Winter (December through January) is the best time to see gray whales. Approximately 20,000 whales migrate south to the warm water of Baja Mexico where they breed each year. Spring (March through June) is the next best time for whale watching, as hundreds of gray whales travel north toward Alaska. Summer and fall (June through November) can bring five to fifteen whales through Yachats on a daily basis as they feed along the Oregon Coast.
The Cape Perpetua Whale Trail is only three miles west of the Overleaf Lodge & Spa. The cape is just over 800 feet tall, accessible by car and on foot, and is a perfect venue for whale watching. Experience the diverse nature and wildlife along the reserve trail from tide pools to seabirds as you explore the trail. Once you reach the edge, keep a sharp eye on the ocean for gray whales, orcas and humpbacks.
Any location with an oceanic view is a potential spot for whale sightings. Binoculars are useful, but first, scan the shore to the horizon with your naked eye looking for a spout or blow, then use the binoculars for a closer look. Advanced whale watchers can identify the type of whale by the shape and size of the blow. For example, gray whales have a double blowhole, and their spouts are heart shaped. Orcas typically have a bushy-shaped blow, and humpback whales have a tall, column-shaped blow. If you see something that looks like a blow, keep watching keep in mind that some whales can dive for ten minutes or longer.
Another way to identify cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoise) is by their dorsal fins and tail flukes. For example, gray whales have small dorsal ridges, while orcas have prominent triangular fins that can grow more than six feet on males. Tail flukes can be used to identify not only a species of whale, but also individual whales. For example, the markings on the tail flukes of humpback whales are all different. If you see a whale’s tail, keep your eye on that spot, because it is likely going down for a dive and it will emerge after a few minutes.
For an even closer view, whale watching can be done from a charter boat, plane or helicopter. If you are viewing from the shore, look for boats that are stopped, because it is likely that the people on the boat have sighted a whale.