Whale Watching on the Oregon Coast
October 22, 2021
It’s no secret that the Oregon Coast is known for its charming small towns, rocky shorelines, and expansive views from highway 101, but for those of you looking for something a little different (and extra exciting!), you might be happy to know that Oregon is also a popular and fruitful whale watching destination!
Every year in the spring and winter, migratory grey whales can be seen traveling up and down the Oregon coastline, making their way between the warm waters of Baja California, Mexico, and their winter homes in Alaska, covering thousands of miles along the way. Spectators gather along the coast to scan the horizon for spouts and watch through binoculars as the giants perform their symphony of spy hops, flukes, and dramatic dives. Estimates vary, but generally, spring migration is in full swing from the last week of March through the first week of May and in winter from mid-December to mid-January.
There are designated whale watching sites up and down the coast, but one of our favorites is Depoe Bay, located on the Central Oregon Coast just south of Lincoln City. This small, sleepy town is basically a blip on the map, made up of just one major road (yep, the Highway 101) and several small residential neighborhoods with hotels and motels scattered throughout. During spring and winter migrations, sightings are particularly plentiful. However, if your travel plans don’t align with either of those seasons, you’ll be happy to know that you can still see grey whales any time of year in Depoe Bay thanks to the resident pod that lives just offshore!
The Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center is an awesome spot to learn and take everything in, and the outside serves as a great little area to sit with a pair of binoculars while searching for signs of whales. If you’d like to explore with some of the local experts and maybe even get up close and personal, you could also sign up with a local tour operator for a proper whale watching tour! These tours are typically seasonal (and weather dependent), so you’ll want to do your research and make reservations in advance.
If you can’t make it out to Depot Bay, there are still several sites along the coast further north (and closer to Portland), where whales can be spotted. Check out the Oregon State Parks whale watching brochure, which lists a total of 24 great places to spot grey whales in Oregon. Ecola State Park, just outside of Cannon Beach, is another great spot that is also included on their list!
If you’re just visiting Portland, Wildwood Adventures visits both Ecola State Park and Cannon beach on their Oregon Coast Tour, which runs several days a week throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall. While we don’t have any proper whale watching tours, you can still ask your guide to bring out the binoculars to keep your eyes peeled for signs of whale activity offshore!