Top Spots for Whale Watching
Weighing in at 35 tons, some of Cannon Beach’s largest part-time residents frequent what might be considered the ‘outskirts’ of town. Gray Whales are the most commonly seen type of whale along the Oregon Coast and can often be spotted just off the shoreline of Cannon Beach. Although some whales remain off our coast during warmer months, the best time to spot these great behemoths is during the peak of their twice-annual migratory passage between Mexico and Alaska. During these migrations, approximately 18,000 whales travel along the Pacific Coast over 12,000 miles round trip to and from their breeding grounds off the Baja Peninsula. Their typical spring migration peak happens from mid-March to mid-April, and winter migration reaches its peak from mid-December to mid-January.
Oregon State Parks coordinates a whale watching program at several spots along the coastline, including the nearby Neahkahnie Mountain viewpoints. During these two one-week programs at the end of March and December, visitors can find volunteers daily who will help them spot the beautiful giants. (State Parks Whale Watching info)
During this unprecedented time, trained volunteers and staff will not be available at the 24 designated whale watching sites along the Oregon Coast; most viewing sites managed by Oregon State Parks remain open--expect reduced services in some locations. State park staff encourage everyone on their own to visit the whale watching areas and recommend if a site is too crowded, please find another spot. Also, be respectful to others, wear face coverings and maintain proper physical distancing from visitors, not in your group.
Here are some favorite local spots to watch for them:
Ecola State Park
Rising from the north end of Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park offers perfect vantage points for spotting whales just steps from the main parking lot. Whale sightings are common during typical peak weeks of northbound and southbound migrations from the Ecola Point parking area or hikes to the viewpoint at the top of the Clatsop Loop Trail.
While not staggering in altitude, the beautiful dunes extending north from Haystack Rock along the beach offer just enough height to catch glimpses of whale spouts in the smoother seas beyond the breakers. Savvy whale watchers stake out the sandy clearings among the beach grasses with binoculars, beach chairs, and beverages.
For the utmost in whale watching comfort, some visitors prefer the privacy of a beachfront hotel room balcony. With various room types designed for different budgets, this option makes whale watching more accessible for those with mobility issues or visitors just hoping to enjoy the views from a spot that is all their own. As an added benefit, the winter whale migration falls during a time when hotels are often offering some of the best deals of the year.
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