5 Best Whale Watching Spots in Canada

Whale Watching Season Coast to Coast


|July 3, 2019

Milda is a content writer with a particular interest in philosophy and nature. She is passionate about wildlife and all the nitty-gritty details of travel.

Summer has arrived! Trees and flowers are in full bloom, radiating intoxicating scents. Monarch Butterflies are gorging on nectar after a 3,000-mile journey North from their wintering grounds in Mexico. The long-awaited peak season for whale watching in Canada has just begun.

Boasting the longest coastline on Earth, Canada is one of the world’s top whale watching destinations. More than 30 species of cetaceans - white belugas and intelligent orcas included - roam Canada’s seemingly never-ending coastline. If you’re up for real-life encounters with these gentle marine giants, there’s never been a better time to board a boat!

Let’s talk about time

The best time for whale watching in Canada might vary depending on the destination but typically it runs from May to October. However, the summer months offer the most favorable sea conditions to embark on an epic wildlife adventure.

Let’s talk about where

In the end, everything boils down to the question: Where to go whale watching in Canada? This week, we’ve cooked up a list of the top 5 whale watching spots in Canada and - of course -  be prepared to fuel your wanderlust. So, let’s dive in!

1. Vancouver Island

Whale, Mountains, Trees In Vancouver Island

Whale in Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Whale watching, Canada, Vancouver - these words are inseparable when discussing some of the world’s most captivating marine life experiences.

Surrounded by the idyllic waters of the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island is one of the best orcas, or killer whales, watching destination in the world. This whale species is one of the most powerful predators (of course, you’ll be in a safe boat or a sea kayak with the expert crew!) and, as recent studies show, incredibly smart. Their sophisticated communication, complex social behavior, and deep, rich emotions have scientists scratching their heads. 

Vancouver’s coastal waters are home to about 300 orcas. During the summer, they travel in pods, which can reach as many as 200 animals. Pretty amazing, right? Known for their black and white coloring, their acrobatic skill to hold their heads out of the water will make your jaw drop! Other whale species off the coast of Vancouver Island include enormous humpback whales and gray whales known as the ocean’s long-distance travelers.

2. Newfoundland and Labrador

A Man Watching At Newfoundland And Labrador Sea Landscape

Whale watching in Newfoundland and Labrador

Canada’s easternmost province, Newfoundland and Labrador, is best known for its gorgeous natural surroundings, the remarkably colorful capital city of St. John’s, excellent bird-watching opportunities, and the world’s largest concentration of humpback whales. So, prepare for some up-close and intimate encounters with these ocean dwellers but beware - their hypnotic songs might put a spell on you!

Listen: Below is the alluring humpbacks’ song recorded by Dr. Roger Payne, an American biologist famous for his research on whale song.

Songs Of The Humpback Whale - by Dr. Roger Payne

During your whale watching vacation, you'll have a unique chance to use a hydrophone (underwater microphone) to listen in on the humpbacks' nautical symphonies. When in a good mood, they propel their bus-sized bodies out of the water and land with a terrific splash leaving you breathless. As mothers glide through the waters together with their young, they touch one another with their flippers in an expression of affection.

3. Churchill, Manitoba

Beluga Whale In Churchill Manitoba Canada

Beluga Whale in Churchil Manitoba

Ever wondered where to see beluga whales in Canada but haven’t found the answer? You’ve come to the right place. We've just arrived in the subarctic town of Churchill known, not only as the polar bear capital of the world but also as a hotspot for beluga whale watching. During the summer months, more than 57,000 belugas gather in the blue waters of Hudson Bay. Most of them flock to the Churchill River. 

One of the most moving ways to meet these dwellers of the sea is to hop on a boat or a zodiac. This will allow you to get so close to the belugas that you'll even hear them chirping, whistling, bleating, and clicking. Nicknamed “the canaries of the sea” for their incredible vocals, these friendly marine mammals travel in pods of around ten. During your trip, snap their funny smiling faces!

4. Foxe Basin, Nunavut

Whale In Blue Water From Top

Whale watching in Canada

As Canada's northernmost lands, Nunavut is quickly gaining popularity in the travel community for its untouched landscapes, teeming with life both on land and underwater. The most stunning wildlife event occurs in summer. The sun melts parts of ice helping to form the floe edge (the meeting point of ice and open water), which attracts a large variety of marine animals. This is the time when Foxe Basin becomes an ideal place for whale spotting. 

Mysterious bowhead whales are among the most popular residents, drawing nature lovers to Nunavut each year. These longest-living mammals on the planet will send your heart racing! Picture yourself in a boat while these giant beasts - weighing more than a battle tank - break the ice with their massive skulls to breathe! For sure, seeing them breaching the water’s surface will change your perspective on the underwater world. But the story doesn't end here. Playful belugas are also common visitors to Nunavut. 

5. St. Lawrence River, Quebec

Blue Whale Canada In Lawrence River Quebec

Blue Whale in Quebec, Canada

Blessed with nutrient-rich waters, the scenic St. Lawrence River is a haven for up to 13 whales species including the legendary blue whale, the largest creature to have ever lived on Earth. When visiting Quebec you can opt for a river cruise, boat or zodiac rides on the tranquil water. Smaller boats offer a better chance to glimpse marine wildlife. Head to Tadoussac or the Gaspé peninsula, where the beautiful marine mammals like to leap through waves.

The secret of Quebec's coastal waters lies in the fact that the river's freshwater mixes with oceanic salt water, creating a unique habitat rich in nutrients for various species. Places such as these are rarely found around the world and it seems that humpbacks, minke whales, fin whales, and belugas know this!

So What’s Your Next Adventure?

"Music is far, far older than our species," said Dr. Roger Payne, the co-discoverer of the whale song. "It is tens of millions of years old, and the fact that animals as wildly divergent as whales, humans and birds come out with similar laws for what they compose suggests to me that there are a finite number of musical sounds that will entertain the vertebrate brain."

Perhaps, dare we say it, up-close whale encounters have the power to change how we see the world. 

Now that you know the best destinations for whale watching in Canada, it’s time to start planning your next fabulous trip. 

Check out our whale and other wildlife watching tours in Canada to find your perfect trip!