PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour
Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights
Summer Trips To Alaska
Denali Discovery Adventure
What Types of Whales Can I See In Alaska?
Alaska is home to a number of whale species, which either inhabit the state’s coastal waters or migrate through them annually. The types of whales in Alaska often vary by location. In the Kenai Fjords National Park region, Humpback, orca, fin whale, and gray whales are the most commonly sighted species. However, many visitors have seen blue, sperm, and minke whales in other regions of the state.
When Can I See Whales In Alaska?
Certain types of whales, like the orca, live in Alaska year-round. They can be seen in the state’s many bays and inlets. But the summer months offer the best whale viewing opportunities for tourists. Gray whales are the first to arrive in April and are spotted off the coast of Seward. By May, orca sightings become more frequent, especially in Southeast Alaska. This region features many good opportunities for Sitka, Alaska whale watching! By June, the humpback whales return to Alaska’s feeding grounds from warmer climates. By late summer, Beluga whale watching in Alaska has kicked into high gear, with sightings off the coast of Anchorage, near Turnagain Arm.
Alaska’s peak whale-watching season takes place from May through September. During these months, it’s easy to find whale-watching boat tours. If you find a reputable and experienced tour, you can almost be guaranteed a whale sighting on your Alaska trip. There are just that many types of whales in Alaska to see!
Beluga Whale Watching In Alaska
Beluga whales are relatively small and often measure less than 16 feet. Younger whales are blue-gray in color, but turn white by the time they are five years old. Beluga whales are the only all-while while. They are commonly found near Anchorage, along Turnagain Arm, or at the mouth of the Kenai River in Kenai.
This area of the state is the most common location for Beluga Whale Watching in Alaska. The top three beluga viewing sights near Anchorage are:
- Beluga Point – This rocky outpost lies just south of Anchorage, along the Seward Highway. Beluga whales can be spotted in the waters of Turnagain Arm from mid-July through August, hunting for salmon and other fish. The whales use their sonar to find their way up and down the coast, searching for fish. Keep an eye out for the black fins of orcas, as they have occasionally been known to pursue the white belugas in this area.
- Cook Inlet – this location is a top spot for Beluga whales in Alaska! As many as 300 whales have been spotted at one time in the Inlet’s waters. Cook Inlet Beluga whales can be seen early spring through fall from Kachemak Bay in Homer all the way north to Anchorage!
- Bristol Bay – An estimated 40,000 Arctic Belugas spend the winter months in the shallow waters of Bristol Bay. Located in Southwest Alaska, Bristol Bay is a sprawling watershed of winding streams and rivers, vast wetlands and tundras, forests, and a vital habitat for fish, birds, and land mammals. It’s also one of the best places to see Beluga whales in Alaska!
Can You See Whales In Sitka, Alaska?
Sitka is a town located on Baranof Island, on the outer coast of the Inside Passage and 132 miles west of Juneau. It sits within the Tongass National Forest and was a part of Russia until 1867. It is also one of the best places to see several types of whales in Alaska! Gray whales, orcas, and minke whales travel through the Sitka Sound each summer, in search of food. Humpback whales return to the Sitka area in March and April, where they feast on the annual herring fish runs and feed off krill near the coastline into late fall. Two of the most popular whale-watching locations in Sitka are listed below:
- Whale Park - Whale Park is four miles east of downtown Sitka on Sawmill Creek Road. This is an especially good spot to look for humpback whales between September and January. Visitors can scan the water’s surface for the blow of a humpback whale or the splash of a sea lion from the park’s overlooks. The park has covered viewing shelters, public-use binoculars, and a hydrophone that picks up undersea noise! You can also find harbor seals, humpback whales, and Stellar’s sea lions at the park.
- Sitka Sound – the protected waters of Sitka Sound are a popular location for guided boat tours. The confluence of open ocean and protected waters allows marine mammals, including whales, to feed near the relative safety of deeper water. Sea otters are commonly seen in the sound during the summer months, along with humpback, gray, killer, and minke whales. Although visitors can find whales here, sightings are less common than in other locations in Southeast Alaska. Sitka Sound is thought to be the last feeding stop for the humpback whales before migrating to winter breeding and calving waters in Hawaii.
Sitka’s Annual Whale Fest
If you are going to visit Sitka, Alaska for whale watching, consider timing your trip to coincide with Whale Fest! This annual festival, held in November and hosted by the Sitka Sound Science Center, celebrates marine life through a science symposium, art, wildlife cruises, and more. Each year the festival has a different theme. The festival kicks off with a film festival and a marine art reception, filled with pieces created by local students. For the next three days, the science symposium, the core of Sitka Whale Fest, takes place. It features multiple talks daily by renowned scientists. In between talks participants can shop the marketplace or enjoy some treats from the café. If learning about the different types of whales in Alaska interests you, consider adding Sitka’s Whale Fest to your itinerary!
A Whale Of A Vacation In Alaska
Migration is the primary reason why whales are so prevalent off the coast of Alaska during the summer. That is good news for visitors who want to experience a whale sighting during their Alaskan vacation. Just remember to pack a few waterproof layers for your whale-watching adventure!