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A Complete Guide to Whale Viewing in Portland

A Complete Guide to Whale Viewing in Portland 

Whale migration reaches its peak twice a year. Fortunately for us whale-lovers in Portland, this means we get two chances to watch them as they travel to their new habitats! 

Want to learn everything there is to know about whale watching in Portland? Read our guide below! 

What whales can you see around Portland?

What whales can you see around Portland

The whales you can commonly see around Portland are gray whales. There are 20,000 of them swimming in the coast every year! 

There are also the occasional orcas, blue whales, and humpback whales, but their numbers pale compared to the gray whales in the area.

Because of their migration patterns, they can be seen in the area at specific months every year. 

When is the best time to go whale watching around Portland?

When is the best time to go whale watching around Portland

Winter and spring are the peak seasons to watch the whales around Portland. To be exact, you can spot them during mid-December to mid-January and late February to May. 

During Winter, the whales head to Baja Mexico for warmer climates. During Spring, they head to Alaska. 

Note that even though it’s easier to spot whales during peak season, some of them actually stay around Oregon all year. Around 200 of them stay, so it’s possible to see them during the summer and fall. 

Where can you go whale watching around Portland?

You can go whale watching in Portland at Depoe Bay, Ecola State Park, Neahkahnie Mountain, Cape Meares Lighthouse, and Cape Kiwanda. 

Let’s go over each of these quickly to see which one might suit your preferences.

1. Depoe Bay 

Depoe Bay
Image from WikiVoyage

This is one of the most popular spots to watch the whales. In fact, Depoe Bay is considered the whale watching capital of Oregon. 

There’s even a whale watching center where the employees and volunteers can give you tips on how to best spot whales. We highly recommend it if you’re new to this.

Oh, and aside from whale watching, you can also go here to shop for souvenirs and local food items (you have to try the seafood here!), go on a picnic, and do a bit of sightseeing. 

2. Ecola State Park 

Ecola State Park
Image from Tripadvisor 

Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach is also a nice area to spot the whales. Try hiking up to the viewpoint or waiting at the parking area with your binoculars! 

On a side note, this area also has fantastic views, which is one of the things it became famous for. 

3. Neahkahnie Mountain

Neahkahnie Mountain
Image from Tripadvisor

People who love to hike and whale watch go to Neahkahnie Mountain to do both. It’s also a perfect photo spot, especially if you want to get a panoramic view of the ocean. 

Climb a bit to the viewpoint to get a more elevated view for the best whale watching experience. 

4. Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares Lighthouse
Image from Oregon is For Adventure

Cape Meares is famous for the lighthouse and the Sitka spruce shaped like an octopus. There’s also a great view of the ocean, so whale watchers also go here. 

There are a lot of viewpoints in the area where you can even see other marine wildlife like dolphins and sea lions! 

During peak season, there are volunteers around so you can also ask them questions about the whales. 

5. Cape Kiwanda 

Cape Kiwanda
Image from Oregon Beach Vacations

Cape Kiwanda is a great spot to hike and go sightseeing and camping. Aside from that, there are a lot of other activities that you can do here like climbing the dune, trying out nearby food places, and exploring the Cape Kiwanda Natural Scenic Area.

People who go here to watch the whales go to the high viewpoints – especially on top of the dunes!

What are the best whale watching tours in Portland?

While going whale watching on your own is a fun and exciting adventure in itself, you can never go wrong with hopping on tours that take you to the top spots! 

We tried a few tours to see which ones we liked best. At the end, we were able to pick our top three favorites. 

We based our choices on the knowledge of the guides, the spots where they take you, and the cost of the tour. Let’s check out each tour!

1. Whale Watching Tour with EcoTours of Oregon

Whale Watching Tour with EcoTours of Oregon
Image from EcoTours of Oregon
ADDRESS9025 N Allegheny Ave, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-475-0226
PRICE$159 per person

This whale watching tour by EcoTours of Oregon combines sightseeing and learning about the area’s local history. 

This is the perfect tour if you just want to relax and leave it all to your guide. It’s because this tour will provide door-to-door transportation which means they will pick you up from your hotel or residence in Portland. 

They will also drive you back to your place after the tour. 

As soon as they pick you up, they will drive you to Willamette Valley. If you haven’t been there before, Willamette Valley is quite famous for its vineyards. 

While you won’t be able to stop by and taste the wine they have to offer, you’ll see a few of the vineyards during the ride. 

Afterwards, you will head to the Coast Mountain Range. During this time, the guide will tell you about California Gray Whales. 

Whale Watching Tour with EcoTours of Oregon
Image from EcoTours of Oregon

We find that this makes the ride fun and entertaining. Afterall, you will be spending hours on the road. 

Once you arrive at the coast, you will get to admire the ocean from Siletz Bay before boarding a 45-foot charter boat to the Pacific Ocean. The guides say that 95% of the time, their guests are able to see whales. 

