Whale Watching in Alaska: Where and When to Get the Best Glimpse

Alaska calls you to adventure. Everywhere you step, you discover something magnificent. From the humongous glaciers to Denali National Park to the Anchorage nightlife, you’re swept off your feet by the sheer amount of unique experiences the 49th State offers.

One activity you can’t forget about during your trip is whale watching. There are few better places to see these mammoth, majestic creatures. Beyond the commonly-seen humpback whale, you’ll also encounter orcas (killer whales), gray whales, belugas, and even blue whales (the biggest of them all), among others.

So, if you have whale watching in Alaska on your list of activities, read on. Here we’ll cover where and when to get the best glimpses of all the whales that make the Alaskan coast their home.

Where to go whale watching in Alaska

Alaska has more than 33,900 miles of shoreline, according to the NOAA Office of Coastal Management. That can seem overwhelming, but luckily interstate flights beginning in bigger cities and towns like Fairbanks and Anchorage can get you to the best spots in no time.

Given easier accessibility, the south and southeast are common destinations for whale watchers. There are numerous places you should consider, including:

  • Prince William Sound: Resident whales include humpback, minke, sei, fin, and killer whales, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game notes. A rare blue whale has been spotted here recently. You can access Prince William Sound from towns and communities like Cordova, Valdez, and Whittier.
  • Kodiak: An island, Kodiak’s most popular whale is the gray whale, followed by the humpback, fin, sei, and minke. You may also see killer whales swimming through during any time of the year. Kodiak is accessible via flight from Anchorage.
  • Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve: This is arguably the best spot to see humpback whales, backdropped by amazing scenery. Orcas are often seen here, too. Near the Gulf of Alaska, Glacier Bay is usually reached via cruise boat but can also be accessed from Juneau.
  • Seward: A town near Kenai Fjords National Park, Seward is home to orcas, belugas, humpback whales, and others. You can get there via air from Anchorage to Kenai.

Beyond the south and southeast, you should also consider the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean, where you could see a bowhead whale and belugas. The Beaufort Sea is off the northern coast of Alaska and towns near it like Deadhorse can be reached by flights originating in cities like Fairbanks.

Additionally, the Chukchi Sea, which is also off the coast of northwestern Alaska, is where you can take boat tours to find belugas and gray whales. You should also consider a trip through the Bering Sea, too, as this where orcas and even rare whales, like the North Pacific right whale, live.

When to go whale watching in Alaska

Generally speaking, whales that swim off the Alaskan coast migrate from warmer waters around places like Japan, Mexico, and Hawaii in February. The majority arrive in Alaska in April and early May and stay until September, according to an Alaska whale tours experts. They hope to take advantage of Alaska’s seafood-rich summer waters (salmon, anyone?).

This is very advantageous for those looking to travel to Alaska. May through September is undoubtedly the best time to visit. The weather is moderate, making all sorts of activities, from hiking and fishing to whale watching, as enjoyable as possible.

Of course, not every whale makes the usual migration. For instance, some killer whales prefer colder waters and will ride the cold currents off the southern coast of Alaska during winter. Some beluga whales stay well into fall as well.  

With that said, if you want to see all the types of whales that roam Alaska’s waters, coming during summer is your best bet, preferably between June and August.

Making the most of your whale watching trip

By researching the best whale watching locations and booking your trip during the best whale watching times, you can make the most of your journey to Alaska. Now, why wait longer? Get your ticket today and get ready for the experience of a lifetime.