Alaska Whale Watching Guide: Best Time and Place to See Whales

Whale watching in Alaska is one of my favorite summer activities and it should definitely be added on your Alaska bucket list. It’s a great activity to do as a family or on your own.

In this guide, I’m sharing everything you need to know about Alaska whale watching, including the best time and place to see whales in Alaska.

Planning a trip to Alaska? Start with my Alaska Travel Guide

humpback wahel seward alaska

Why Go Whale Watching in Alaska?

Alaska is a great place to go whale watching because of how easily accessible it can be. One of the best things about whale watching in Alaska is the abundance of other marine life that you can see (depending on where you are in Alaska). You have a chance to see sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, bald eagles, and tons of other shorebirds.

No matter where you decide to go whale watching in Alaska it’s going to be very beautiful! There are so many different landscapes to see, from the beautiful coastlines and forests to the insane amount of glaciers.

seward alaska seals

Types Of Whales To See In Alaska

Alaska has a variety of whales, including humpback whales, gray whales, killer whales (orcas), beluga whales, blue whales, minke whales, bowhead whales, bottlenose whales, fin whales, and sperm whales.

The most common whales to see in Alaska are humpback whales, killer whales, gray whales, and beluga whales.

best place to see whales in alaska seward fin whale

When Is Whale Watching Season In Alaska?

Whale watching season begins in March and ends in November. This is the time of the year where you can see whales migrating around Alaska.

Mid-March to May – This is the time to specifically see gray whales.

Mid-July to September – This is the time to specifically see beluga whales. Last year, it was late August when I first spotted beluga whales as I was driving along Turnagain Arm. The beluga whales will follow the salmon and hooligan runs and your best chances to see them are around high tide. One really good location to spot beluga whales along Turnagain Arm is actually a place called Beluga Point. You can drive here and park your car while you wait for high tide.

turnagain arm whale watching beluga whales

Best Month For Whale Watching In Alaska

I highly recommend whale watching during the months of June and July. While you may not be able to see beluga whales or gray whales, there are still humpback whales and killer whales that you can see during this time.

The main reason why I recommend June and July as the best months to go whale watching in Alaska is simply for the weather! During this time of the year, Alaska is a lot warmer and if you’ve ever been on a cruise or on a boat you know that being on the water is super cold. So, going when it’s warmer on the water is really nice and a lot more enjoyable than being there when it’s super cold and you have to wear tons of layers while you’re on the boat.

Another benefit of being in Alaska during this time is the amount of daylight. As it nears summer solstice in June, you’re going to see nearly 24 hours of daylight in Anchorage! This gives you more time in the day to take a cruise or a boat tour in the morning and still have plenty of time to go hiking or explore during the night.

You may have other reasons for visiting Alaska outside of whale watching, so you may want to take all that into account.

resurrection bay alaska

Whale Watching In The Morning vs Afternoon

It really doesn’t matter what time of the day you go whale watching because whales are active throughout the day. Whether you book an early morning cruise, a midday cruise, or something later in the evening, you’ll still have plenty of chances to see whales.

If you are susceptible to sea sickness, keep in mind that the ocean is typically a lot calmer in the morning, so I recommend choosing an earlier time in the day to go whale watching in Alaska.

humpback whale tail alaska

Where To Go Whale Watching In Alaska

Alaska is huge and there are plenty of areas to see whales. Here are a few places many people visit to see whales in Alaska:

Southeast Alaska

One of the most common areas to see whales is along the Inside Passage. Many people travel this route when they’re on an Alaskan cruise. Since this is a very concentrated area of whales, Southeast Alaska offers the best whale watching in Alaska.

Turnagain Arm

One of my favorite places to see beluga whales is while driving along Turnagain Arm. This is the nearest place to Anchorage that you can see whales. Beluga Point is a popular spot to stop on the Seward Highway and it’s only a 45-minute drive from Anchorage. I highly recommend driving this road anyways because it’s absolutely beautiful.

Homer

If you want to see whales in Homer, drive along the Homer Spit. It’s possible to see humpback whales cruising around Kachemak Bay while standing on the beach. You can also hop on a boat or kayak to try and see whales.

Seward

My favorite place to see whales in Alaska is in Resurrection Bay, which is the body of water that sits outside of Seward. I’ve been on multiple whale watching cruises in the area as well as a sailing trip to Thumb Cove with my friends and I’ve always seen whales.

It’s possible to spot whales from the shoreline but nothing compares to the experiences you have seeing whales as you get to go further out in Resurrection Bay. Most commonly sighted whales in this area are humpback whales and orcas, but you can occasionally see gray whales and fin whales.

I specifically booked an orca whale cruise one time, but unfortunately we didn’t see any whales at all that day. We did get to see Dalls porpoises swim with the boat, which was pretty amazing. I’m still waiting to see orca whales!

Whittier

Whittier is probably my least favorite and least recommended area to see whales in Alaska. It’s only because I’ve never seen whales during any of the tours I’ve been on. The tours are mainly focused on seeing glaciers, which are incredible to see regardless! These tours are also great for anyone interested in bird viewing.

dalls porpoise seward alaska

3 Ways To See Whales In Alaska

There are three popular ways to see whales while in Alaska:

  1. Driving – You can see whales from your car, depending on the season. Whether it’s along the Turnagain Arm or from the shores of coastal cities like Sitka, this is an easy way to enjoy whale watching.
  2. Boat Tours – Two of the largest companies in Southcentral Alaska are Kenai Fjords Tours and Major Marine. Both are great options and tours typically start from $80 to $180 USD per adult. These tours are usually based on how many hours you’re actually on the boat, whether it’s for a half day or full day. Full day tours usually include a tasty meal of fish (halibut or salmon) or another choice of meat.
  3. Cruise – The most popular way to see whales in Alaska is on a cruise. However, if you do take a cruise through Alaska, you definitely need to do a land tour because you have not seen half of what Alaska has to offer!
how to see whales in alaska

Top Whale Watching Tours in Alaska

There are plenty of opportunities to see whales from the shore, but hopping on a day tour is a great way to see whales in Alaska.


YouTube Video: Alaska Whale Watching


Read More

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Do you have any questions about Alaska whale watching? Let me know in the comments.

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