Travel Tour Reviews

The 5 Best Whale Watching Tours From Vancouver [2020 Reviews]

Vancouver and Victoria on the west coast of Canada are home to whales that are permanent residents as well as those who migrate to the region seasonally. This makes these waters between these two beautiful cities a prime location for whale watching.

Not only is it probable that you’ll sight whales but you might also see dolphins play at the bow of your vessel and perhaps even sea lions and seals.

It’s not just the marine life that begs for photos, the landscape views of the Canadian Pacific Islands can be quite stunning as well.

Best Whale Watching Tours From Vancouver

 Boat Tour From Vancouver: Whales, Victoria, Butchart GardensFrom Vancouver: Victoria Whale Watching AdventureVancouver BC: Half-Day Whale Watching Tour
editors choice
Departure Point:1666 Duranleau St, Vancouver BC, V6H 3S2, CanadaVancouver Seaplane TerminalGranville Island
Departure Time:8:30 AM8:30 AM8:30 AM, 2:30 PM
Duration:10 hours, 30 minutes (approx)8 hours (approx)4 hours (approx)
Includes:Expert guides and naturalists, inside and outside seating, complimentary beverages, educational materials, whale sighting guaranteeTravel by seaplane, whale watching excursion lead by expert guidesLive commentary, expert guide, tour host, whale sighting guarantee

Quick Answer: The 5 Best Whale Watching Tours From Vancouver

  1. Boat Tour From Vancouver: Whales, Victoria, Butchart Gardens
  2. From Vancouver: Victoria Whale Watching Adventure
  3. Vancouver BC: Half-Day Whale Watching Tour
  4. Vancouver to Victoria One-Way Whale Watching Cruise
  5. Vancouver Whale Watching Safari

Whether you’re planning your trip to Vancouver for business or leisure, you don’t want to miss out on the amazing whale watching adventures there.

With the highest number of successful whale sightings in North America, this is where you will want to experience it firsthand.

We’ve reviewed the top whale watching tours from Vancouver and there’s something for everyone whether headed to Victoria one-way or you’d like to see other stunning sights in the area as well.


Vancouver Whale Watching Tour Reviews

#1 Boat Tour From Vancouver: Whales, Victoria, Butchart Gardens

Tour Highlights At A Glance:

  • Departure Point: 1666 Duranleau St, Vancouver BC, V6H 3S2, Canada
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM
  • Duration: 10 hours, 30 minutes (approx)
  • Includes: Expert guides and naturalists, inside and outside seating, complimentary beverages, educational materials, whale sighting guarantee

This whale watching boat tour leaves Vancouver early in the morning and heads south, in the direction of Victoria.

The expert guides and naturalists aboard the vessel will help point out whales and signs of whale activity. Feel free to ask them questions as you learn more about the several species of whale here.

Not only is it probable that you will see various species of whales while on this cruise, but you may also see sea lions or seals and many species of marine birds as well.

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In fact, if you aren’t able to see any whales while on this full-day tour, you will receive a free tour to experience the adventure again.

When you arrive in Victoria around mid-day, there will be plenty of free time to stop at a local restaurant for lunch. Then, you’ll head to the beautiful and unique Butchart Gardens.

These gardens are “sunken” meaning that water has flooded the area after the gardens grew. Today, this is a picturesque location filled with flora and fauna as well as butterflies and hummingbirds.

After enjoying the beautiful sights of whales, sea lions, marine birds, and these beautiful gardens, you will hop aboard a Gulf Island Tour for the 2 hour and 30 minute boat ride back to Vancouver. Plus, you will have plenty of photos and a great new experience to share with others back home.

 

For tour prices, transportation, and availability:


#2 From Vancouver: Victoria Whale Watching Adventure

Tour Highlights At A Glance:

  • Departure Point: Vancouver Seaplane Terminal
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM
  • Duration: 8 hours (approx)
  • Includes: Travel by seaplane, whale watching excursion lead by expert guides

When you meet your pilot at the Vancouver Seaplane Terminal, you’ll hop aboard a seaplane and head south, toward Victoria. From the seaplane, enjoy fantastic views of the Gulf Islands and perhaps even see some of the native marine life from above.

