While it’s possible to see whales all year along the Oregon Coast, visitors tend to flock to Seaside and other coastal communities during Spring Whale Watching Week which runs March 23 through March 31. In fact, almost 30,000 people talked with volunteers at 24 different Whale Watching Spoken Here stations during that week last year.
To improve your chances of seeing whales this season, we got some tips from an expert. Luke Parsons is an interpretive ranger with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s Beverly Beach Management Unit which oversees the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center. He says that onlookers can expect to see 20,000 north-bound Gray whales migrating to their feeding grounds in Alaska starting mid-March.
“In March and April, we’ll see the males and the females that didn’t give birth to a calf,” explains Parsons. “In May and June, we’ll see the mother Gray whales with their new calves swim by.”
But you’ll want to have your eyes peeled for more than just Gray whales. According to Parsons, more than 10 species of whales swim off the Oregon Coast including Humpback and Orca.
“When I’m looking for whales, I first watch for spouts,” says Parsons. “This is when the whale comes up to breathe. Typically, a Gray whale will spout about three or four times every five minutes, so I just slowly scan the water with my eyes. When I see something that looks like it was a spout, then I’ll use binoculars or a camera that can zoom in to try and get a better look.”
“I highly recommend binoculars for whale watching, as they can get you much closer to these whales, and you’ll be able to see much more of the animal,” advises Parsons.
In addition to binoculars, you’ll increase your chances of seeing whales if you keep an eye on the weather.
“The weather and ocean conditions are the most important thing to pay attention to when whale watching,” explains Parsons. “If the weather report calls for rain and wind, the chances of you seeing whales is much lower. If the weather at the coast is clear skies and calm seas, you possibly could see dozens of whales in just an hour!”
Parsons also recommends whale watching in the morning. The ocean tends to be calmer with less wind and sun glare on the water.
So where are the best spots near Seaside to plop down your camp chair and pull out your binoculars? You’ll find watch stations at Ecola State Park and the Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker along Highway 101. During Whale Watching Week, volunteers will be there from 10 am to 1 pm to answer your questions.