Westport, a small town on the Pacific Ocean, may not have the same allure for whale watchers as the nearby San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, or the Salish Sea, but it does have its share of whales passing by.
Westport is located south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic National Park. Westport is located on the Southside of the entrance to Grays Harbor, on a peninsula.
Dall’s porpoise, gray whale, harbor porpoise, humpback whale, Pacific white-sided dolphin.
Fin whale, killer whale, minke whale, Northern right whale dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, sperm whale,
Other Marine Mammals
Californian sea lion, harbor seal, Northern fur seal, Steller sea lion.
Westport. Ocean Shores – North Jetty, Westport observation tower, North Head lighthouse, Lewis and Clark interpretive center.
When To Go
The best time to visit to spot gray whales is from early March to late May. If you want to view whales from land, the best time is from March to October. During March, April, and May, gray whales pass by on their way to their summer feeding grounds, which are in the Arctic.
Gray whales also pass by Westport back from the Arctic to their breeding grounds. The breeding grounds are in Baja, California, and southward migration is not as good for seeing the whales. The whales are further offshore and travel faster to their breeding grounds.
There are some excellent boat trips from Westport, although these are not strictly to see marine mammals. These boat trips are pelagic trips for birdwatchers.
However, the two types of animals overlap in these areas, and whales and dolphins can often be seen on these day trips. Whale-watching boats will usually take you offshore a few miles.
The pelagic trips head from Grays Canyon, 40 miles away from Grays Harbor. The area is on the continental shelf’s edge and rich in marine mammals.
Dall’s porpoises, gray whales, harbor porpoises, humpback whales, killer whales, Northern right whale dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, and Pacific white-sided dolphins have all been sited in this area.
I have written this guide for information on where else you can see whales in North America.
Can I View Whales and Dolphins From Land on the Olympic Coast?
Cape Alava is located in Olympic National Park and the Ozette Indian Reservation. A 3.5-mile hike will take you to the Cape. Gray whales can be seen in late spring and summer. Orcas can be seen throughout the year.
Cape Disappointment State Park
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is a great place to see whales, as the building stands on the cliffs high up in Cape Disappointment State Park. The North Head lighthouse is also an excellent place to spot whales.
Cape Flattery is a 3.5-mile hike to the Cape from the car park. Cape Flattery overlooks the entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Tatoosh Island.
Gray whales can be seen from the lookout platform and some orcas. At Makah Marina, sea lions can often be seen hauled out on the docks, and if you are lucky, you may spot a transient orca.
Destruction Island Viewpoint
The viewpoint for Destruction Island is located near Ruby Beach. As part of the Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge and the Washington Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the outlook is an ideal place to see various wildlife. Gray whales, orcas, and Steller sea lions can be seen from this viewpoint.
Although boat trips are available, gray whales can sometimes be seen in Grays Harbor. Up to 40 gray whales can sometimes be seen in the area, with whales sometimes entering the harbor.
From the sandy beach, it is possible to see orcas, gray whales, and humpback whales.
In April, the Quileute Nation hosts their annual ‘Welcoming of the Whales Ceremony’ with La Push, a popular place to see whales.
These are good places to see Dall’s porpoises, harbor porpoises, humpback whales, killer whales, minke whales, and Pacific white-sided dolphins.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary stretches 65 miles down the coast and is a great place to see marine mammals. The Sanctuary also extends between 25-50 miles out to sea.
The Sanctuary includes much of the continental shelf and some vast submarine canyons, with 24 sighted species. The Olympic Coast Discovery Center is also part of the Marine Sanctuary. Humpback whales, orcas, and gray whales may be seen.
Shi Shi Beach
My favorite beach on the West Coast, Shi Shi Beach, is a beautiful destination with rock formations and tide pools. Gray whales, orcas, and humpback whales may be seen on occasion.
South Beach, near Kalaloch, is part of the Olympic National Park. Orcas and gray whales have been spotted in the area.
Which Whales am I Likely To See?
