One of my favorite parts about Newfoundland is that it is one of the best places to go whale watching in the world! During the summer, you can easily spot whales in the ocean while hiking along the coast of Newfoundland. 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 very common to see puffins!
Whales are magical creatures and despite having grown up with them just outside my house, I still jump with excitement when I see one now. I’ve been whale and puffin watching all over Newfoundland and have found the best places to see them. This post will help you plan a perfect whale watching NL adventure!
Best Time to See Whales and Puffins in Newfoundland
The best time to see whales in Newfoundland is from mid-May to September, with the peak season being 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 of these times, it’s just a lot easier to see them when there’s a lot of fish around as this attracts big groups. Similarly, with puffins, the best time to see them is from mid-May to mid-September when they come to land to nest.
Types of Whales in Newfoundland
There are over 22 different species of whales you can see in Newfoundland. The most common type you can see are humpback whales, who migrate here in large groups every summer in search of Capelin and other feed. Another common type of whale in Newfoundland is the Minke whale, 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.
There are many other types of whales in Newfoundland including fin whales, sperm whales, belugas, dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, and blue whales, which are the largest species. Although the latter are quite rare to see! I went snorkeling with blue whales in Sri Lanka, which was an incredible experience.
Best Places to go Whale and Puffin Watching on the East Coast of Newfoundland
The Eastern Coast of Newfoundland is the best place on the island for whale and puffin watching.
Whale Watching St. John’s Newfoundland
The capital of Newfoundland, St. John’s, is a city surrounded by ocean and during the summertime, you can easily spot whales from many of the coastal hiking trails. The best way to do this is by hiking a portion of the East Coast Trail, a 336-km hiking trail that goes along the Avalon. The trail is broken into 26 paths, most of which I’ve hiked. Some of the best places to see whales are along the trails near Cape Spear (the most Easterly point in North America), and any of the trails along the Irish Loop, especially near the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve.
If you want to get closer to whales and don’t know anyone with a boat, you can join a whale watching tour from downtown St. John’s with Iceberg Quest.
Bay Bulls Whale Watching
One of the best places to see whales in Newfoundland that’s not too far from St. John’s is from Bay Bulls on the Irish Loop, around the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. This area not only has whales but also has a number of bird species including puffins, common murres, black guillemots, northern gannets, greater shearwaters, and northern fulmars. I did this tour a few years ago and loved it. The puffin colony is amazing!
To visit the island you’ll have to hop on a boat tour from Bay Bulls. This is an easy day trip from St. John’s, 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 becomes very deep quickly there so the whales often come very close to shore!
Trinity Whale Watching
Trinity is a gorgeous town about three hours from St. John’s that is not only a great place to visit but also to see whales! I went hiking here recently 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 whales in Newfoundland, 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 get to see the beautiful coastline around the Trinity harbour. The tour takes you in a sea cave, next to waterfalls, the random passage movie site, and some other small communities near Trinity including where my cabin is! During my tour in May, we even saw a Minke whale. Bald eagle sightings are also extremely common. If you time it right, you may be able to see icebergs, whales, and birds here all at the same time which is the ultimate trifecta.
Trinity Eco-Tours also offers the opportunity to go whale watching and iceberg sighting via Kayak, which is an exhilarating experience.
Bonavista Puffin and Whales Tours
The 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 just from the beach here, 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 whales and puffins! There is a huge puffin colony here and when I was visiting, they even came up close to say hello
Best Places to go Whale Watching in Central Newfoundland
On my recent press trip to Central Newfoundland, I went on a boat tour with Hare Bay Adventures in the Northern Bonavista Bay. I was actually booked to do a traditional wooden boat rowing lesson, but the day before the owner Duane called to ask us if we wanted to go whale watching, as he said he believed he had the best whale watching on the island. Being the wildlife lover that I am, I immediately said yes.
The boat left from 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. Guys, this whale watching is crazy. They were on all sides of the boat. I didn’t have enough heads to keep up with how many whales there were! We mostly saw humpback whales and a couple of minkes.
Not to mention all the amazing birds you can see here too. We went past a small island, in which hundreds of Northern Gannets were sitting on. 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 over to Braggs island for a camp fire dinner, which was one of the resettled islands. Such a nice way to end an amazing day!
Twillingate and Fogo
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 into shore yet so we didn’t see any whales. However, even without the whales, a boat tour here is a great activity as the landscapes are absolutely stunning. We did see a number of birds including bald eagles and osprey. Twillingate and Fogo are also one of 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 set up in town 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.
Best Places to go Whale Watching on the West Coast of Newfoundland
While stunning, the West Coast of Newfoundland isn’t the best place to see whales in Newfoundland, in comparison to the East Coast. That said, there are places to see them here.
If you’re in Gros Morne National Park, you can take a scenic boat tour of Bonne Bay with Bontours, where you can whales as well as fjords, bald eagles, moose, and seabirds. It is a photographer’s paradise!
One of the best places to see whales on the West Coast of Newfoundland is further up the Viking trail on the Northern tip of the province. Northland Discovery Boat Tours runs zodiac tours around the St. Anthony Coast, which is an area famous for its bounty of icebergs, humpbacks, and Atlantic-white beaked dolphins.
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 sometimes.
You’ll definitely 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 fret though if you don’t have a big lens, the whales really do come close to the boat during the tours and you can still capture amazing photos and videos even with your phone. For puffins, you need a zoom lens unless you get lucky and have them come up close to you!
I hope this post could give you some inspiration on where to find whales during your visit to Newfoundland. It’s one of my favorite activities to do here and should definitely be on your Newfoundland itinerary!
Looking for more Newfoundland inspo? Check out these posts!
- 10 Incredible Outdoor Adventures in Central Newfoundland
- 40+ Fun Things to do in St. John’s Newfoundland
- The Adventurers Guide to Gros Morne National Park
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