After arriving at Victoria’s Inner Harbor, you’ll meet your expert guides and hop aboard a boat meant for quick travel through and within the harbor.

Your guides know more about the unique ecology of the area and why so many species of whale call the region their home. Keep your camera at the ready for photos of whales, seals, or even an eagle.

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From your whale watching vessel, take in the stunning views of South Vancouver Island and be sure to take a few selfies, too. After your whale watching excursion in Victoria, you’ll head back to Vancouver via seaplane.

This fleet of seaplanes is the world’s largest fleet containing only seaplanes and their pilots are ready to take off with you on board for a fun whale watching adventure in Vancouver.

 

For tour prices, transportation, and availability:


#3 Vancouver BC: Half-Day Whale Watching Tour

Tour Highlights At A Glance:

  • Departure Point: Granville Island
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM, 2:30 PM
  • Duration: 4 hours (approx)
  • Includes: Live commentary, expert guide, tour host, whale sighting guarantee

This half-day whale watching tour from Vancouver is designed not only to make you comfortable on this unique adventure but also to reduce the effect that many sailing vessels have on the local marine wildlife.

The Ocean Magic features seating both indoors and outside and there are two separate levels from which to watch for whales.

Your local expert will offer education about the region’s ecological environment as well as what wildlife calls the waters around Vancouver their home.

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No matter where on the whale-watching vessel you choose to enjoy the views from, you’ll be treated to views of both the Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands. Howe Sound is a wonderfully picturesque feature so be sure to have your camera at the ready.

Two types of killer whales, also known as orcas, are common here as are three other species of whales. Seals and sea lions might even strike a pose for a souvenir photo.

If you’re looking for a great experience with a guaranteed whale sighting, the Ocean Magic provides all of that while also protecting the marine wildlife’s natural environment.

 

For tour prices, transportation, and availability:


#4 Vancouver to Victoria: One-Way Whale Watching Cruise

Tour Highlights At A Glance:

  • Departure Point: 1666 Duranleau St, Vancouver BC, V6H 3S2, Canada
  • Departure Time: 8:30 AM
  • Duration: 4 hours (approx)
  • Includes: One-way cruise, two expert naturalist guides onboard, room for 1 checked bag up to 50 pounds

If you’re already planning on spending a bit of your vacation exploring Victoria, why not travel there at the same time as enjoying the breathtaking sights of whales and other marine life?

With this one-way cruise from downtown Vancouver to Victoria’s Inner Harbor, you can do just that.

As your cruise vessel makes its way south, the two expert naturalists that board with you will help you to spot marine life activity as well as spot whales.

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With several species common in the area, they can also help identify them and answer any questions you have about the ecological environment and wildlife here.

The trip from Vancouver to Victoria takes approximately 4 hours and is a much better way to spend your time traveling to Victoria than waiting on a plane or ferry.

Of course, you will most likely need to take one of those two ways back to Vancouver unless you plan on staying in Victoria and exploring it further.

While on board the Salish Sea Dream cruise vessel and traversing the Strait of Georgia, you will have access to snacks and beverages for purchase.

Be sure to bring an extra jacket as the trip can get chilly if you are enjoying the view from the outdoor lookout points, and don’t forget your camera!

 

For tour prices, transportation, and availability:


#5 Vancouver Whale Watching Safari

Tour Highlights At A Glance:

  • Departure Point: Local Pickup Available
  • Departure Time: Depends on Season
  • Duration: 3 to 6 hours (approx)
  • Includes: 85% chance of whale sighting, expert tour guide

There are plenty of amenities aboard this whale watching vessel including plenty of observation points, onboard toilets, and more.

