whales can pop up almost anywhere. Below is a list of the top places in Oregon to see whales throughout the year, listed from north to south.
Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint
Head 13 miles (20.9 km) south of Cannon Beach on Highway 101 to find the turnoff for this coastal peak between mile markers 41 and 42 (just north of Manzanita). Besides being known as a good place to spot whales, Neahkahnie Mountain is also known for its remarkable views and legends of long-buried Spanish treasures.
Cape Meares Lighthouse
Pinpoint blowholes from 200 feet (61 m) above the ocean at Cape Meares Lighthouse, erected in 1889. Admire Oregon’s largest Sitka spruce at the entrance to the park before enjoying a brisk walk to the lighthouse. If the whales don’t appear, you may still see other marine life, and the area offers conciliatory wildlife spotting. Check out the largest colony of nesting common murres (a penguin-like bird), as well as sea lions and seals. Since you’re in Tillamook, hit the famous Tillamook Creamery and embark on a self-guided tour, complete with tasty samples.
Located just north of Pacific City, Cape Kiwanda is a sandstone headland that juts into the powerful Pacific. The path to the top is steep but worth the view. Not interested in cardio? Try Boiler Bay, Cape Perpetua or Depoe Bay instead.
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint offers sweeping panoramic views just off Highway 101. Post up at a picnic table (or, if the weather cooperates, spread a blanket on the grass) and break out the binoculars — you’ll enjoy aerial views of the whole bay, making it an ideal place to spy gray whales year-round. Ocean-going birds like albatrosses, oystercatchers and loons can be seen year-round too.
Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center
If you’re up for a slightly longer trip, consider the 100-mile (161-km) drive to the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, Ore. The knowledgeable staff provides tips, insights and plenty of binoculars. There’s even a heated indoor viewing area along the seawall to keep cold and stormy weather at bay.
Humpback, orca and blue whales have also been observed here, so prepare to nerd out on all things marine mammal. When you’re done, enjoy a hot buttered rum alongside a bowl of velvety clam chowder at Gracie’s Sea Hag.
Depoe Bay Whale Watching Charters
Depoe Bay may be the world’s smallest navigable harbor, but it’s home to no fewer than four whale-watching charters. Whale Research EcoExcursions is run by marine biologist and gray whale researcher Carrie Newell — visit their Facebook page for a list of recent marine animal sightings. Dockside Charters posts semi-weekly whale-watching updates throughout the season. Other Depoe Bay-based charter boat operators include Tradewinds and Whale’s Tail Charters.
On a clear day, you can see 30+ miles (48+ km) out to sea from the Cape Perpetua headland. At 800 feet (243.8 m) of elevation, the overlook is the highest point you can drive to on the Oregon Coast. When you’re done whale spotting, visit the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center to discover more things to do while you’re in the Siuslaw National Forest. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the charming coastal town of Yachats — located just 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Cape Perpetua — is a great place to grab a bite or explore local shops.
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