An orca off the coast of BC

Whale Watching in Vancouver

It’s an activity that hadn’t really occurred to me. Perhaps that’s part and parcel of living in Vancouver and feeling more like a local than a tourist. But when my friend Alice came to visit the city for a couple of weeks, she’d really expressed an interest in going whale watching in Vancouver for a day.

Boarding the boat

We booked our trip via Steveston Seabreeze Adventures. We were picked up from downtown and taken to the adorable seaside town of Steveston. After grabbing lunch and coffee from a local bakery, we went to fetch our whale watching boarding passes. We also needed waterproofs ready for the adventure ahead.

Ready to go whale watching at Steveston, BC
Boarding pass for Steveston Seabreeze Adventures

We started off our whale watching adventure by speeding south through the Pender Islands. This was to meet up with a family of 9 Transient Killer Whales/Orcas, near Stuart Island in Washington State. When I say speeding, I mean speeding! I was pretty surprised by how quickly we zoomed through the water in the boat. It was super windy and kinda bumpy – all in need of catching up with the whales that had been spotted.

When we saw them, our naturalist, Rhys, was pretty amazed by how social the whales were being including ‘tail slaps’ and ‘spyhops’. Transient Orcas usually stay quiet most of the time (for hunting), so it was a pretty great show.

Sailing off Steveston, BC
Girl sailing through BC
Speaking to the captain onboard the boat
Braving the wind onboard Steveston Seabreeze Adventures
Spotting a seal on a buoy when whale watching
Girl on a boat off Vancouver
Laura aboard the boat at Steveston Seabreeze Adventures, Vancouver
Girls whale watching in Vancouver
Foggy mountains and the ocean in Vancouver

Along the way, we saw more wildlife, and some beautiful houses. What do you think of this one?

Gorgeous house in BC when whale watching
Sailing off Vancouver in search of whales

Once we’d finally chased after the orcas and successfully saw some – I stopped taking pictures. Partly to enjoy the moment, and partly because our naturalist took some far better than mine, so I’ve shared them below. Thanks, Rhys!

Whale watching in Vancouver

It was pretty cool to spot creatures you only really ever see on the TV.

Whales in Vancouver
Whale watching in Vancouver: humpbacks in BC
Orcas playing with seaweed in BC when whale watching in Vancouver

Next up – we were lucky enough to see Humpbacks on our whale watching trip too! We found two Humpback Whales just to the north, near South Pender Island. They were travelling slowly, most likely feeding as well. We even got to see a locally famous female called ‘Big Mama’.

According to Rhys, the reason why ‘Big Mama’ is so special is that in 1997 she was the first Humpback Whale seen in these waters since 1908. This was when the whaling industry drove the local population to extinction. You can read more about Big Mama’s amazing story.

The fin of a Humpback Whale near Vancouver, BC
The tail of a humpback whale near Vancouver, BC
An orca off the coast of BC when whale watching in Vancouver
The tail of a humpback whale when whale watching in Vancouver
The sea and sky off Vancouver while whale watching
Girls going whale watching in Vancouver

Spotting sea lions

Finally, as we made our way back along the Steveston rock wall, we got a long look at the colonies of Habour Seals, California Sea Lions and Steller’s Sea Lions. Who knew there were so many different species, sizes, and colours of sea lion!?

Sea lions in Vancouver
Steller's Sea Lion near Vancouver
White sea lion near Vancouver, BC

I loved that last one – so adorable!

We soon docked after a great day of whale watching near Vancouver. If you’re after a day trip with a difference – particularly for anyone new to British Columbia – it’s a great opportunity that I’d highly recommend!

Have you ever been whale watching in Vancouver before? Or anywhere else in the world? What did you see?

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  1. I have been whale watching twice in Vancouver. We received free return tickets as we didn’t see any whales. We live in the UK. But will be coming again as we love Vancouver.

  2. Oh wow, what an amazing experience! Whale watching has been on my bucket list for so long… We had hoped we would get the chance to do it in Puerto Lopez Ecuador but sadly we were out of season. Just need to pencil in the next trip now!

    1. Whale watching in Ecuador sounds incredible, I’d love to give it a go in another place. Definitely come to BC one day and see it here – nothing quite like the mountain-ocean backdrop 🙂

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