Whale watching is a year-round activity on the Oregon Coast with gray whales by far the most commonly seen. Whale watching is not difficult, but a few tips make it easier. Any location with an ocean view may yield whale sightings, and morning light with the sun at your back is best. First locate whale spouts with your naked eye; then focus more closely with binoculars. Last year we saw a whale very close to shore but this year only spotted one far off shore.
Gray Whale Migration
Gray whales migrate South from their feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas around Alaska from mid-December through January. They are heading to their breeding grounds in Baja California, Mexico, where warm-water lagoons become nurseries for expectant mothers. Then from late March to June the whales migrate North back to Alaska. On each trip, approximately 18,000 gray whales pass close to the Oregon Coast.
On the trip down, these giant mammals head South on a direct course, move quickly, and mostly stay about 5 miles offshore. At their peak, about 30 whales pass by each hour. Coming back, the whales travel much more leisurely and stay closer to shore within a half mile is not unusual. The non-breeding males and females lead the way back with some early birds starting in late February. They may even pass stragglers still heading south. The northward migration continues at a slower pace and mothers with young dont usually appear until May.
There are about 200 whales that also lay claim to the area and stay through the summer.
Where to Spot Whales
From north to south, these are the 26 Whale Watching Spoken Here sites. With or without a volunteer to assist, these are the best locations along the coast to spot whales.
- Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Ilwaco, Washington
- Ecola State Park
- Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker Turnout on Highway 101
- Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Lookout State Park 2.5 mile hike to site at tip of Cape
- Cape Kiwanda
- Inn at Spanish Head Lobby on 10th floor
- Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint
- The Whale Watching Center/Depoe Bay Sea Wall
- Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Foulweather
- Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area
- Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
- Don Davis City Park
- Cape Perpetua Interpretive Center
- Cook’s Chasm Turnout
- Sea Lion Caves Turnout large Highway 101 turnout south of tunnel
- Umpqua Lighthouse, near Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
- Shore Acres State Park
- Face Rock Wayside State Scenic Viewpoint
- Cape Blanco Lighthouse, near Cape Blanco State Park
- Battle Rock Wayfinding Point, Port Orford
- Cape Sebastian
- Cape Ferrelo
- Harris Beach State Park, Brookings, Oregon
- 9th Street Beach, Crescent City, California