HomeTrue North Blog

Whale Watching In Canada

Looking to go whale watching in Canada, but aren't sure where is the best spot? Canada has the longest coastline in the world, so there are plenty of great places. Canada's whale-watching experiences are also considered some of the best in the world. There are more than 30 species that you can spot in the waters off Canada — including orcas and belugas. Whale watching is a great way to spend quality time with your family and friends in the great outdoors. 

A killer whale (orca) breaching in the Juan de Fuca Strait

Not only is it important to know the right areas of Canada to visit, you also have to consider the time of year for your best chances of seeing these giants of the ocean. In general, for the best chance to see whales, book your vacation in Canada between May to October.

For more tips, read our guide and learn everything you need to know about the best whale-watching spots in Canada.

The travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations are here to help you choose the best place and time for an unforgettable vacation. 

Best places to go whale watching in Canada

Canada is bordered by three coastlines: the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. There are plenty of opportunities to explore and experience Canadian marine wildlife. Whale watching is a popular tourist activity in Canada and there are different tour options. You can view whales on tours that use kayaks, zodiacs or larger boats. Sometimes you can even spot whales from the shore!

Here are some beautiful and unique places to go whale watching in Canada:

  1. Vancouver Island
  2. Newfoundland and Labrador
  3. Cape Breton Highlands
  4. Tadoussac
  5. Churchill
  6. Tofino
  7. Telegraph Cove
  8. Montreal
  9. Halifax
  10. Nunavut

1. Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and is considered one of the best killer whale watching destinations. The waters here are home to around 300 orca whales that travel in pods. You can also spot other different species of whales here, like minkes, gray whales, and humpbacks. If you want to watch the migrating gray whales head to the west coast of the island. Approximately 20,000 gray whales swim by Vancouver Island from March to September.

A humpback whale tail out of the water near Campbell River

#1 Travel tip: Engage with the whale-watching guides

Quote IconQuote Icon

Most tours use naturalists as tour guides, who can answer all your questions about the whales and give area-specific tips for spotting the mammals.

Blog Author - Athena McKenzie
Athena McKenzie
Content Manager

2. Newfoundland and Labrador

If you want to maximize your chances of spotting a whale and get the best whale watching in Canada head to Newfoundland and Labrador. This place in Canada houses the largest number of whale species in the country. Different whale species here include pilot whales, fin whales, humpback whales, blue whales, minke whales, and sperm whales. Newfoundland and Labrador is also one of the best places to see humpback whales. Around 12,000 humpbacks migrate here to forage small fish and krill. You may get also get to see other marine wildlife, such as porpoises, seals, and dolphins.

A lighthouse and rocky coastline near Trinity Eastern
Download our Canada By Train Brochure

Keep reading or discover more travel inspiration in our brochure. This guide showcases our world-famous train journeys, with ideas for personalizing your Canadian vacation.

Download brochure

3. Cape Breton Highlands, Nova Scotia 

Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia is a mountainous coastal region that makes a magnificent spot for whale watching. You can spot various species of whales here, along with other marine creatures. The most common sightings here are of fin whales, minke whales, pilot whales, humpback whales, and blue whales. You can join a whale watching tour in a catamaran or zodiac during July and August. You may also get to see some dolphins, seals, and porpoises while whale watching. Just remember that Cape Breton Highlands is cold even during the summer, so ensure you bring your warm clothes and dress in layers.

A view of Cape Breton Highlands coastline with rugged shoreline and mountains

4. Tadoussac, Quebec 

If you want to go whale watching in Eastern Canada, then Tadoussac is one of the best east coast places to go. This historic village is situated at the confluence of St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers. This place is home to around 13 species of whales, including the beluga whales, minke whales, fin whales, humpback whales, and blue whales. You can take a boat ride, river cruise, or zodiac ride to go whale watching here from June to October. Apart from whale watching, you can also see other marine wildlife like seabirds, dolphins, seals, and porpoises.

5. Churchill, Manitoba 

Churchill is one of the world’s best places to see polar bears, but it’s also a fantastic place to spot beluga whales. From June to September, about 50,000 migrating beluga whales can be seen in the Churchill River estuary and Hudson Bay. Because of shallow waters and the absence of predators that could scare them away, this is the perfect place to spot belugas. The best way to go whale watching is in kayaks. You’ll be so close, you'll hear the belugas whistling, clicking, chirping, and bleating. Ensure that you have a trained person with you before heading out in a kayak.

#2 Travel tip: Bring layers out on the boat

Quote IconQuote Icon

A hot sunny day on land can still be chilly when you get out on the ocean. Bring layers and a waterproof jacket as the weather can change suddenly. — Louiss Weiss

Louise Weiss
Director of Legendary Hospitality

6. Tofino, British Columbia 

Tofino is a small town situated along the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. While famous for its surfing, it's t's a go-to destination for whale watching. Different types of whales you can see here include humpback whales, orcas, and gray whales. As the waters here are a migration route for gray whales, locals hold a Pacific Rim Whale Festival in March. Join a whale watching tour to experience the beauty of all kinds of wildlife, including dolphins, porpoises, and sea lions.

Aerial view of sandy beach, ocean and forest near Tofino

7. Telegraph Cove, British Columbia 

Telegraph Cove is also located in British Columbia and is part of the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve. This place is a designated sanctuary for killer whales — the only one in Canada. Boats are not allowed in this reserve to avoid boat traffic and to protect the migrating orca population. This area has an abundant salmon supply, therefore the whales migrate here. You can head out to the water with a kayaking outfitter to catch a glimpse of these wonderful creatures and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Orca in Johnstone Strait

8. Whale Watching from Montreal 

A trip to Montreal does provide opportunties for whale watching. An easy day trip from the city,  you can visit the Pointe-Noire Interpretation and Observation Centre (which is also close to Tadoussac, discussed above). There's also a lighthouse with wonderful views of the water. A unique feature of this centre are its live streams of the whales and their habitat from underwater cameras.

