Is Whale Watching Better In Vancouver Or Victoria?

Are you wondering is whale watching better in Vancouver or Victoria?

Growing up and living in Vancouver, I heard about whales being spotted off the coast of British Columbia during certain months every year.

Believe it or not, whale watching is a popular tourist attraction year-round when you visit Vancouver or Victoria. In addition, geographically, British Columbia’s coast has a rich biodiversity for feeding and migration, so you’re bound to see different types of whales 95% of the time.

In this blog post, I’ll help you break down the comparison between whale watching in Vancouver or Victoria, the types of whales you’ll see, what to wear, and other general information.

Is Whale Watching Better In Vancouver Or Victoria?

If you’re looking for a quick answer, Victoria is the winner for better whale watching. However, you should still go whale watching from Vancouver.

Whales freely travel between Vancouver and Victoria, so either way, you’re guaranteed to see whales.

Moreover, here’s a quick breakdown of why Victoria won over Vancouver for whale watching.

A open yellow and grey tour boat with many people on the lower and upper deck watching two Orcas (Killer Whales) in the ocean. Is whale watching better in Vancouver or Victoria?

1. Location

While companies in Vancouver and Victoria travel to relatively the same location to watch whales, Victoria is closer to where you’ll be for whale watching.

In addition, since Victoria is closer to the whale watching area, there’s less travelling time on the water to get to the location. In contrast, in Vancouver, there’s more travel time.

πŸ₯‡ Winner: Victoria

2. Cost

When comparing costs, Vancouver is more expensive overall because it’s further away. Plus, the boats consume more fuel for travelling and possible hotel pick-ups.

πŸ₯‡ Winner: Victoria

3. Convenience Of Tour Companies

Vancouver has whale watching tour companies in Granville Island, Steveston, and Richmond. Granville Island is convenient because it’s easy to get to if you plan to stay in Downtown Vancouver.

On the other hand, almost all the tour companies in Victoria are located in Inner Harbour, which is super convenient because it’s a 5 to 10-minute walk from Downtown Victoria.

Since Vancouver is further away, Vancouver tour companies don’t have year-round whale-watching options.

πŸ₯‡ Winner: Victoria

Best Time For Whale Watching In Vancouver

Vancouver’s whale-watching season runs from April to October (winter in Vancouver doesn’t offer whale-watching tours). For example, the peak season for Orcas is from April to November. So, if you’re interested in seeing other whales, you may have to travel to Victoria from Vancouver.

Best Time To See Whales In Victoria

Victoria’s whale-watching season is longer than Vancouver’s, lasting from April to November (winter in Victoria is one of the better months to go). However, unlike Vancouver, Victoria offers tours year-round.

Whale watching in Victoria allows you to be more flexible about the type of whales you hope to see, as certain whales have different peak times.

What Type Of Whales May You See

Periodically, the pattern of seeing whales can change slightly during the months. So, seeing whales is possible earlier or later than expected. It’s all up to the whales!

Orcas (Killer Whales) – April To November

A black and white Orca (Killer Whale) breaching straight up from the ocean.

First and foremost, the most popular whales you’ll see are Orcas, also known as Killer Whales. The Transient and Southern Resident Killer Whales are well known in British Columbia.

πŸ’‘ Fun Fact: Southern Resident Killer Whales are mainly found off British Columbia, Washington and Oregon coasts.

Transient Killer Whales are excellent predators. They eat other mammals, for example, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, and other species of whales.

On the other hand, Southern Resident Killer Whales eat fish and small amounts of squid. However, their favourite type of fish is the Chinook Salmon. The high amount of fat and the largest out of the salmon species is why they favour the Chinook.

Unfortunately, the Southern Resident Killer Whale population is endangered. Therefore, you’ll most likely miss seeing them on your whale-watching tour, as they’re rare nowadays.

But it’s not impossible! A small pod is divided into three (family relations) so scientists can keep track of them; J, K, and L Pod. Not too long ago – if I remember correctly, J Pod was spotted hunting for food around their habitat closer to Vancouver Island.

Vocalization is another crucial factor in identifying which pod of Killer Whales are in the area.

A pod of six black and white Orcas (Killer Whales) swimming in the ocean with mountains in the background.

Humpback Whales – July To October

The largest whale you’ll see along the coast is the Humpback Whale. During the summer, Humpback Whales stop to feed in British Columbia. Then, once it gets colder, they will migrate toward tropical water (Hawaii and sometimes Mexico) for mating.

Humpbacks are known to breach the surface and use their spectacular, powerful tails to slap the water.

They’re also known for their songs, which have a low vocal register with changing frequency and amplitude and can last 10 to 20 minutes.

The best location on Vancouver Island to see Humpback Whales is further north. But the best areas to spot them up north are Telegraph Cove and Port McNeil.

A pod of Humpback Whales using the bubble net meathod for hunting fish in the ocean with three birds trying to get into the action. Is it whale watching better in Vancouver or Victoria? It all depends on  the type of whales you may want to see.

Grey Whales – April To June

Grey Whales are also known to frequent British Columbia on their migration route. Usually, the coast of Vancouver Island is in the middle of their route, either from Alaska to the Baja Coast of California (Mexico) or vice versa.

Scars left on their bodies by parasites are how you can identify a Grey Whale. The parasites drop off their bodies in colder waters (Vancouver Island and Alaska).

Grey Whales usually travel in small groups. Roughly a couple hundred will stop along Vancouver Island to feed. They’re the only whales that feed at the bottom of the ocean.

The West side of the island is the best location to see Grey Whales. The best areas to spot them are Ucluelet, Tofino, and Sooke (closer to the South of the island).

