Whale watching on Vancouver Island?

I was wondering if anyone in this community could give me some advice on whale watching from Vancouver Island this summer? I’m  planning a trip to BC in July with my family and will be spending a week or so on Vancouver Island before heading over to Jasper and Banff.

Whale watching tours look quite pricy, so we can only manage one. Would it be better to go from Tofino in the hope of seeing Grey Whales, or will this reduce our chances of seeing orcas/Dall’s porpoise? We’d love to see grey whales, but we’d hate to prioritise them if it meant missing out on orcas. Orca and Dall’s Porpoise sightings seem pretty common from Victoria. Any advice on good tour operators would also be much appreciated.


If anyone has any mammalwatching tips for the region in general, we’d love to hear them! We have three weeks and are pretty flexible.


Thanks in advance




  • william boehm

    I have taken my children 10 years ago out of tofino to see grey whales, which vary in their location but most often seen off the islets of Barkley Island group to the south. They feed on sea pens on the sandy or muddy sea floor. we saw them from a distance, not close but we could recognize their heads, and the blow.

    i have not tried to see orca out of victoria, but once saw them on the straits from the Tsawassen ferry, lobtailing, spy hopping. maybe check trip advisor for responses and timing of the year.

  • Mark Hows

    I saw orcas from boat trips to the San Juan islands, and Dall’s porpoise from the bear watching tripsd from Telegraph cove.


  • Steve Babbs

    A report of my family trip to BC with my family can be found here: http://www.stevebabbs.com/home/trip-reports/british-columbia-2006
    I saw orca from the ferry to Vanocuver as well as on dedicated whale trips. We were there during a terrible year for grey whales – apparently there had been very few sightings so I was amazed to see on swim past on a ‘beach day’.

  • Ian Thompson

    Hi Sarah,
    In July, orca sightings are essentially guaranteed out of Victoria. You have a reasonable chance of seeing humpbacks as well. Harbour porpoises can be seen from land off the north end of Island View Beach about 25 minutes north of Victoria. Dall porpoise sightings are quite rare off Victoria. You are much more likely to see them from Telegraph Cove, on the east side of the island about 5 hours north of Victoria. From Tofino, grey whales are best sighted in the spring but a few are present throughout the summer. We were there last April and saw seven on a whale watching tour.This is also the most accessible spot on the island to see sea otters. In July you have a reasonable chance of seeing humpbacks from Tofino and orcas are possible. A couple of other mammal watching suggestions. Northern elephant seals haul out at Race Rocks, southwest of Victoria (their only regular spot in Canada). Vancouver Island marmots are most easily seen at Mount Washington ski resort on the edge of Strathcona Provincial Park.
    If you would like any additional information please feel free to e-mail me at ibtson@yahoo.com. I’m based in Victoria and would be happy to help out.


  • Sarah

    Thanks everyone for your helpful comments. I think we’ll go on a whale watching trip from either Victoria or Telegraph cove and save the grey whales for another time.

    ian – thanks for all of your suggestions. I may e-mail with a few questions if that’s OK…

    Happy mammal watching all!


  • Iwan Lewylle


    as I recently moved to Victoria, Vancouver Island, I had the joy of going out whale watching many times, but I’m thinking of crossing the border and visiting Mount Olympic NP in Washington. Anyone some tips and advice? Especially for bobcats.

    I’m also looking for people for doing night drives for finding cougars and mice trapping on the island.

    Greetings Iwan

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