There are several awesome places to go whale watching in Canada, and if you’re like me and seeing wild whales has always been your dream, you’re in luck because it’s fairly cheap to take a whale watching tour in Canada.
Let me say that I have seen whales in 6 different countries and taken two whale watching tours in Canada so far. Both times were in Vancouver City since it’s considered of the best places to see whales in Canada.
The first tour I took was in May and the second was in late October, but if you are wondering which is the best time to go whale watching in Canada to have the highest likelihood of spotting orcas, humpback whales, and other marine species, keep reading.
In this guide, you will find all you need to know to see whales in Canada.
Best place to see whales in Canada
I have different recommendations depending on when you travel and what types of whales in Canada you want to see. While there is a distinct whale watching season in Canada, your chances of seeing a particular species will vary depending on where you go.
Whale Watching from Vancouver
I’ve written a guide to the best Vancouver whale watching tours but, in a nutshell, this region has some of the best places to see whales in Canada.
The Prince of Whales Canada trip is the tour we took, and it was a great experience. This 5-hour tour departs from Granville Island in Vancouver city and not only did we see killer whales, but we also spotted humpbacks, seals, and bald eagles.
You can also kayak with orcas in Canada‘s Vancouver Island or take a zodiac or seaplane tour. If you have the highest chances of seeing Killer whales in Canada, this western area is one of the best options.
Whale Watching from Victoria BC, Vancouver Island
Victoria, British Columbia also has some of the best whale watching in Canada. I highly recommend this 3-hour tour, which leaves from downtown Victoria and ventures into the Salish Sea. It’s affordably priced and has a whale-sighting guarantee.
The western waters of Victoria are home to transient and resident orcas, as well as minke, grey, and humpback whales in Canada. It’s such a great place that we’ve written an entire guide to whale-watching in Victoria, BC.
Whale Watching from Quebec City
The Atlantic region of Canada is also a great area for whale watching. More specifically, you can find a ton of whale-watching tours in Quebec.
Quebec City is popular for offering great whale-watching tours in Canada. Many trips, like this full-day tour, go into the St. Lawrence Estuary, which is full of krill. So, it’s one of the top places to see minke and beluga whales in Canada. You may even see the massive blue whale, which weighs around 220 tons!
Whale Watching from Montreal
Montreal in Quebec is another region where you can see whales in Canada. May to October is the best time to go whale watching in Canada’s Quebec province if you want to see blue whales, humpbacks, and other species.
I recommend this 2-day excursion, which tours the Baie-Sainte-Catherine, a hotspot for beluga whales in Canada. It’s also a great trip for blue whale spotting in Canada, and you’ll get to tour the beautiful town of Charlevoix, which is known for its historic windmills.
Whale-Watching in Tadoussac
Tadoussac in Quebec is a beautiful coastal town where the Saguenay and Saint Lawrence rivers meet. This area creates a marine park that’s perfect for whale watching in Canada.
The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is a good place to see beluga whales in Canada since the waters attract a colony of them every season. I recommend this tour in an inflatable zodiac boat that gets you close to the whales while respecting their natural habitat. Not only will you have the chance to see belugas, but also humpback whales and harbor seals.
Whale-Watching in Newfoundland
Over in the eastern part of Canada, Newfoundland is one of the most popular whale-watching spots. It’s also home to the largest population of humpback whales in Canada, and the world. From May to September, you can also see orcas, minkes, sperm whales, and mighty blue whales in the Atlantic waters.
The region is also home to many seabird species, which you can see on this tour through the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Along with humpbacks, fin whales, and dolphins, you’re likely to see puffins, razorbills, and other wildlife.
Best time to see whales in Canada
The best time to go whale watching in Canada depends on which species you want to see. For example, the best time to see orcas in Canada is during the summer and fall months.
May to September is typically the sweet spot, although there are a few exceptions. Some minke whales stay in the Canadian waters year-round, and you can spot some grey whales off the Vancouver coast in the spring.
Since most tour companies will allow you to repeat the tour for free until you see whales, whale watching tours are only available when it is highly likely that you will see whales during the tour.
So, one of the easiest ways to know if it’s a good time to see whales in a specific area of Canada is checking the availability of the tours in that area for that date.
Types of whales in Canada
There are lots of whale watching tours in Canada, so you have plenty of opportunities to see all kinds of whales and marine species. Since the country stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the types of whales you’ll see will depend on where you go.
