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 between 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 more than 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 webpage for more information and dates.
Early summer through mid-autumn is also a good time for whale watching in Oregon. The resident population of 200+ gray whales cruise the coast from June to mid-November.
Know Before You Go
Springtime Whale Watching Week was canceled in 2021, but you can watch recorded livestreams from previous Whale Watching Weeks on Oregon State Parks’ YouTube channel.
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
Thirteen miles (20.9 km) south of Cannon Beach on Highway 101 you’ll 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 remarkable views and legends of long-buried Spanish treasure.
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, 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 Cheese Factory and embark on a self-guided tour, complete with tasty samples.
Located just north of Pacific City Ore., Cape Kiwanda is a sandstone headland that juts into the powerful Pacific. The path to the top is steep, but worth it for the view. Not interested in cardio? Try Cape Perpetua or Depoe Bay instead.
Questions About Whale Watching
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?
Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center
Know Before You Go
The Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center is currently closed due to budget and staff limitations related to COVID-19. The viewing deck is open. Visit the Whale Watching Center webpage for the most up-to-date information.
If you’re up for a slightly longer trip, consider the 100-mile (160 km) drive to the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, Ore. The knowledgeable staff provide 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, Ore., may be the world’s smallest navigable harbor, but it’s home to no fewer than four whale watching charters. Whale Research Eco Excursions is run by marine biologist and grey 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 (244 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 Visitors Center to discover more things to do while you’re in the Siuslaw National Forest.
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