9. Halifax, Nova Scotia 

One of the best places to go whale watching in Canada is in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia. Located on the Atlantic Coast, this area is home to many different kinds of whale species like minke whales, blue whales, humpback whales, and fin whales. The best time to spot whales here is from June to September. Sometimes You can catch a glimpse of the whales from the shore.

A sail boat cruises past a grassy island and harbour near Halifax

10. Nunavut 

Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory, is becoming well known among travelers for its untouched landscapes. It’s a wonderful place to see polar bears in their natural habitat, but it’s also an ideal place to see whales. You’ll have great opportunities to spot narwhals, an elusive and unique whale species. They have a long tusk protruding from the head. The best time to see them is from July to September. Given Nunavut remote unspoiled areas, it is recommended that you join a tour for whale watching. Along with narwhals, you may also spot beluga whales and some other marine wildlife.

Three boats with people in the Buchan Gulf

Best Time to Go Whale Watching in Canada 

The best time to go whale watching in Canada can vary depending on the destination and the whale species you wish to see. Usually, the summer months from May to October are best in terms of sea conditions and weather. Official whale watching season in Canada is during the warmer months as migrating whales move to the southern warm waters in winter and then migrate back to the Canadian waters when it’s warm. Some species of whales can be seen throughout the year.

Here are the best months to go whale watching:

  • In British Columbia, orcas or killer whales can be spotted throughout the year.
  • In Vancouver Island whale watching, you can spot humpback whales all through the year.
  • You can see fin whales from July to October.
  • Minke whales can be spotted from June to October.
  • There is no wrong time to go whale watching but for a thorough experience, you should visit in July and go to see the different whale species all across Canada.

Types of Whales in Canada 

In Canada, you’ll get a chance to many different species of whales and marine life. Book a whale or wildlife tours for your best changes. Because the nation extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the whales you see will vary depending on where you go. Some most common whales that you can spot are listed below.

Humpback Whales

In Canada, the humpback whale is the most commonly spotted one. They have a knobbly head and long pectoral fins and are most likely seen along the coast of Vancouver Island, Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Nova Scotia. The best time to see these whales in Canada is from June to October when they forage near the shorelines for fish, plankton, and krill.

Blue Whales

Blue whales, the largest animal on the planet, are rarely spotted in Canadian waters but are mostly seen in the Pacific Ocean. The whales can weigh up to 200 metric tonnes and grow in length up to 30 meters. You have the best chance of spotting them in the months from June to September along the coast of British Columbia.

Orcas

Orcas belong to the dolphin family and are one of the most popular and social whale species. They are known as killer whales and you can recognize them by their dorsal fin and black and white color. The best times to see killer whales in Canada are from June to October while they feed on salmon or small mammals — their food source depends on their sub-species. Orcas in Canada can be found in the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Vancouver Island. 

Three orcas swim past a person sitting on the shore

Minke Whales

The smallest baleen whale in Canada is the minke whale. You can recognize them by the white band on the flippers and small fins. Minke whales in Canada can be spotted from June to September while they feed on krill, small fish, and plankton. You can see the whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, and the Bay of Fundy.

Beluga Whales

Beluga whales are easy to recognize because of their heads shaped like melons and white color. These toothed whales are found in the St. Lawrence River estuary, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and the Arctic. Beluga whales are a very sociable and popular species of whale in Canada, they feed on crabs, squids, and sea snails. The best time to spot them is from June to September.

Two beluga whales with their heads out of the water

Pilot Whales

Pilot whales are part of the dolphin family and are nicknamed potheads because of their big and round foreheads. You can recognize these whales by their large dorsal fin and dark coloring. They are very social and can be spotted in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick from June to September while they feed on squids.

What to Wear While Whale Watching in Canada

Even in the summer, it can be cool on the water. Wear layers when you go whale watching, especially if you are going out on the open ocean. You may also get wet, so here are some things you need to keep in mind:

  • You should dress warmly: wear a sweater, a waterproof jacket, gloves, socks, and a hat.
  • Carry a hat and sunscreen.
  • If you are going in a kayak for whale watching, ensure that you wear quick-drying clothes or a wetsuit.

Most Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to go whale watching in Canada?

The cost of whale watching in Canada depends on what tour you choose and also on the type of whale watching you want. The costs for different whale watching tours are around $150 for a boat whale watching tour, around $130 for a zodiac tour, about $75-$250 for a sea kayak, and about $400-$500 by plane or seaplane.

Where is the best place for whale watching in Canada?

Some of the best places for whale watching in Canada include the Bay of Fundy, Newfoundland, and Vancouver. Another great option is the Hudson Bay.

Is it better to do whale watching in Vancouver or Victoria?

Vancouver has a slight edge over Victoria as Vancouver is easier to get to by plane or train.

Is it better to do whale watching in the morning or afternoon?

The waters can be calmer in the morning but there is no best time of the day to go whale watching. Anytime is a good time. Whales are out and about any time of the day or night, so whether you go out in the morning or afternoon doesn’t matter as you have a great chance of seeing whales anytime.

About the author: Athena McKenzie is the Content Manager at Fresh Tracks Canada. An experienced lifestyle journalist, she has written about travel, design, arts and entertainment. Her work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Zoomer Magazine, Elle Canada and... Read more

Discuss your Canadian train vacation with a local travel expert

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone

Or call us toll free

Cartoon polar bear speaking on the phone