The Dall’s porpoise is a swift swimmer, rarely breaching from the water, but will bow-ride with whale-watching boats.
The Dall’s porpoise weighs between 300 and 400 lbs and grows from 5.6 to 7.9ft (1.7-2.4m). Its shape can recognize Dall’s porpoise. Some confuse them with killer whales as they have black and white markings. One way of distinguishing them from orcas is that they have a white edge to their dorsal fin.
Gray whale grows between 46-49 ft (11-15m) and reaches up to a massive 40 tons. You can see gray whales feeding on schooling fish, crabs, amphipods, and mysids.
Gray whales are curious, frequently approaching whale-watching boats. They are excellent to watch as they have had lots of activity at the water’s surface.
Please find out how whales evolved in this article I wrote
The humpback whale grows up to 56 ft (17m) with a weight of between 28-45 tons. They are curious whales approaching whale-watching boats. They are very active at the surface, breaching, lob tailing, spy hopping, and flipper-slapping.
The harbor porpoise is a relatively small marine mammal relative to the dolphins. They measure up to 1.9 m and weigh from 61 to 76 kg. When whale-watching, look for a dark gray on top and a much whiter gray on the underbody.
The harbor porpoise can be seen eating fish, octopuses, and squids. Harbor porpoises like to swim in shallow water bodies and even frequent inland water bodies like rivers and estuaries.
Pacific White-sided Dolphin
The Pacific white-sided dolphin grows from 7.5-8.2ft (2.3-2.5m) with 440 lbs. A gray and black pattern along the flank with dark flippers and flukes can recognize them. They have a lighter underside with a white lower jaw.
San Diego is a fantastic place to watch whales from shore or out at sea. Please find out the best places in this article I wrote.
The fin whale is a large whale growing up to 88 ft (27m), although slightly smaller around the Olympic Coast region. They reach a weight of 34-100 tons. They are the second-largest living animal on Earth after the blue whale. Fin whales have a color on their heads that is different on both sides and is an excellent way to recognize them.
The minke whale grows up to 30 ft (9m) and weighs 10 tons. They can be seen feeding on krill, crustaceans, and small schooling fish.
They are the smallest and most abundant rorqual whales and can be recognized by their pointed heads. The subspecies around the Olympic Coast is the North Pacific minke whale.
The sperm whale grows up to 52 ft (16m) and up to 50 tons. Sperm whales have dark gray bodies with square heads. The lack of a dorsal fin and a slit-like blowhole can recognize them.
Sperm whales can often be seen lying motionless at the water’s surface.
San Juan Island and Puget Sound are among the best places on the west coast to watch whales. Find out the best classes and which whales you can see here.
Risso’s dolphin is easy to differentiate from other dolphins. They are heavily scarred on their flanks and have a large head with an indistinct beak.
Risso’s dolphins are of various colors, ranging from light white to dark gray. They are a large species of dolphin growing from 12.5-13.5 ft (3.8-4.1m) and weighing from 660-1,100 lb,
Northern Right Whale Dolphin
The Northern right whale dolphin is a large species, measuring up to 10.2ft (3.1m) but weighing only 250 lb. They can be distinguished from other dolphins in the area by lacking a dorsal fin. The Northern right whale dolphin is black with a lighter white underside.
Steller Sea Lion
The Steller sea lion is also known as the Northern sea lion. They are the largest species of eared seals. The sea lions measure up to 2.9 meters in length and weigh 350 kg. Steller sea lions spend most of their time in the water.
Californian Sea Lion
The California sea lion is an eared seal native to the western part of North America. Males are larger than females, with males weighing up to 350 kilograms while females weigh up to 100 kilograms.
The Californian sea lion can be found hauled out on sandy or rocky beaches.
I have written an article if you would like to know how to prepare for a whale watching trip. You can find the article here.
The harbor seal is also known as the common seal. Their color is brownish gray with light or dark spots, with a lighter color on the underbody.
Harbor seals measure up to 1.85m weighing 168 kg. They are usually found on beaches, rocks, and glacier ice.
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Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.