While there’s no complete assurance, at least there’s still a huge chance to see the whales. The guides seem to know the best spots, after all. 

After you get the chance to admire the whales up close, the guide will take you to the restaurants in the area for lunch. You will have the chance to do another round of sightseeing after this. 

Once you are able to spend some time on the beach, the guide will take you back to your hotel. 

Pro tips: 

  • Make sure to bring medicine if you get motion sickness!
  • You’ll be able to see California Gray whales from late March to November 
  • There’s no need to bring snacks because there’s a stopover.

2. Oregon Coast Tour with Wildwood Tours

Oregon Coast Tour with Wildwood Tours
Image from Tripadvisor 
CONTACT DETAILS+1 503-396-3929
PRICE$139 and up

If you’re looking for a more scenic adventure, this tour by Wildwood Tours will take you through a breathtaking route. Although, you should expect to walk around ¼ to ½ a mile long each, but ultimately, the distance will be up to you!

Anyway, more on that later.  

While you need to wear your best walking shoes, you will also be able to relax on the road while looking at beautiful landscapes the state has to offer from the window

The meeting place will be in Downtown Portland. When everything’s all set, the guide will drive you west on the Sunset Highway. 

After driving by several lush forests, you’ll eventually catch a glance of the Oregon coast from Ecola State Park. This is now the time when you’ll step out of the vehicle for a chance to stretch your legs.

We’re sure you have your camera with you during this trip, so make sure to bring them with you before leaving! There are a lot of spots in this park to appreciate views and watch birds or whales. 

Most whales that people spot here are Gray Whales. 

The guide will give you time to explore before you leave for Cannon Beach. Along the shore, you’ll be able to see birds circling the rocks. 

Depending on the tides, you might even catch a glimpse of several marine wildlife! 

This is also the area where you’re going to grab lunch. There are a few small restaurants bundled up together with menus you won’t usually see. 

You have the choice to get your order to go if you want to eat somewhere more scenic. 

When everyone’s good to go, you’ll head to Neahkahnie Overlook. This is one of our favorite spots during the trip because the view is breathtaking! 

Albeit a bit far from the waters, it’s possible to spot whales from here too. It’s best to bring your binoculars too, just in case. 

You’ll now go back to north and might even take a short hike at Short Sand Creek. However, this depends if you still have time left. 

Then, the guide will take you back to Downtown Portland where you were initially picked up. 

Pro tips: 

  • It might be windy most of the time at the coast so wear something suitable for the weather. 
  • Also wear comfortable walking shoes.
  • Bring binoculars just in case you spot some whales from afar!
  • People commonly spot whales from the Ecola Point parking area or the top of the Clatsop Loop Trail during peak months. (mid-March to mid-April and mid-December to mid-January)

3. Oregon Coast Full Day Hiking Tour with Evergreen Escapes

Oregon Coast Full Day Hiking Tour with Evergreen Escapes
Image from Evergreen Escapes
ADDRESS2305 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR
CONTACT DETAILS+1 206-650-5795
PRICE$1100 for two travelers + $125 per additional guest (minimum of 2)

For this tour by Evergreen Escapes, the guide can pick you up at any location in central Portland, which we find quite convenient especially for tourists. Because they are quite keen at keeping communications open, your pick up will be seamless and on the dot. 

The first stop is either the Ecola or Oswald West State Park. Where you’re going depends on the guide, but it’s possible to visit two of the destinations if there’s time.

This is where you might feel a bit tired because the walk will be around an hour and a half. However, we think it’s more likely that you won’t even notice that because the views you’ll walk by are quite picturesque – you’ll be too busy admiring it!

Moving forward, you’ll then be able to grab lunch with your group. Depending on the group size, your guide will either take you to the picnic areas, cafes – all of which seems like a great option. 

Oregon Coast Full Day Hiking Tour with Evergreen Escapes
Image from Evergreen Escapes

The guide will take you to Cannon Beach after lunch. While this tour is not exclusively for whale watching, most of the time, a few of the 20,000 Gray Whales can be spotted here. 

You’ll spend most of your afternoon in the area, so you most likely won’t miss the whales especially during peak season! 

Your guide will most likely recommend you to try the ice creams in the Manzanita area called Manzanita Cones and Coffee. On a side note, they’re now called Schwietert’s Cones & Candy.

Anyway, we recommend a scoop of their salted caramel!

Afterwards, you will also be able to see the 235-ft tall Haystack Rock which is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the coast. Other than being iconic, people enjoy seeing different types of birds here. 

Included in the list are Black Scoters and Surf Scoters. It’s possible to spot whales in this area here too. 

In fact, there are several people who would wait here with their binoculars in case they get lucky!

After spending some time here, the guide will then drive you back to Portland. 

Pro tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring binoculars to be able to see whales from afar.
  • You might also want to bring blankets to use when sitting on the beach.
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