You’ll be picked up from your local Vancouver accommodation or residence, including Airbnb bookings and head out into the gulf.

From this whale watching vessel, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of many of the islands in the Canadian Pacific area, all offering fantastic photo ops.

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Not only that, but the waters beneath you are filled with marine wildlife including killer whales, grey whales, dolphins, and sea lions.Lasting anywhere from 3 to 6 hours, this whale watching adventure in Vancouver is not one to miss.

The expert tour guide is not only able to point out whales but also signs of other wildlife, both below the surface of the water and above it. If you have any questions, be sure to ask before you dock again in Vancouver.

With so much to see, it might not be only about the breathtaking beauty of the whales native to this area and those can call it a temporary home.

Birds often fly by to say hello and you might even see some wildlife on the beaches of several of the local islands.

 

For tour prices, transportation, and availability:


Vancouver, BC Travel Guide

best vancouver whale watching tours

Vancouver is a wonderful city to explore whether you happen to be in town on business or with the family on vacation. With so much to see and do, both within the city and in the natural environments surrounding it, you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied and intrigued while here.

Before booking any flights, be sure to check out this Vancouver travel guide for great planning tips as well as recommendations for the best food, attractions, accommodations and more.

Airports & Entry

If you’re flying into Vancouver, you will most likely land at Vancouver International Airport, known also as YVR. The airport is located on Sea Island and transport to downtown is quick and easy with the Skytrain.

You can also drive into Vancouver from across the US-Canadian border which isn’t far from the city. If you will be driving, you can use an enhanced driver’s license or a passport ID card at the border. However, if you will be flying, you will need an actual passport.

Short trips to Canada don’t usually require a visa as long as you have your valid passport and are a US citizen. Travelers to Canada from other countries may need additional travel authorization.

Planning Tips

Before any trip plans are set in stone, you’ll want to know how to get the most out of your Vancouver vacation with these trip planning tips. Have additional tips for those visiting Vancouver? We’d love to hear them!

Tip #1: Bring An Extra Suitcase

Not only will you want to shop for a few souvenirs while in Vancouver, but there are also many unique places to shop within the city as well. This means you may need extra luggage for the trip back home. The best way to do this is to nest your smaller suitcase with the items you are bringing to Vancouver inside a larger suitcase. This way you are traveling there with only one luggage item.

Shopping in Vancouver is varied from small, boutique shops to luxury designer fashion and accessories. You’ll find some of the best record shops here as well, offering both new and used records from past and current music trends. Even bookstores and specialty stationery shops are popular in Vancouver.

Tip #2: Obtain Your Passport or Enhanced ID

When flying into Vancouver you will need an actual passport. However, if you are driving across the border, you have the option of using your enhanced ID or driver’s license, or even a passport ID card.

Because it can take time to get these things, you will want to apply for the one you need and make sure you have it in your possession before making travel arrangements.

Tip #3: Bring the Whole Family

Vancouver is a wonderful place for family vacations. With many art galleries, museums, gardens, and other family-friendly attractions along with family-friendly tours available bringing the family here is sure to create lasting memories.

Tip #4: Don’t Miss Out on Mother Nature

From the mountains to the Pacific Ocean, the city of Vancouver is surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature. Many of the tours and activities available in the areas around the city are family-friendly and also unique to this area of the world.

For example, whale watching is popular here due to the large populations of whales in the area, both resident and transient. The suspension bridge, the seawall, and other natural attractions are fun for visitors of all ages and offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Tip #5: Make Restaurant Reservations in Advance

While not every restaurant in Vancouver offers reservations, reservations are required at several of the most popular restaurants to guarantee a table. Making reservations can also ensure you don’t have to wait in long lines to be seated.

If there are specific restaurants you would like to experience while in Vancouver, call them well in advance and ask if they suggest making reservations. If they don’t, you can also ask them the best days or times to visit will be so you don’t have to deal with large crowds.

