Where to say "Thar she blows"
With nearly 30 marine mammal species on and near the Olympic Peninsula shores, the region is ripe when it comes to water wildlife. While there’s no big secret to spotting whales (no, you don’t have to whistle), there are a few key locations where pods often swim.
The Olympic Peninsula has 15 viewing spots along the Pacific Ocean, northern Olympic Peninsula coast (including ferry routes between Port Angeles and Victoria, B.C.) and Hood Canal. They’re all official stops along the Whale Trail, a series of West Coast sites from British Columbia to northern California where the public can get a gander at whales, sea lions, seals and other marine mammals. Each site features an interpretive sign and Whale Trail marker.
Bring your binoculars and set your sites on frolicking pods and spouting blow holes. There’s also a lot of action close to shore. Whale sightings aren’t guaranteed, of course, but these spots are designated for a reason. There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to see some action during the migration in the spring and fall. Whale watching excursions leave Port Angeles and Port Townsend and often visit pods of resident orca.
Pick your spots or travel the entire Olympic Peninsula trail.
Here are some of our favorite viewing places:
Destruction Island Viewpoint This point is about a mile south of Ruby Beach, between Ruby Beach and Kalaloch. The area is part of the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge and the Washington Mariton National Wildlife Refuge. This is also a great place for bird watching, especially during migration time, as seabirds population may exceed one million!
La Push The Whale Trail site is at the northern end of First Beach where gray whales and orca are commonly seen. April and May are good times to see the migration. Also, it’s a good time to go surfing at First Beach.
Port Townsend Marine Science Center See and hear the whales at the Science Center. It’s part of the Salish Sea Hydrophone Network,with a listening device stationed on the pier to hear underwater sounds.
Salt Creek Recreation Area From several points along the bluffs in the park, are clear views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This is an important passageway linking the open waters of the Pacific Ocean to the inland waters of the Salish Sea. Sightings of orcas, minkes or even humpback whales; Dall’s porpoise, harbor porpoise; or sometimes Pacific White-sided dolphins, may be seen.
Shi Shi Beach This wild, rugged and more remote stop on the Whale Trail is stunning with sea stacks, marine life in tide pools, and lots of wildlife. An overnight on the beach would be worthwhile. Permits required for Olympic National Park and Makah Recreation Pass.