Our Anacortes Whale Watching Trip

Anacortes Whale Watching is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that bring you closer to nature.

Or that’s the idea anyway.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you think it will but we’ll explain more about that later on.

We’d been house sitting in Poulsbo, Washington State for a few weeks and when the sit finished we wanted to go on a road trip around Washington State to explore some more.

One of the things we really wanted to do was go on a whale watching trip to see Orca Whales.

Anacortes whale watching - Poulsbo

Street Art In Poulsbo

After lots of research, we decided to go with Island Adventures out of Anacortes.

Anacortes is 80 miles North of Seattle and is the gateway to the San Juan Islands between mainland USA and Canada’s Vancouver Island.

The San Juan Islands are known for the pods of Orca that live there most of the year round.

Island Adventures Tours had been on our radar and also been recommended to us by a couple of people.

They have several tours and locations to choose from but we decided on Anacortes.

Anacortes whale watching

We booked our day trip online and then drove to Anacortes the day before to be ready for our morning trip.

The morning of our trip was foggy and damp as we drove through Anacortes.

Even though our trip didn’t leave until 11.30 we needed to check in at the Island Adventures office and collect a free parking permit for the dock area

Then we just had to drive the short distance to the dock where we could board the boat.

Anacortes whale watching - Island Explorer 5

Ready To Board Our Boat

Our boat, the Island Explorer 5 sat in the calm waters with fog all around creating a rather spooky atmosphere.

The crew checked us on and we found somewhere to sit on board.

The Island Explorer is a large catamaran that’s really comfortable with lots of seating and viewing areas.

Anacortes whale watching

The Island Explorer 5

Our Captain took us out into the open water but had to go slow because of the fog.

A very knowledgeable naturalist gave us lots of information on sea life that we might find on our trip but with all the fog it didn’t seem hopeful.

Instead of going to explore the San Juan islands we would be heading West, out into the open ocean to try and clear the fog bank.

Through the thick fog, we came upon a navigational buoy with a couple of California Sea Lions resting on it.

Anacortes whale watching - Sea Lions

Sea Lions In The Fog

The fog just didn’t want to clear so we kept heading West into Canadian waters.

At last, we popped out of the fog bank and for the first time, we could actually see something.

A sister boat of the Island Explorer 5 radioed our captain to report a Humpback Whale sighting so we headed in that direction.

Soon in the distance, we saw the lone Humpback playing in the ocean, breaching and slapping his fins on the surface of the water.

What an amazing sight!!

Anacortes whale watching - Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Having Lots Of Fun Playing In The Ocean

As we got closer we could hear the huge slaps as his fins came down on the water.

He would breach ( which is when they launch themselves upward out of the water) several times, before diving down.

Anacortes whale watching - Humpback Whale

It Was Amazing To See The Humpback Breaching

We trailed the humpback as he made his way through the ocean still breaching and generally having fun and showing off.

Soon it was time to turn around and head back to Anacortes.

On the way back we circled Race Rocks where hundreds of seals and sea lions laid on the rocks making such a noise.

Unfortunately, we had headed back into the fog.

Anacortes whale watching - Sea Lions At Race Rocks

The Noisy Sea Lion Colony At Race Rocks

The journey back to the dock at Anacortes was uneventful as we sailed through the thick fog.

As we neared the San Juan Islands the fog began to lift and we could some of the islands around us.

The sky above was clear as we docked and left the boat.

Anacortes whale watching - San Juan Island

The Fog Lifted And We Could See The San Juan Islands

Our Thoughts

With all activities like this, there is so much luck involved.

We hadn’t seen the Orcas that we so wanted to see because of the foggy conditions and part of us was upset of course.

But we had witnessed the magnificent humpback whale breaching, which apparently is quite rare to see.

The crew of the Island Explorer 5 were fantastic and very knowledgeable giving us tons of information about the wildlife in the area.

We would definitely recommend Island Adventures and do more trips with them if we get the chance.

The Nitty Gritty

How To Get To Anacortes

Anacortes is 80 miles North of Seattle on the Northern tip of Fidalgo Island in Washington State.

Where To Stay

There are lots of options for somewhere to stay, mostly on the main strip through town.

We stayed at the Islands Inn on the main road and it was comfortable.

The Boat Trip

We went on our whale watching trip with Island Adventures who have an office in Anacortes.

Besides Anacortes, they run trips out of Port Angeles and Everett.

Their boats are very comfortable and the crew are very experienced.

You also get access to free binoculars on board the boat.

On the Island Explorer 5, there is a small food bar with hot food and drinks available.

A good tip is to purchase their wildlife guide booklet for just $1 so that you can spot different species on the trip.

It can get cold on the boat especially with foggy weather as we had so take plenty of layers to keep warm

Check out the Island Adventures website here

Anacortes whale watching