Restaurants & Eating Out

Vancouver is often referred to as the “culinary capital of Canada” and for good reason. You’ll find many types of food here, from fresh seafood to modern cuisine with a distinctly Asian influence. Farm-to-table restaurants have recently become popular but you also won’t be able to pass up one of the quaint sidewalk cafes while visiting.

Blue Water Cafe offers the freshest seafood and their menu is greatly influenced by Japanese cuisine. The Farmer’s Apprentice Restaurant receives fresh foods each day, offering some of the most delicious menu items created from locally-sourced, organic ingredients.

Nightlife & Entertainment

Once a rundown warehouse district, Vancouver’s Yaletown is now the center of the city’s nightlife with everything from Irish pubs to jazz clubs to happening nightclubs. If you’re looking to enjoy Vancouver’s nightlife, this is where you will want to go.

Other hotspots of activity include Pat’s Pub & Brewhouse and Guilt & Co. Pat’s Pub used to be known as Patricia’s Cafe and has been providing nighttime entertainment for over 100 years. A popular jazz hangout, the atmosphere is unique.

Guilt & Co. also offers a unique experience with dim lighting, live music, and even a game of Jenga or deck of cards for your favorite table games are offered. The menu features platters meant to be shared with the entire table so why not stop by one of the most relaxing nightclubs in Vancouver.

Getting Around

There are many ways to get around the city without having to spend a ton on taxis or renting your own car. The TransLink public transportation system is both affordable and convenient, with stops near many popular hotels and attractions. If you plan on using the TransLink system often, the day passes make it even easier.

Mobi, Vancouver’s bike share system, also offers a unique way to get around the city, especially if your destination seems just a bit too far away to walk. However, walking is still one of the best ways to experience the city as along your way, you’ll often see or hear things you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

Accommodations

Just as with any large city, you’ll find small, boutique hotels alongside the chain hotels, whether the more affordable ones or those that offer luxurious amenities. Vancouver is no different. However, if you want to experience some of the most unique accommodations the city has to offer, there is no shortage of options.

Auberge Vancouver is located conveniently in downtown, close to public transportation and many nearby attractions. Every room offers a spectacular view and depending on which room you are in, you may enjoy sights of the city, the harbor, or the mountains.

If you’re more tech-savvy and enjoy the latest in gadgets, you may want to look into Hotel BLU. Not only is each room equipped with its own Samsung Galaxy 4 Note, but you’ll have access to much more modern technology. This makes it a great place to stay for tech-obsessed millennials as well as those traveling on business.

Not only is the Loden Hotel family-friendly, but it’s also pet-friendly. This means you can even bring your four-legged family members on vacation with you. Loden Hotel focuses on being eco-friendly as well, creating a much smaller carbon footprint than many other hotels in the area.

Weather

While some cities see hot and muggy weather during the summer months, Vancouver enjoys temps in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit. They also see very little rain. This makes it a great place to visit when wanting to get out of the hot summer temps elsewhere.

Even in the winter, you’ll find moderate temperatures in the mid-40s although you’re more likely to encounter overcast skies and more rain. However, if you’re dealing with snow and ice, then Vancouver is a great place to escape to during the winter months.

Attractions

There’s no shortage of things to do and see in Vancouver. The Jimi Hendrix Shrine is a great place to stop to experience the life and music of the great musician. Many art galleries are spread throughout the city and each has its own unique focus.

If you want to enjoy Mother Nature at her finest, be sure to stop by the UBC Botanical Garden while in the city and then head to the Capilano Suspension Bridge to experience one of the more unique attractions. The park is a great place to enjoy a day with the family.

Don’t forget the Seawall either. The Seawall path is the longest waterfront path in the world with no interruptions in the 17+ mile path.

Sites Seen
Tour Guides
Value

The Boat Tour From Whales, Victoria, Butchart Gardens is our Editor's Choice for the best whale watching tour from Vancouver with its combination of sites seen, tour guides and value

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