Try whale watching from the shore at Alki Beach in West Seattle, just a short drive or water taxi trip away from downtown. The beach is a popular spot for seals and their pups to rest, making it a draw for Orcas as well. You’re more likely to spot orcas here during the fall and winter months, but transient whales are seen here year round. (Pro tip: Bring along a pair of binoculars.)
Find more onshore whale watching spots in the region at the Orca Network’s Whale Sighting Viewpoints Map.
If a boating excursion is more your style, Clipper Vacations operates year-round trips to Victoria, BC, and seasonal trips to the San Juan Islands (Apr—Oct), departing from downtown Seattle. These passenger-only ferries offer whale watching tours that guarantee sightings, or you’ll receive a coupon for another complimentary trip. clippervacations.com
San Juan Safaris operating out of Friday Harbor has a variety of options for whale spotting hopefuls, including flight packages where you can take the scenic route to your tour via a Kenmore Air seaplane departing from Lake Union or Lake Washington (keep an eye out for whales on the way). sanjuansafaris.com
San Juan Outfitters offers boat tours out of Roche Harbor that explore the waters surrounding the islands. Along with a high likelihood of whale sightings, they pride themselves on trips featuring a host other marine wildlife, from sea lions to porpoises. sanjuanislandoutfitters.com
Feeling adventurous? Crystal Seas Kayak lets you get as close to the action as possible with kayak trips ranging from a few hours to a day-long excursion through the San Juan Islands (add on a bike tour if you want to stretch your sea legs). The outfit also runs a Whale and Wildlife Cruise that provides similar views from the comfort of a sightseeing ship. crystalseas.com
Three generations of family ownership have made the tour operators at Puget Sound Express some of the most knowledgeable around. Depart from either Port Townsend or Edmonds for a whale watching tour through the Sound on one of their three ships, all equipped with indoor seating to keep the ocean’s chill away. pugetsoundexpress.com
If you want to reserve a private charter, San Juan Island Whale and Wildlife Tours offers “buy the boat” tours. Book a three-hour trip for up to seven people, or plan a customized trip. sanjuanislandwhales.com