San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Watching
Boat-Based Whale Watching Tours
Getting out on the water with a local whale watch tour operator will give you the best chance at seeing whales in their natural habitat. Although they can’t guarantee them—many boast a 90% viewing rate during the peak season of May through September—the captains are in constant communication with their spotting network in order to do their best at finding the whales and other spectacular wildlife in U.S and Canadian waters. Knowledgeable marine naturalists are also on board to inform and amuse you. San Juan Island tour operators depart from three locations—Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor and Snug Harbor—making it easy to step on board no matter where you are on the island.
Shore-Based Whale Watching
San Juan Island is home to Lime Kiln Point State Park (a.k.a. Whale Watch Park), one of the best places in the world for trying your luck at shore-based whale watching. The park faces the island’s west side waters where the whales spend time feeding and socializing during summer. Picnic tables and plenty of shady nooks mean you can spend a few happy hours on the lookout and enjoying the view—or explore the rocky shore and tide pools. Visit the interpretive center, or take a tour of the lighthouse, intertidal areas or the whole park, provided by the Friends of the Lime Kiln Society (FOLKS).
The Whale Museum
For a preview of your whale-sighting experience, you might visit The Whale Museum in downtown Friday Harbor, where you can view whale skeletons and recent nearby sightings, listen to the songs of various species in the Whale Phone Booth, watch a free 30-minute looped video on Pacific Northwest orca whales, and stock up on whale-related gifts.