Seaside Stories

Top Tips for Whale Watching Near Seaside

February 25, 2020 | by Shellie Bailey-Shah

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 21 through March 29, 2020. 

Why is Spring a Good Time to See Whales?

To improve your chances of seeing whales, we got some tips from an expert. Luke Parsons is an interpretive ranger with the Oregon State Park’s Beverly Beach management unit, which oversees the newly-renovated Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center. He says that onlookers can expect to see 20,000 north-bound whales migrating to their feeding grounds in Alaska starting in the middle of March.

What Kinds of Whales Will You See?

“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, at least 10 species of whales swim off the Oregon Coast including humpback and orca.

How Can You Spot a Whale from the Shore?

“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.”

What Should You Bring for Whale Watching?

“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.

Be cautious when viewing from clifftops. And if you choose to do your whale watching from the beach, never turn your back on the ocean. Sneaker waves and king tides are real dangers.

What’s the Best Weather for Whale Watching?

“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!”

What’s the Best Time of Day for Whale Watching?

Parsons recommends whale watching in the morning. The ocean tends to be calmer with less wind and sun glare on the water.

Where are the Best Whale Watching Spots near Seaside?

You’ll find designated whale watching stations at Ecola State Park between Seaside and Cannon Beach and the Neahkahnie Mountain Historic Marker along Highway 101, south of Oswald West State Park. If you head north, you can visit the station at Fort Stevens State Park

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