Want to see whales on the Oregon Coast? There’s no better home base than Seaside. Set yourself up in cozy beachfront lodgings, spend the day spotting these marvelous creatures, then celebrate together with a pint and a plate of pasta to relive the day’s most epic sightings.
Read on for our guide to a perfect whale-watching getaway in Seaside.
When to Go
While it’s possible to see whales almost anytime on the Oregon Coast, January and March are the peak months for viewing this massive gray-whale migration — and Seaside is close to all the action. Each January up to 18,000 gray whales pass by Oregon’s shores on their way south to Mexico, where calves are born in the warm, sheltered waters of the Sea of Cortez. Then they turn around and head back north to their feeding grounds in Alaska, swimming by Oregon again from late March to June. A couple hundred stick around Oregon waters all summer, feeding close to shore.
Beachfront Base Camp
First you’ll need the perfect beachfront accommodations in Seaside. Just one block from the beach, the recently opened SaltLine Hotel offers a boutique experience, complete with saltwater pool and hot tub, on-site spa, and midcentury-modern style. Situated right on Seaside’s famous promenade, The Seashore Inn on the Beach has stellar views as well as an on-site sauna and hot tub to warm up from blustery beach sessions. Or book an oceanfront room at the Ebb Tide Oceanfront Inn for direct views of the Pacific while you snuggle up in front of a cozy gas fireplace. Who knows? You might even spot a spout from the comfort of your room.
Spot Spouts From Shore
About 14 miles north of Seaside, Fort Stevens State Park is a great place to get out the binoculars and scan for whale spouts, the cloud-like puffs of vapor emitted when a whale surfaces to breathe. The park is an official Oregon Whale Watch site, with trained volunteers on hand during the January and March migrations.
Another nearby site with volunteer interpreters is Neahkahnie Mountain Overlook at Oswald West State Park, about 14 miles south of Seaside. At the south end of the park, the Overlook is easily accessible on the shoulder of 101. After looking for whales, drive just 2 miles north and park at the Short Sand Beach Trail parking lot for a half-mile walk through the trees to Short Sand Beach, a popular surf spot.
No matter where you choose to watch, you’ll want to bring your binoculars to get the best view. Spouts are easiest to see on calm days, and they’re usually your first indication that whales are in the neighborhood. You may also see whale backs as they surface to breathe, or their tails as they dive. Other common behaviors include fluke slapping, spyhopping (popping their heads above water) and breaching — leaping partly or entirely out of the water.
If you’re inspired to learn more about these beautiful creatures’ lives, visit Beach Books in Seaside to peruse their selection of books on marine life, or stop by the Seaside Aquarium to learn more about coastal wildlife habitats (and check out their adorable harbor seals).
Restaurants and Nightlife
After a full day of whale watching, migrate back into Seaside to unwind with tons of choices for dinner and drinks. You could start with a pint at Hop & Vine Bottle Shop and Taproom, which offers 20 different taps of beer and cider well as loads of beers and wine by the bottle. Then head to dinner at Nonni’s Italian Bistro, a charming, family-owned Italian restaurant dishing up hearty pastas, cozy cioppino and delectable tiramisu.
If you’re in the mood for something more casual, visit Dundee’s Bar & Grill for old-school burgers, fish and chips, oyster shooters, and more elevated pub grub — plus the chance to challenge your dining companion to a friendly game of after-dinner darts or shuffleboard. Or grab a table at upscale Maggie’s on the Prom to savor Dungeness crab cakes, aged rib eye or bay-shrimp-stuffed sole, along with craft cocktails and Oregon wines.
Top photo by Joey Hamilton / Oregon Coast Visitors Association