Whale Watching at Olympic National Park

Washington whale watching cruises are one way to spot large marine mammals, but there are also many locations where you can watch right from the shore.

Breaching gray whale
Breaching gray whale Photo: Shutterstock

Whale watching cruises are one way to spot large marine mammals, but there are also many locations near and in the national park where you can watch these giant swimmers right from the shore.

The Whale Trail

The Whale Trail is made up of more than 60 sites on the shores of the western coast of North America where you can watch whales, seals and other marine mammals. Select ferries in the Strait of Juan de Fuca are also part of the Whale Trail because the ferry routes are in waters frequented by whales.

The Whale Trail runs from British Columbia to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, down the Oregon coast and into northern California. Many locations have interpretive signs that describe the marine life likely to be viewed there.

See more tips about where and when to see whales at thewhaletrail.org/dive-deeper/whale-trail-viewing-guide/.

Favorite Whale Watching Spots near Olympic National Park

Port Townsend Marine Science Center

From the pier, look east across Admiralty Inlet. You may see resident or transient orcas, gray whales and sometimes humpbacks. From the nearby lighthouse, look north across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The Strait leads directly to the open ocean and is an important passageway for the whales. At the science center on the pier, listen to the underwater hydrophone. You might hear the clicking sounds of orcas.

Port Townsend is also the launching point for whale-watching tours aboard the Puget Sound Express.

Neah Bay and Shi Shi Beach

Here you will frequently spot gray whales year-round right from the beach. Occasionally you will see orcas and humpbacks. Purchase a $10 recreation pass for Shi Shi Beach in Neah Bay.

Rialto Beach and La Push

Frequently catch sight of gray whales and occasionally orcas and humpbacks on these rocky beaches with seastacks and giant drift logs. The Mora campground and town of Forks is nearby.

Destruction Island Viewpoint

See orcas and gray whales at this overlook 1 mile south of Ruby Beach at the former location of an old lighthouse. Look across the water to Destruction Island, part of Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge. It is home to as many as 1 million birds during migration.

Kalaloch and South Beach

Stand on the wide sandy beaches of Kalaloch to watch sea otters playing in the ocean. Occasionally you’ll also see orcas and humpbacks that live in Washington’s waters. Gray whales migrate every April through May past Olympic’s rugged coastline from Baja California to Alaska, so spring is a great time to see them offshore. The month of May is unofficial Whale Watching Month at Kalaloch Lodge with events and activities related to all things whale. In summer, stop at the visitor center to check out the exhibits and get tips from the information desk.

For More Information:
The Whale Trail