Whale Watching Holidays Canada
30 whale species to see in Canada
More than 30 species of whale live off Canada's shores. During whale watching season, there's nothing like seeing the fluke of a humpback whale disappearing into the Atlantic Ocean or sailing alongside a pod of orcas in the Pacific. My favourite are the belugas in Northern Canada - they're so cute!
How to Book
Speak with our experts
Call our experts
With the longest coastline in the world, there are plenty of opportunities to see whales in Canada's Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans. Call our friendly experts and we'll be happy to help you plan your perfect trip. If you are looking for orcas, humpbacks or belugas, we can advise when and where to see them. You'll be able to book flights, hotels, transfers or car hire and those all-important whale watching excursions. There's so much to see and do on your holiday!
Where to go
Where to see whales in Canada
With more than 30 species of whales off Canada's 200,000km coastline, there are plenty of whale watching opportunities here. Broadly speaking, there are three main places to spot whales: off the Pacific Coast of British Columbia; in the Atlantic Ocean off Quebec, Newfoundland & Labrador and the Maritime provinces; and in Northern Canada's Hudson Bay. Within each area are plenty of towns where whale watching is the main attraction so you won't be short of tours.
Whale watching in British Columbia
Whale watching in BC is easily accessible, with tours even going from Vancouver! However, your best bet is to head a little further afield to Vancouver Island. Whale watching is popular and reliable from BC's capital, Victoria at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, and from surf-town Tofino on the west coast of the island. Orcas and humpbacks are most commonly seen here but you could also spot gray whales and minke whales. The coastline off the Great Bear Rainforest offers an even wilder setting.
Whale watching in Atlantic Canada
Tadoussac in Quebec province is a gem for whale watching. Up to 13 species of whales swim the salty estuary waters in the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord. Digby in Nova Scotia is blessed with the rich waters of the Bay of Fundy, where fin whales can be spotted. Cape Breton in Nova Scotia is perfect for pilot whales while St John's in Newfoundland & Labrador offers the chance of seeing whales and icebergs together!
Whale watching in Northern Canada
In Canada's North, the town of Churchill in Manitoba perches on the edge of Hudson Bay. The Arctic waters are home to some of the most unusual animals on the planet. Every July, tens of thousands of beluga whales flock to the area to feed and give birth. A whale watching tour here is hugely rewarding as the belugas are so friendly, inquisitive and vocal. You can also combine beluga watching with polar bear viewing for the ultimate wildlife experience.
When to go
Canada's whale seasons
When to see whales in Canada
In general, you'll be able to spot whales in Canada between May and September as they migrate to feed in the country's rich waters. Visit Tofino in late March to catch the peak of the gray whale migration (although the whales will stick around until autumn). July and August is the best time to see belugas in Northern Canada and also humpbacks in Atlantic Canada. Blue whales congregate near Tadoussac in August and September.
Best for humpback & blue whales
If you're visiting the Pacific Coast around Vancouver Island, humpbacks arrive earlier and stay later than on the Atlantic Coast. You can see them from spring right through into autumn, roughly from May to October. Around Nova Scotia, the peak season for humpbacks is mid-July to mid-September. In St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, it's even earlier - late June to August. You should head to Tadoussac in Quebec to see the blue whales which congregate there in August and September.
Best time for killer whales
To spot orcas on a Canada whale watching holiday, head west. Around Vancouver Island's north, where the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve reigns misty and primordial, some 200 orcas converge around mid-June to October. In the south of Vancouver Island, around Victoria, the resident whale pods can be seen all year round. However, you'll have around a 95-98% viewing success rate during the peak season from May to October.
What to expect
Our expert tips
Before you go
Whale watching is popular, so book your tour in advance. You can choose the type of boat and check if the company offers guaranteed viewings or a free second trip if you don't see whales (many operators do). Covered vessels are great for keeping the weather at bay, providing stable sailing and comfortable seats. In a Zodiac powerboat, you sit right on the water so feel closer to the action. The ride is open to the elements and is very exhilarating!
What to wear
If you're on a Zodiac boat, the operator will provide a heavy, warm, waterproof all-in-one sailing suit as well as a personal flotation device. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes underneath and bring a hat and gloves as the wind chill can be cold. For covered vessels, the operator will only provide your lifejacket. You'll need to make sure you wrap up warm as it can be much colder out at sea than on land. Bring a hat, gloves and sunglasses.
Enjoying the experience
Aside from warm, dry clothing, make sure you bring suncream, binoculars, your camera and some water and snacks depending on your tour (some can be several hours long, but if you are on a Zodiac boat you won't want to bring loose items which could fall overboard). While it's important to get the perfect photo, make sure you take time to simply watch the whales too, and don't block other guests' view when trying to find the perfect angle.
