April to October is traditionally the best time to see whales in Vancouver. Most whale watching charters out of Vancouver and Vancouver Island will offer guaranteed sightings to guests! With that being said, there are definitely some things you will want to keep in mind when it comes to whale watching in Vancouver!
There is not much more thrilling than seeing these majestic whales in their natural habitat off the coast of Vancouver. It is a bucket list item for so many visitors to British Columbia, including me! The waters off British Columbia’s coast are rich with marine life and Orcas, humpback, gray and minke whales are the most common whales that you will see on a Vancouver whale watching trip!
Keep reading below for everything you need to know about the best time for Whale Watching in Vancouver from how to book, where to book and what to pack!
The Best Time to Whale Watch in Vancouver
While April to October is when most whale-watching vessels operate, there are a few more things to keep in mind when booking a whale-watching tour.
Firstly, spring in Vancouver is often wet so plenty of spring trips will be rainy.
Secondly, even when the sun shines in the summer, it can be cold and windy out in the ocean. Pack accordingly.
Thirdly, the whales in Canadian waters, as well as all marine mammals are protected. The rules for whale watching and approaching marine mammals, which are now in effect, provide a minimum approach distance of 100 meters for most whales, dolphins, and porpoises to legally protect these animals from human disturbances.
Additionally, the distance requirement will be greater for certain marine mammals, including killer whales in B.C. because of the threats they already face. Keeping 200 meters away from killer whales in BC and the Pacific Ocean and keeping 400 meters away from all killer whales in southern BC coastal waters between Campbell River and just north of Ucluelet* (June 1 – May 31). Vessel operators will also be asked to turn off their echo sounders and turn engines to neutral idle, if safe to do so, when a whale is within 400 meters.
What to Pack when Whale Watching in Vancouver
Despite the warm summer weather, being out on the water can be much colder! This is one of the most popular things to do in the summer but even in July and August make sure to wear a warm coat for when you are on an outer deck. When I went with my son on a Price of Whales tour, we even wore a toque and gloves! There were many unprepared travelers who were not prepared for the cold wind!
If you want to get good photos, you are going to need a telephoto zoom lens with AT LEAST 300mm zoom. Important regulations mean that the vessels cannot get close to the whales so unless one swims towards a stopped ship, you will likely see them from around 100m away!
Whale Watching Tours from Vancouver
I have a post all about the best whale watching tours in Vancouver but if you want a few quick options, check out the ones below!
WHALE WATCHING VANCOUVER TOUR WITH PRICE OF WHALES FROM GRANVILLE ISLAND
Prince of Whales offers whale watching on a covered vessel. Their office is located in Granville Island and their vessel departs from the same area. When you book with Price of Whales, experience whale watching in true comfort and style along the waters off Vancouver. You have the opportunity to see several types of whales (depending on the time of year) with orcas generally being the main attraction, as well as an assortment of sea lions, sea birds, and other marine species. Marvel at the beauty of the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, and Howe Sound on this 3-6 hour adventure. Price of Whales operates with a 62-foot covered vessel built for whale watching and designed to minimize its ecological footprint. You can choose to be inside or outside and can choose from 3 viewing areas on 2 levels.
WHALE WATCHING VANCOUVER TOUR WITH HARBOUR AIR SEAPLANES
Leave behind Vancouver’s bustling harbor for the dramatic beauty of the Straight of Georgia as you fly from Vancouver harbour to Victoria harbour before getting on your whale watching boat. You have plenty of air time to soak up great aerial views of snow-capped mountains and verdant coastline before landing in Victoria. From there, board an open-topped Zodiac or covered Ocean Cruiser (please make your boat selection at time of purchase) for the whale-watching cruise. Set off into Haro Strait, an area flush with salmon—a natural attraction for orcas during migration! Spot whale pods, as well as seals, sea lions, sea otters and more. Throughout your ride, your guide shares fascinating facts about the resident marine life, and explain the area’s unique oceanic ecosystem. After your cruise, choose to head directly back to the mainland by seaplane, or stay in Victoria to enjoy more of the city and take a later flight back to Vancouver.
More Vancouver Travel Resources
Things to Bring with You:
- A good rain jacket, toque and gloves!
- A power bank to charge phones and other devices while on the boat.
- Bring a reusable water bottle.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
Rental Cars are very popular in British Columbia. There is just so much to see and there is not a train or bus network outside of Metro Vancouver or Victoria. If you plan on leaving Vancouver and want to see even the local ski hills, I suggest a rental car. You can get a quote on various providers here
If you are looking for information on the best Canadian souvenirs, check out this post on souvenirs from Canada so you have an idea of what to buy! You will see plenty of references to the beautiful whales and local animals in Vancouver! Like this, also check out Vancouver souvenirs, and Victoria souvenirs too!
Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!