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Wondering where to go whale watching in Newfoundland? Let me help you! I grew up in Newfoundland, and whale watching is one of my favorite things to do. I’m since been whale watching all over the world, but nothing compares to seeing whales in Newfoundland.
The world’s largest population of humpback whales come to feed off the coast of Newfoundland every summer, and they put on quite the show.
You can easily spot whales while hiking along the coast during the summer. However, if you want a closer experience, there are many whale-watching tours in Newfoundland to take you out to meet these friendly giants. On these tours, it is also common to see large colonies of puffins.
Whales are magical creatures. Despite growing up with them just outside my house, I still jump with excitement whenever I see one.
I’ve seen whales and puffins in Newfoundland more times than I can count, and I am rounding up my favorite places to spot them in this guide.
Where to see whales in Newfoundland
Whale Watching St. John’s Newfoundland
The capital of Newfoundland, St. John’s, is a city surrounded by the ocean that offers some of the best whale watching in Newfoundland. During the summer, you can easily spot whales from many of the coastal hiking trails.
If you want to get closer to whales, you can join a whale-watching tour from downtown St. John’s with Iceberg Quest.
This boat tour departs from the heart of downtown St. John’s, making it easier than ever. You’ll head out from the harbor, getting a view of the city from the water.
You’ll sail through iconic landmarks such as Signal Hill, Fort Amherst, Blackhead sea caves, and Cape Spear lighthouse – one of the best places for whale watching in St. John’s.
Bay Bulls Whale Watching
One of the best places to see whales in Newfoundland best places is Bay Bulls on the Irish Loop, around the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
This area has whales and several bird species, including puffins, common murres, black guillemots, northern gannets, greater shearwaters, and northern fulmars. I did a whale-watching tour here a few years ago and loved it. The puffin colony is amazing!
You’ll have to hop on a boat tour from Bay Bulls to visit the island.
The tour takes place on a catamaran equipped with a spacious viewing platform that can accommodate up to 100 people on its outside deck.
Your captain navigates the boat to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve while the onboard crew and naturalists share insight into the 2.5 million seabirds and the large populations of whales that call the reserve home.
The boat will stop along sheltered areas of the islands that comprise the reserve, where you can watch seabirds in their natural habitat. Some species you may see include atlantic puffins, common murres, black guillemots, northern gannets, greater shearwaters, and northern fulmars.
This is an easy day trip from St. John’s, as it’s just a 25-minute drive from the city. The tour takes about an hour and a half.
St. Vincent’s is another popular spot for whale watching from the shore on the Irish Loop. It’s about two hours from St. John’s. The sea quickly becomes deep, so the whales often come very close to shore!
Trinity Whale Watching
Trinity Bay is a gorgeous town about three hours from St. John’s that is popular for whale watching. I went hiking around the Skerwink trail and saw whales from the trailhead.
If you want to get closer, you can join a tour with Trinity Eco-Tours on one of their zodiac boats. I did this tour in May but for a different purpose.
The spring isn’t a great time to see wildlife, but it is for icebergs. Every spring, huge icebergs make their way down the coast from Greenland to what is known as Iceberg Alley in Newfoundland. Trinity is one of the best places to see them.
Aside from the whales and icebergs, a boat tour in Trinity is great because you will see the beautiful coastline around Trinity Harbor.
The tour takes you to a sea cave, waterfalls, the random passage movie site, and some other small communities near Trinity, including where my cabin is!
During a tour in May, we saw a Minke whale. Bald eagle sightings are also common.
If you time it right, you may see icebergs, whales, and birds here on the same tour, which is the ultimate trifecta.
Whale watching in Bonavista
Bonavista Bay is one of the best places to see whales in Newfoundland. I haven’t done a boat tour here, but I have seen whales from the beach, as well as puffins. There is a boat tour operator here that can bring you to a closer encounter.
Tip: Head to Ellison to look for puffins! There is a huge puffin colony here that may come up close to say hello.
I was booked to do a traditional wooden boat rowing lesson, but the day before, the owner called to ask us if we wanted to go whale watching instead, as he said he believed he had the best whale watching on the island. So, of course, I said yes.
The boat left Hare Bay and went through some of the resettled communities, which were beautiful to see.
As we entered the open water, we started to see spouts in the water from a distance and made our way closer to the whales. I couldn’t believe it as we got closer – they were on all sides of the boat.
I couldn’t even keep up with how many whales there were! We mostly saw humpback whales and a couple of minkes.
Not to mention all the unique birds we saw! We went past a small island on which hundreds of Northern Gannets were sitting.
When I turned around, there must have been thousands of birds flying over my head; it was so cool to witness. It felt like an episode of planet earth! We also saw puffins diving for fish in the water here.
After the four-hour whale-watching tour, we headed to Braggs island for a campfire dinner, one of the resettled islands. Such a nice way to end a fantastic day!
