Quick Look at Whale Watching on Vancouver Island:
What types of whales can be seen around Vancouver Island?
There are three main types of whales that are commonly seen around Vancouver Island: minke, grey, orca (both resident and transient) and occasionally humpback and blue whales.
Where are the best whale watching spots on Vancouver Island?
There are many spots all around Vancouver Island that are incredible for whale watching. These include the southern tip of Vancouver Island near Victoria, around the Saanich Peninsula and farther north on the east coast of the Island. While there have been sightings of whales on the west coast of Vancouver Island, those shores are remote and hard to navigate and there are fewer tour options.
How much does a whale watching tour cost on Vancouver Island?
The cost for a whale watching tour can vary widely depending on the vessel, time out on the water, and time of year but typically runs between $80 – $150 CAD. For more accurate pricing, decide what type of adventure you want to go on and check out the website for more details!
What other marine wildlife can be spotted during whale watching tours on Vancouver Island?
Other than whales, you might be able to also see sea lions, seals, porpoises, dolphins, otters, bald eagles, seabirds, and occasionally even sharks! The diverse ecosystem of Vancouver Island makes wildlife tours such an exciting experience.
How long do whale watching tours usually last on Vancouver Island?
While whale watching tours typically last a few hours (2 – 4) there are companies that offer half day, sunset or sunrise tours as well! Check the company website for more information, options, pricing and booking.
What should I bring with me on a whale watching tour on Vancouver Island?
- Layered Clothing: Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. Include a waterproof or windproof outer layer.
- Warm Accessories: Bring a hat, gloves, and a scarf to stay warm in cooler temperatures.
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen: Protect your eyes and skin from the sun’s glare and UV rays.
- Camera and Binoculars: Capture memories and get a closer view of the wildlife.
- Closed-Toe Shoes: Wear comfortable, sturdy footwear with good grip.
- Motion Sickness Remedies: If you’re prone to motion sickness, consider bringing remedies like ginger candies or over-the-counter medications.
- Water and Snacks: Stay hydrated and have some snacks on hand.
- Identification and Payment: Carry identification, tickets, and payment methods.
- Rain Gear: A waterproof jacket and pants can keep you dry if it rains or if there’s splashing.
- Small Backpack or Bag: Use it to carry your belongings and keep them organized.
- Resealable Plastic Bags: Protect electronics and other items from water.
What is the success rate of spotting whales on tours around Vancouver Island?
The success rate of spotting whales during tours around Vancouver Island can vary due to factors like weather conditions, wildlife movement, and the expertise of guides. However, the reputable tour operators we recommend in prime whale-watching areas aim for a success rate of around 85% to 95%.
Are there any eco-friendly or responsible whale watching options on Vancouver Island?
All of our recommended operators operate eco-friendly whale watching tours and ensure that they both provide incredible experiences but also teach guests about the importance of protecting the diversity of the area.
Do I need to make reservations in advance for whale watching tours on Vancouver Island?
Reservations are always recommended for all whale watching tours on Vancouver Island. If you’re in Downtown Victoria, you can walk by one of the many tour operators in the Inner Harbour to enquire about last minute tours but generally, we recommend booking in advance.
Are there any specific locations or viewpoints for land-based whale watching on Vancouver Island?
Clover Point Park (Victoria): This park in Victoria offers scenic views of the coastline and the possibility of spotting whales, especially during migration seasons.
Beacon Hill Park (Victoria): While not guaranteed, visitors have reported spotting whales from the shores of Beacon Hill Park.
Sidney Spit Marine Park (Sidney): Take a short ferry ride to this park in Sidney and explore its sandy beaches while keeping an eye out for passing whales.
Harewood Plains Overlook (Nanaimo): This overlook in Nanaimo provides panoramic views of the ocean and might offer glimpses of passing whales.
Goldstream Provincial Park (Langford): While known for its salmon run, this park near Victoria could also provide a chance to spot whales from its coastal trails.
East Sooke Regional Park (Sooke): Explore the coastline of this park and enjoy the scenic views, which could include whale sightings.
Shirley and Jordan River (near Sooke): These spots along the southwest coast are known for their scenic beauty and the chance to see gray whales from the shore.
Lighthouse at Cape Scott: Located in Cape Scott Provincial Park, this lighthouse offers a chance to see gray whales during their migration.
Point Holmes Beach (Comox Valley): Situated near Comox, this beach is known for spotting orcas, minke whales, and humpback whales during their migration.
Tofino and Ucluelet: These popular coastal towns offer elevated viewpoints along their shorelines for whale watching, with gray whales being a common sight.
More About Whale Watching on Vancouver Island
Whether you’re heading to Vancouver Island, British Columbia for work or for a holiday, you’re going to want to make sure that your plans include spending time exploring the incredible nature on this beautiful Island. While there are endless hiking, cycling and kayaking adventures you can choose from, one of the best things to do while you’re visiting is booking a whale watching tour! Vancouver Island is one of the best whale watching destinations in the world because of the vast diversity of species that can be found! Even though whale watching trips run year ‘round, if you’re hoping to see some of the beautiful resident and migrating whales that pass through our oceans, the best time to hit the water is from April to October–especially the summer months.
