7 Stunning Whale Watching Spots to Explore in Alaska

Alaska’s Inside Passage – a 500-mile network of ocean channels and island coasts – offers everything a yacht charter guest could want. In this area of Alaska’s southeast, you’ll find calm waters, pristine coastlines, stunning snow-capped mountains, and fresh-caught seafood in every port of call.

Humpback whale

But here’s one thing Southeast Alaska – which includes the cities of Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan – is best known for: Whale watching.

The region’s untouched sounds, straits and channels provide an ideal habitat for a range of whale species – including killer whales, humpbacks, and grey whales. In fact, from late spring to early fall, nearly 600 humpback whales congregate throughout the Inside Passage (making humpback sightings an almost every-day occurrence). Grey whales, on the other hand, migrate through in spring, most frequently in April and May.

In other words, you can whale watch on your Alaskan yacht charter for most of the year.

But which areas are best for catching a glimpse of a breaching humpback or a pod of orcas? From the Passage’s southern shores near Ketchikan, up to Juneau and Glacier Bay in the north, here are some must-visit whale-watching sites for your next Alaskan yacht charter.

1. Gustavus, AK

Gustavus, a tiny hamlet near the northern boundary of the Inside Passage, lies next to the inlet into Glacier Bay, a national park and protected waterway. Not only is the park a hangout for humpbacks, it’s also home to some of Alaska’s largest, intact glaciers. Plus, the park’s dense conifer forests and snow-capped mountains serve as an incredible backdrop for all your once-in-a-life whale photos.

2. Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait sits just 30 nautical miles from Gustavus, but thanks to its location, it boasts some of the most incredible whale watching in all of the Inside Passage. Three waterways merge in the strait, bringing with them an abundance of food. As such, marine life flocks to Icy Strait in the summer months to feed, including sea lions, porpoises, and orcas. But the strait is best known for its resident humpback populations. During summer, it’s not uncommon to watch multiple humpbacks from a central location.

3. Juneau, AK

Juneau is Alaska’s third-largest city (and capital) and also a mecca for whale-watchers. In fact, during summer, the waters and coves around Juneau offer one of the most unique Alaskan whale-watching sights: Bubble-net feeding. Bubble-net feeding might sound a little silly, but it’s actually an incredible thing to witness, when a dozen or more humpbacks herd prey toward the surface of the water. Then, in an instant, up to 20 animals surface, making for a photo opportunity you won’t want to miss.

4. Sitka, AK

Sitka is a city situated on Chichagof Island on the Gulf of Alaska side of the Passage, and its surrounding waters, including Sitka Sound, are a sanctuary for humpback whales and other marine species. July to late fall offer the best times to spot around Sitka, as humpbacks, killer whales and other migratory whales tend to hang around after feeding in the Inside Passage’s waters. On any given day in the high season, it’s not uncommon to see 20+ whales.

5. Wrangell, AK

One of the Inside Passage’s undiscovered islands, Wrangell offers an escape from Southeast Alaska’s more crowded tourist ports. Not to mention, Wrangell offers access to some of the region’s quietest, most untouched whale watching spots. The nearby waters around Kadin Island are well-known for sightings, for instance.

6. Petersburg, AK

Nicknamed “Little Norway,” Petersburg is situated on Frederick Sound, a prime viewing spot for summertime humpbacks. What’s more, Petersburg lies off the well-trod tourist trail, making the waterways around this small seaside community a quiet respite for Alaskan yachting.

7. Ketchikan, AK

The southern entrance to the Inside Passage, Ketchikan is renowned for its salmon fishing. And that means one thing: The whales aren’t far behind – especially orcas. When the salmon peaks in May and June, killer whales are a common sight. Plus, Ketchikan is also a humpback hotspot. In summer, you’re almost guaranteed a chance to see whales here.

Visit Alaska and Live Your Whale Watching Dreams

Southeast Alaska is a one-of-a-kind destination. Pristine nature, calm waters, and some of the best summertime whale watching in the world. Cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage, you’re bound some National Geographic-worthy photo-ops (and of course) an incredible experience.