Twillingate whale watching
Twillingate and Fogo Island are two other places where you can often see whales in the summer. I did a boat tour in Twillingate in July with Twillingate Adventures, but unfortunately, the Capelin hadn’t come to shore yet, so we didn’t see any whales.
However, even without the whales, a boat tour here is an excellent activity as the landscapes are stunning. We did see several birds, including bald eagles and osprey. Twillingate and Fogo are also the best places to see icebergs in the spring!
King’s Point is another great place in Central Newfoundland to see whales. They even have a whale pavilion where you can see the world’s largest reconstruction of a humpback whale!
Check out By the Sea Inn and Cafe for a great meal by the sea – it’s also a lovely place to stay the night.
If you want to get closer, you can join a tour with King’s Point Boat Tours and Adventures.
Whale watching Gros Morne
While stunning, the West Coast of Newfoundland isn’t the best place to see whales in Newfoundland compared to the East. That said, you can see them.
If you’re in Gros Morne National Park, you can take a scenic boat tour of Bonne Bay with Bontours, where you can see whales as well as fjords, bald eagles, moose, and seabirds. The park is a photographer’s paradise!
St. Anthony whale watching
Head to St. Anthony on the northern tip of Newfoundland to witness one of nature’s most incredible spectacles—the annual migration of icebergs and whales. This remote and rugged region is frequented by large populations of humpback whales, fin whales, and minke whales.
Northland Discovery Boat Tours runs zodiac tours around the St. Anthony Coast. Explore the pristine waters of Iceberg Alley, where you may see whales frolicking amidst colossal ice formations.
Best time for whale watching in Newfoundland
The best time to see whales in Newfoundland is from mid-May to September, with the peak Newfoundland whale-watching season from mid-July to mid-August.
This is when the Capelin start rolling into the shores, which attracts huge pods of humpback whales who come to feed near the shores.
You can see whales outside these months; your changes are just much higher during the summer months as many migrate here to feed.
Types of whale species in Newfoundland
There are over 22 different species of whales in Newfoundland.
The most common type of whales in Newfoundland are humpback whales, who migrate here in large groups every summer, searching for Capelin and other feed.
Other common whale species are minke whales, although these are much harder to see because they are solitary and not nearly as aerobatic as the humpbacks. I have seen them before, but it’s usually just a quick glimpse before they go back underwater.
Other species of whales in Newfoundland include fin whales, sperm whales, belugas, dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, and blue whales, which are the largest species.
What to bring whale watching in Newfoundland
Newfoundland weather is crazy, especially when you’re out on the open ocean. Even if it’s a nice sunny day, you’ll want to bring warm layers with you as the wind can be very chilly on the boat.
A windbreaker/rain jacket is a good choice. If you’re going to wear a hat, get a toque; otherwise, it might blow away.
If you’re prone to seasickness, I recommend using a motion sickness patch, as the ocean in Newfoundland can be rough.
You’ll want to bring a camera to capture these majestic beings. For capturing wildlife, zoom lens are key. I use a Sony A7II with a 24-240mm lens which allows me to get up close shots like this even when the whales are far in the distance.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a big lens; the whales come close to the boat during the tours, and you can still capture amazing photos and videos with your phone. It would be best if you had a zoom lens for puffins unless you get lucky and have them come up close to you.
FAQ: Whale watching in Newfoundland
What month is best for whale watching in Newfoundland?
The best months for whale watching in Newfoundland are July and August, when the waters are warmer and teeming with humpback whales and other species
Where in Newfoundland is the best place to see whales?
Bay Bulls, St. Anthony, Trinity Bay, Bonavista, and Cape Spear are among the best places in Newfoundland to see whales.
What time of day is best for whale watching in Newfoundland?
Whale-watching excursions in Newfoundland typically depart in the morning or early afternoon, with both times offering good chances to spot whales. However, wildlife sightings can vary throughout the day.
Do you see whales on the ferry to Newfoundland?
While it is possible to see whales from the ferry to Newfoundland, sightings are not guaranteed, and dedicated whale-watching tours offer a more reliable and immersive experience.
Are there orcas in Newfoundland?
Yes, orcas, also known as killer whales, can be spotted in the waters of Newfoundland. They are known to pass through the region during their migrations.
Are there blue whales in Newfoundland?
While blue whales have been spotted in the waters off Newfoundland, they are less common compared to humpback whales, minke whales, and fin whales.
What types of whales are in Newfoundland?
Newfoundland is home to 22 whale species, including humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales, and orcas (killer whales).
Final thoughts: Whale watching Newfoundland
Newfoundland is a paradise for whale watchers, offering an array of breathtaking locations to witness these magnificent creatures up close.
Whether you choose Bay Bulls, St. Anthony, or Bonavista Bay, you’ll be treated to a memorable experience as you witness humpback whales, minke whales, and other marine life thriving in their natural habitat.
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