While you’re staying in Sooke, or Metchosin, if you’re looking for a whale watching tour nearby, you’re in luck because there are two incredible, locally run whale watching companies just a short drive away!
This Canadian, family owned and operated venture is dedicated to making sure that each of their guests have an unforgettable experience looking for marine mammals in the waters of south Vancouver Island while ensuring that their practices are focused on environmental consciousness and conservation. With incredible ratings over multiple platforms and a highly trained, professional team, you’re not going to be disappointed booking a wildlife tour with this incredible business.
When two Vancouver Island nature photographers, Sarah and Mike and their furry companion, Bentley began HIP, there was no way of knowing that their passion would grow into a booming eco-tourism business. You won’t find any fast moving vessels or large-area tours with this company–these guys want to provide an alternative way to experience the waters around Sooke, where you can get up close and personal with the animals that call it home and the ones just passing through. With HIP, you can choose from four distinct packages; the Ocean Wildlife package for those wanting to see as much of our local marine life as possible, the Golden Hour Package, a perfect tour for those aspiring and professional photographers to get some incredible shots in the perfect light, plus two private charter services.
If you’re staying right downtown Victoria, you’re no more than a few minutes walk away from an incredible whale watching adventure!
Founders Dan and Joanne Kukat have worked tirelessly for thirty years to provide their guests with exceptional experiences in the waters around Victoria, Canada. Here, you can find world-class tours where you’ll get to see and learn about all the southern resident and transient orca pods as well as seabirds, sea lions and other Pacific Ocean animals!
If you are looking for some impressive horsepower and are eager to get out as far as you can during your tour, you’ll want to book with BC Whale Tours. Their state-of-the-art, custom designed and locally built vessels not only lead the industry in sustainability, safety and innovation but are some of the fastest vessels on the Island so each and every tour covers an enormous area. If you want to capitalize on seeing as much of Vancouver Island’s marine wildlife as possible, this company is a great option.
With more than two thousand reviews on Tripadvisor, fourteen straight years in the number one spot for eco tourism companies on Vancouver Island, a dedicated 1% for the Planet company and a leader in the industry for being 100% carbon neutral, Eagle Wing Tours continues to take the eco tourism sector on Vancouver Island by storm. This company takes pride in providing every single guest with the best experience possible and guests will have the opportunity to see breaching whales, harbour seals and friendly sea otters! Plus, they will extend the tour time to ensure that each one is successful – plus booking with these guys and supporting their initiatives feels great!
Just north of Victoria is the beautiful little town of Sidney – home to incredible cafés, restaurants, funky boutiques and a gorgeous seaside walking path. What you may not know about Sidney is that just off the coast, the waters that run between Sidney and the gulf Islands all the way to the mainland are the rich feeding grounds of resident orcas, making it an ideal place to see these magnificent animals. If you’re staying near Sidney and you want to get out on the water for an amazing experience, you don’t have to go far!
Moored right in the Sidney Harbour with offices nearby in the Sidney Cannery building, this incredibly professional and experienced team are the perfect people to show you the rich diversity of the waters off the coast of Sidney. With two decades of experience and exceptional customer service, this local gem is a must for adventure seekers and nature lovers.
There are lots of amazing things to do while you’re staying in the Cowichan Valley in the spring – wine tours, hiking, cycling, shopping and dining but if you’re looking for a different experience, a local whale watching tour is a great option!
If you’re staying in the Cowichan Valley, you are probably already familiar with the unique, houseboat community of Cowichan Bay. This quirky, friendly, community is where you’ll also find Ocean Ecoventures, the passion project of owner and captain Simon Pidcock. Simon grew up on the ocean and has turned his passion into a rewarding profession, taking guests to find orcas, minke whales and grey whales in the waters around Vancouver Island, meet some wildlife and learn about this incredible area.
There are lots of reasons to visit the Harbour City. The shopping and dining is incredible and the booming craft beer scene and endless nature adventures will keep you busy from the moment you arrive. Whether you’re staying right in Nanaimo or in nearby Parksville, if you want to get out on the water for some whale watching, you don’t have far to go!
With a fleet that has both open zodiac-style and semi-covered boats that have daily departures from Nanaimo, Vancouver Island Whale Watch is a great way to explore the waters and animals of the Salish Sea. Their incredible tour guides will deftly navigate through the Salish Sea ecosystems to get you up close to orcas, humpback whales, porpoises, seals, bald eagles and so much more. During the tours, the guides will be able to tell you about the whales, identify different pods and educate on the importance of conservation to ensure that these magnificent animals will have a home in these waters for years to come. It’s truly an unforgettable experience.
While you’re in the Comox Valley enjoying the peaceful charm of the area, you may think that you have to travel far afield to find a whale watching tour – but you’re in luck! There is an incredible, Indigenous owned company that will provide you with an unforgettable, authentic west coast ocean experience.
Owner, Daniel Billy, an elder from the We-Wai-Kai First Nation and Captain Gary Henkel makes sure that each guest has an incredible time as he navigates through the rich ecosystems of the Salish Sea within the traditional territory of the Laichwiltach and Coast Salish peoples. As you explore the surrounding waters in the 27 ft speed boat, you can be sure that you’re in the very best hands. Captain Gary will show you where resident orcas feed, where humpbacks migrate on their way north and where Pacific white-sided dolphins play.