Some of the most common ones you can see are:
Humpback whales in Canada
It’s common to see humpback whales in Canada, both in the Pacific and Atlantic regions. In fact, these are the easiest whales to spot in the country and probably in the world.
These baleen whales are some of the most delightful whales to observe. While they spend a good amount of time underwater, when they break through the surface, it’s an incredible experience. You can hear their loud breathing as they come up for air, and their tail slaps and breaching make for an unforgettable sight.
- Where to see humpback whales in Canada: Atlantic and Pacific region
- When to see humpback whales in Canada: They can also be seen around Vancouver Island in late spring and late fall.
Blue whales in Canada
Unlike the genial belugas, blue whales aren’t interested in humans, and they’re often minding their own business beneath the water’s surface. That said, it’s still possible to spot the biggest animal on earth during a whale-watching tour in Canada, especially if you take one of the Quebec cruises I mentioned.
If you’re lucky enough, you can also spot one of these migrating giants on their Pacific route, but don’t get your hopes up because it’s quite difficult to see them there.
- Where to see blue whales in Canada: You can see them both in the Pacific and Atlantic region, but the places where you’re more likely to see them are the northern waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the east coast of Nova Scotia.
- When to see blue whales in Canada: Depending on the location, blue whales can be seen in Canada year-round. During the warm months, they can be seen in many places in the Atlantic region, even in southern areas such as the Davis Strait or the south coast of Newfoundland.
Orcas in Canada
Orcas are very social, so if you go orca watching in Canada, you’ll likely see them traveling in pods or with groups of dolphins. In fact, killer whales are a suborder of the toothed whales and more closely related to dolphins than whales.
The Canadian waters are home to transient and resident orcas; the former feed on small mammals while the latter eat mostly salmon. They can be seen in both Pacific and Atlantic waters during summer and fall.
- Where to see orcas in Canada: Atlantic and Pacific region
- When to see orcas in Canada: Summer and fall. Resident killer whales inhabit the waters of BC year-round.
Minke whales in Canada
While you’re killer whale watching in Canada, you may mistake a minke whale for an orca since their dorsal fins look similar. However, minkes have a smaller fin, and it’s further back on the body. They also spend much more time below the surface than orcas, so you’re less likely to see this shy species during a Canadian whale-watching tour.
Like humpback whales and blue whales, minke whales are baleen whales and eat mostly plankton and krill. They can be seen both in the Atlantic and Pacific region but some minke whales hang out year-round in Canadian waters around Newfoundland.
- Where to see minke whales in Canada: Atlantic and Pacific region
- When to see minke whales in Canada: Some can be seen year-round in Newfoundland waters.
Beluga whales in Canada
You can recognize beluga whales in Canada by their melon-shaped heads and distinct white color. These toothed whales are also very sociable and mostly inhabit the waters from the Arctic see to Quebec, particularly Tadoussac.
Unfortunately, because of their charming personality and cute appearance, belugas are one of the most common whales kept in captivity. Please, if you want to see these graceful cetaceans, opt for a responsible whale-watching tour, not an aquarium show.
- Where to see belugas in Canada: Atlantic region (Arctic Sea, Hudson Bay, and Saguenay-St. Lawrence estuary)
- When to see belugas in Canada: All year round
Pilot whales in Canada
If you’re in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, you may be able to spot pilot whales, which look similar to belugas but have a distinct black color. There are short-finned and long-finned pilot whales, the latter of which inhabit the colder waters in Canada. Like orcas, pilot whales are more related to dolphins, and they have the social personality to match.
- Where to see pilot whales in Canada: Atlantic waters
- When to see pilot whales in Canada: Summer and early fall
Dolphins in Canada
Finally, just about any whale-watching tour in Canada will include dolphin sightings. You can spot white-sided dolphins, white-beaked dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, and Harbour porpoises off almost all the coasts around the country. Pacific white-sided dolphins in Canada are also seen off the Vancouver coast, usually swimming alongside a pod of killer whales.
- Where to dolphins in Canada: Atlantic and Pacific waters
- When to dolphins in Canada: Year-round (more likely in late spring, summer, and early fall)
I hope you feel better prepared to plan your Canadian whale-watching excursion. Whichever species you’re most excited to see, you now have all the info you need about the best places to see whales in Canada. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.