Porpoises

Porpoises are common sights on whale watching tours. Two different types can be spotted, and people often confuse them by mixing up their identities. Here are two different types of porpoises and how to differentiate them.

Harbour Porpoise – Spring/Fall

Harbour Porpoises are commonly spotted along Vancouver Island. Dark brown or grey bodies and light grey bellies are the best way to identify them. They’re the smallest cetacean* in British Columbia.

They’re likely to travel in small groups, usually two to five, unless near a forging area. Their triangular dorsal fins are the same colour as their bodies.

Dall’s Porpoise – Late Summer, Early Fall

Dall’s Porpoises are the second most commonly found porpoises on the coast of Vancouver Island. They have black bodies with white patches along their lower flanks to identify them. Like the Harbour Porpoise, they have a triangular dorsal fin but black with a white tip.

Their tails are usually outlined in white. Sometimes they can also look chunky.

A Dall's Porpoises calmly swimming in the water. They are commonly seen on a whale watching tours from Vancouver Island.

They’re likely to travel in groups of two to ten and are the fastest cetaceans in British Columbia, with speeds up to 55 km/hour.

*Cetacean – marine mammal, including whale, dolphin, or porpoise.

Half-Day Whale Watching Tour (Victoria)

This half-day whale watching tour out of Victoria is the best. It’s highly rated, and many people rave about the excellent tour.

This was one of the best experiences on our trip! The staff were well trained, extremely knowledgeable and skilled, and truly enjoy what they do. They were eager to spot whales and other sea life and excited to share lots of information and answer questions. Very fun and enjoyable!

–Tamie (see more Reviews)

It’s a four-hour adventure along Haro Strait on a semi-covered vessel. Not only will you see whales but also other marine life in their native habitats, for example, sea lions hanging out or birds flying overhead.

This exertion includes a captain and crew of three to four knowledgeable and entertaining people, a free photo package of your trip and wildlife, children’s colouring books, and educational guides.

However, the best parts included in this half-day whale watching tour are complimentary beverages on board the vessel, washrooms, and a *Lifetime Whale Sighting Guarantee!

Sometimes, Mother Nature has other plans. *A Lifetime Whale Sighting Guarantee means that in an unlikely situation where there were no whale sightings on your trip, you’re offered to join another whale watching tour for free.

πŸ’‘ Note: *Please talk to the appropriate crew members or staff if this occurs on your tour.

➑️ Check Prices & Availability for the Half-Day Whale Watching Tour Victoria

What To Wear & Bring For Whale Watching Season

Here are some suggestions on what to bring for your whale watching tours.

βœ” Seasickness medication (for motion sickness)

First things first, if you’re prone to motion sickness, I highly recommend getting Gravol – for my fellow non-Canadians reading this, Dramamine.

Remember to double-check and make sure it’s non-drowsy; otherwise, you might accidentally fall asleep on your tour!

βœ” Binoculars

An absolute must on any whale watching trip is to bring binoculars. You’ll want to take advantage of what is on the horizon and look closely at the whales.

βœ” Warm clothing

It will be windy and cold. I suggested wearing a few layers, a windbreaker or a warm waterproof jacket on top, and long pants. Bring a toque or beanie if you want to stay warm.

βœ” Proper shoes

The last thing you want is to slip and fall on board. So make sure to wear close toes shoes!

How To Get To Victoria

How to get to Victoria is easy. But suppose you’re travelling to the island to go whale watching. In that case, you should make a Vancouver Island road trip to ensure you get the whole island experience.

One way of getting to Victoria is using the BC Ferries. From Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay will get you to Victoria. It’s an hour and 30 minute beautiful ferry ride.

The second way to the island is by air. Harbour Air Seaplanes offers a 35-minute flight from Vancouver to Victoria.

However, most people tend to take the ferry route because it’s the primary connection to the island.

Is It Better To Go Whale Watching From Vancouver Or Victoria? – FAQs

These are some frequently asked questions about whale watching in Vancouver or Victoria.

Is Whale Watching In Vancouver Worth It?

While Vancouver is an excellent location for whale watching, Vancouver Island is even better because it’s closer to the action.

What To Look For When Whale Watching?

There are a few things to look for when whale watching. First, scan the horizon and look for any breaks in the waterSpouts or blows are the most distinctive when looking for whales. Dorsal fins and tail flukes are also something to look for too.

A tail of a whale that breached the surface of the water. There are many fish that are near the surface of the water.

Blows are the best way to know that there are whales in the area; they’re all distinctive.

Grey Whales have a double-blow-hole, making their spouts look like a heart shape or a “V.” Humpbacks usually have a tall column-shaped blow. And Killer Whales have a wide-bushy blow.

Does Time Of Day Matter For Whale Watching

The short answer is no. The time of day doesn’t matter for whale watching. Whales are doing their thing all hours of the day and night. But tours have their hours for when they operate.

However, morning or sunset hours tend to have calmer waters and quieter if you prefer less commercial activity and choppy water.

Is Whale Watching Dangerous

Whale watching is a safe industry. Tour vessels and operators are trained and aware of the steps to ensure that the whales and your safety come first.

However, when choosing a whale watching tour worldwide, please select a responsible and reputable one.

Conclusion

So, to answer your question: is whale watching better in Vancouver or Victoria? Whale watching in Victoria is the clear winner; however, you’ll be guaranteed to see whales from either city. I hope you take the chance to see these whales in their natural habitats.

Have a good day πŸ™‚

πŸ₯‡ Editors Picks:

Vancouver — Half Day Whale Watching Tour
Victoria — Half Day Whale Watching Tour