Ways to get on the water
Glacial Fjord & Hot Springs Tour
From Bella Coola in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, embark on a nautical adventure aboard the MV Nekhani. The 14-foot jet boat guides you through the stunning scenery of the area's glacial fjords. Cruise by the Hanging Glaciers, relax on the beach at Bachelor Bay and see Seal Rock. Search for grizzlies, black bears and wolves along the tidal estuary as well as seals, dolphins, porpoises and whales. Enjoy a soak and BBQ at the hot springs before heading back. Call us to book.
Whale Watching by Catamaran
From British Columbia's capital, Victoria, in the south of Vancouver Island, Tour the Juan De Fuca Strait in search of whales and marine wildlife. Your journey will be aboard 4 Ever Wild, a luxurious catamaran yacht. The vessel features an indoor heated viewing area with plush leather seating, multiple outdoor viewing decks and washrooms. It's one of the most comfortable and unique ways to search for whales. Call us to book.
Marine Wildlife & Whale Watching Tour
The thrill of racing across the Bay of Fundy's waters is matched by the magnificent spectacle of a humpback whale, fin whale or minke whale breaching the waves. Your small group of fellow adventurers is guided by an experienced mariner in a Zodiac boat, with tracking equipment to maximize your chances of seeing whales. Colourful puffins dot the cliffs as bald eagles and razorbills wheel in the crisp skies overhead. This excursion is a Signature Experience with Destination Canada. Call us to book.
Meet Canada's whales
Humpback whales are some of the most plentiful and iconic ocean giants to grace Canada's oceans. This large species of baleen whale measures around 12-16 metres in length when fully grown and feeds on krill and small fish. It's easy to recognise this whale when you are out on a tour thanks to the distinctive shape of its back, which gives the whale its name. Plus, its unmissable white and grey tail fluke is a must-see as it dives for food.
Killer whales, or orcas, are perhaps the most recognisable whale species in the world. Their distinctive black and white markings are unique to each individual. The resident pod to the south of Vancouver Island is well-known to biologists, with each member of the pod named and tracked. These toothed whales belong to the oceanic dolphin family and hunt fish, seals and dolphins. If you're lucky, you'll see an orca spyhopping - emerging vertically from the water to look at you!
The beluga whale is an Arctic and sub-Arctic whale of the family Monodontidae, whose only other member is the narwhal. Belugas are a joy to see in the wild as they are some of the most intelligent, curious and chatty whales in the world. They have a huge repertoire of whistles and clicks which has earned them the nickname, sea canary. Its distinctive, bulbous head contains a unique organ called a melon which the whales use for echolocation!
Whale Watching Routes
Here are some of our favourite whale watching routes you can follow on a Canada driving holiday or escorted tour
See Canada's whales
Watch these inspirational videos for an idea of the incredible wildlife encounters you can have with whales in Canada
Whale watching in Canada
There is a good reason that enthusiasts choose Canada as the destination for their whale watching holiday. With over 202,000km of coastline and more than 30 species of whales living off its shores, Canada offers excellent opportunities to view the giants of the sea. Well-organised boat tours maximise your chances of spotting whales. You are guaranteed to see incredible marine life from seals, sea lions and porpoises to seabirds and hopefully whales. Whether it’s an exhilarating Zodiac or a statelier cruise, every whale watching trip in Canada is accompanied by an experienced guide who knows the most likely spots to find whales.
British Columbia - and particularly Vancouver Island - is a brilliant location to spot orcas, minke whales, huge humpbacks and grey whales. Resident orcas live there year-round, while migratory species visit between May and October, with the season peaking around July and August. For the grey whale migration past Tofino, you’ll need to go in March. Churchill in Manitoba plays host every summer to 60,000 elegant beluga whales, which despite their ghostly appearance are friendly and curious about sightseeing boats. In Eastern Canada, Nova Scotia and Quebec are famed for their humpbacks, and even the King of the Ocean: the mighty blue whale.
The best places for whale watching in Canada
Below are our picks of the best places in Canada to see whales
Whale watching in Victoria
Victoria, the capital of Vancouver Island, is one of the best places to spot whales. Head out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca in an open Zodiac boat and you’ll enjoy incredible views with fantastic chances of spotting whales. In the summer, the Strait can be calm as a millpond. It’s possible to spot the pod of resident orcas as well as dozens of humpbacks.
Tofino whale watching
Tofino offers the chance to see orcas, sea lions and eagles as well as coastal black bears, making it a versatile destination.
Churchill in Manitoba is the best place to spot ethereal beluga whales in their thousands. Go in summertime to catch the migration.
Tadoussac in Quebec is a favourite for humpbacks, fin whales, minke whales and even belugas in the rich waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary.
Bay of Fundy whales
The Bay of Fundy offers incredibly rich feeding waters home to dozens of species of whales. Tours leave from New Brunswick’s coast.
Newfoundland whale watching
Newfoundland and Labrador offers a unique whale watching experience alongside icebergs. Between the mainland and the island of Newfoundland, giant icebergs which have broken off the ice sheets in Greenland make their way down Iceberg Alley. Here you can also see whales like humpbacks feeding in the cold waters.