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Whale Watching On The Oregon Coast

brooklin whale wathcing oregon

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.

oregon coast whale watching

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.

oregon coast lighthouse cannon beach

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.

brooklin kaila Ecola State Park hiking trailhiking on the oregon coast ecola state park

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

5 Comments

  1. Karen Propes on March 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    I love the pictures, I would love to see a whale. I think they are so beautiful in the water. I watch all these documentaries on them but to actually see them. You’re. so lucky, we need to take a trip and check them out. My DH says it’s about a 4 to 5 days drive. I’m still putting it my planning book and you never know. Now that I know the seasons and the quoted site for seeing them. Thanks for all the info.



  2. Crystal Mexico on January 18, 2012 at 6:49 am

    I love the view! That looks so relaxing out there



  3. courtney b on January 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    gorgeous pics!!!! love it!



  4. April G on January 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

    What a beautiful day! We’ve only ever had luck seeing whales at Depoe Bay, when they come in close. It’s always amazing though. 🙂



  5. Naomi on January 10, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Gorgeous! One of these days, we’ll have to come and drive the Oregon coast with you guys.