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Top 5 Places to Spot Whales in BC

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Top 5 Places to Spot Whales in BC 5

Looking for a great way to connect with BC’s wild? Our coastal waters are a rich marine environment, home to orcas, humpbacks, grey whales and minkes, as well as dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters and more. Whale-watching tour operators know the best places to look, and they make sure interactions are enjoyable and informative, as well as safe for both humans and mammals.

Tours leave from many locations along the coast, including several spots on Vancouver Island, and with the help of our Facebook fans we’ve determined the top five places to start.

1. Victoria/Sooke

A breaching Orca Whale.

Breaching Orca near Sooke. Photo: @sookewhale via Instagram

When to go: Peak season is May through October

What to expect: Right from Victoria’s scenic Inner Harbour, board a comfortable cruiser complete with washrooms and on-board snacks. Or the more adventurous can don a floatation suit and opt for a rougher ride on a high-speed zodiac to be closer to the water. Vessels generally head to the Gulf Islands, and Washington State’s San Juan islands. An hour northwest, in Sooke, zodiac tours seek out marine life in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

2. Vancouver/Richmond

Two boats on a whale watching expedition.

Whale-watching tour from Vancouver. Photo: @TravelAtWill via Twitter

When to go: Peak season is June through September

What to expect: Tours leave from several locations around the city, including Coal Harbour near Stanley Park, Granville Island, and Steveston Village in the city of Richmond, south of Vancouver. These operators work together, along with companies based in Victoria, to locate whales near the southern Gulf and San Juan islands. Their success rate finding whales, usually orcas and humpbacks, is typically around 90 per cent.

3. Tofino/Ucluelet

A breaching humpback whale.

Breaching grey whale near Tofino. Photo: @marcie.callewaert via Instagram

When to go: March through October

What to expect: Explore the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound from Tofino, or Barkley Sound from Ucluelet. This stunning coastline is home to thick rainforest and soft, sandy beaches that stretch for miles. The most commonly spotted whale in this area is the grey whale, but occasional humpbacks and Orcas make an appearance, too. The area is also popular for bear watching. Vehicle access to Tofino/Ucluelet from Vancouver includes a crossing with BC Ferries, or arrive more quickly on a seaplane.

4. Telegraph Cove

An Orca pod swim through deep blue waters.

Orca pod in Johnstone Strait. Photo: © John E. Marriott/All Canada Photos

When to go: Mid-June through October

What to expect: Located along Vancouver Island’s northeast coast, Telegraph Cove is one of the best places in the world to see orcas. The protected waters of Johnstone Strait and the Broughton Archipelago are home to around 200 whales each summer. Most of these are orcas, but humpback whales can also be seen here. One of the most memorable ways to encounter these gentle giants is on a kayaking tour. While you’re in the area, visit Telegraph Cove’s Whale Interpretive Centre to see its impressive collection of marine mammal skeletons.

5. Prince Rupert

A baby humpback breaching.

Baby humpback frolicking near Prince Rupert. Photo: @rockgod via Instagram

When to go: Peak season is mid-July through October

What to expect: This remote section of BC’s north coast is home to some spectacular wildlife. Giant kelp beds attract feeding grey whales, migrating salmon attract orcas, and humpbacks are frequently seen on the surface as they dive and feed. Another popular tour out of Prince Rupert is to the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary north of the city. Access Prince Rupert via BC Ferries from Port Hardy on the north coast of Vancouver Island, or fly in. The drive from Vancouver is a long 16+ hours.