Canada is a country of three coastlines, bordered by the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. This means there are ample opportunities to observe and experience the diversity of marine wildlife that each ocean offers. Whale watching tours are a popular activity for locals and tourists alike, since around 33 whale species can be viewed from either the windswept shores or by use of sailing boats, kayaks, and zodiacs. From east to west, here are the best spots to go whale watching across Canada.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador edges onto Canada’s Atlantic coast, and the region is one of the best whale watching spots in the world. There have been 22 whale species sighted here, including humpbacks, orca, minke, blue, and fin. The whales feast on the abundant krill, squid, and capelin that also inhabit the icy waters. The peak season for whale watching is between May and September, and they can be seen from the shoreline or from a boat or sea kayak.
The beautiful Cape Breton Highlands consist of a mountainous coastal region in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia. From the shores or from a Zodiac or catamaran, you can catch sight of humpback whales, fin whales, and pilot whales, primarily during the peak season of July and August.
The historic village of Tadoussac in Quebec is located at the mouth of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence Rivers. The Saguenay River has freshwater while the St. Lawrence has salty water, and at the meeting of the rivers is a whale watcher’s paradise. The species that can be spotted are mainly blue, minke, humpback, and beluga whales. They are best viewed from a Zodiac while you’re decked out in a bright orange thermal suit, offered by various tourism companies in the area.
Churchill is perhaps best known as being the polar bear capital of Canada, but the town is also a prime spot for viewing beluga whales at the estuary of the Churchill River near Hudson Bay. During July and August, thousands of belugas migrate through the warm Churchill River estuary in order to calf. Whale watching visitors head out onto the water with kayaks and boats, and the keenest can also put on a thermal wet-suit and go snorkeling with these gentle creatures.
Tofino is situated along the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of British Columbia. During the summer, Tofino attracts whale watchers, surfers, fishers, and bird watchers. In March, the coastline waters in the area become a migration route for gray whales as they head north from the Baja Peninsula. This event is marked by the annual Pacific Rim Whale Festival. Later in the year, in October, the whales travel back south.
Telegraph Cove, part of the Robson Bight (Michael Bigg) Ecological Reserve is also located in British Columbia and is Canada’s only designated sanctuary for orcas, or killer whales. To protect the orca population that migrate to the region for its abundant supplies of salmon, the reserve is closed to boat traffic. To ensure that your whale watching experience is eco-friendly, it’s best to head out onto the water with a local kayaking outfitter.