Orca Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands

Last Updated on April 29, 2021

We went Whale Watching with Island Mariner around the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington. The San Juan Islands are an archipelago in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States between the US mainland and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Leaving from the Port of Bellingham, you are  not only treated to a superb wildlife showing, but beautiful scenery all around us, cruising around the islands, it was interesting to learn many historical facts about each part such as Lummi Island, Clark Island and Barnes Island, Puffin Island and Orcas Island. There are actually 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County.




We also love checking out all the cool boats in the marina. Each boat is unique from the next and it is interesting to see the vibe each owner gives off through the look of their boat.





My sister Diana and I had been Whale Watching a few years ago with Island Mariner, so we knew roughly what expect. We had a great time then, so it was a no-brainer calling up the same company to make a reservation. This time, we wanted to take our Dad out on a date with his twin daughters to experience Whale Watching.




We were hoping the rain would stop and we were lucky, it did! The sky parted and cleared up and we were blessed with a beautiful, sunny day to view wildlife.





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We found the J-Pod of whales pretty quickly into the boat trip this time, so it was nice to have the extra time to hang around them and watch their movements. The whales were so active, constantly rising and breaking through the surface of the water, showing us exactly what they were capable of. There were flips, tail smacking on the surface, launching straight up out of the water; we got a full show! One of the whales was “Granny”, who they said was 103 years old!







Did you know?

It was interesting to hear about the Bubble Net technique whales will use to help them catch fish. Bubble Net feeding is a unique feeding technique where a group of whales swim in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of fish. This shrinking column of bubbles surrounds the school of fish forcing them upward. The whales spontaneously swim upward through the bubble net, mouths wide open, catching thousands of fish in one gulp.




The naturalist, David, was fabulous. He was so knowledgeable and was able to answer questions anybody had. The Captain also did a wonderful job, was very friendly and sure knows how to control that boat in what felt like a tight space to turn it around and pull into its spot at the marina. Both of them came around and thanked everyone personally for coming. They really made you feel like your business was appreciated and that is part of what makes you want to come back again and again.

We were also treated to an eagle sighting, a porpoise jumping around and Harbour Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. It was a great day to view wildlife!





The whale watching trip with Island Mariner is a whole day activity. You leave at 10am and return somewhere around 4:30pm. It can get a bit chilly on the boat during whale watching season, so it is best to bring a sweater or jacket, sunscreen, a blanket, binoculars and some snacks. Select food is available on the boat and you can also leave your drivers licence with them while you borrow binoculars or a blanket.


Have you ever been Whale Watching? What was your favourite experience, and where was it?