You can go to the zoo or aquarium these days and see just about any creature you want. Bears, sharks, gorillas — anything. There’s one thing you won’t find, though (unless you’re at SeaWorld) — whales. The only place you get to see whales are in the wild, and even then they’re really tough to find (because they spend 98% of their lives underwater). That’s what makes seeing a whale really, really special. I’ve only spotted a handful in my lifetime, but thanks to our Puget Sound Express whale watching tour, Tove and I were recently able to see them again.
Puget Sound Express operates out of Edmonds and Port Townsend (less than two hours away from Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula). We just spent a random early spring weekend in Port Townsend, which is a fun little coastal town. From the hotel, to the food, to the recreation — everything was awesome. When we were driving home, I started to ask Tove what her favorite part of the weekend was, but I cut myself off before I even finished the question. I already knew the answer — our whale watching adventure.
We booked our Puget Sound Express whale watching tour the night before we left Seattle (it was the only thing we planned the entire weekend). Puget Sound Express is a family owned business that’s cruised people around the sound for more than 25 years. I wasn’t sure if whale watching was available in March, but I quickly learned that gray whales migrate from Baja to Alaska this time of year. They can be spotted in the Puget Sound between March and April. The best part is — Puget Sound Express guarantees that you’ll see whales, or your next trip is FREE.
Puget Sound Express whale watching isn’t cheap (it cost us $85 per person), but I think it’s worth every penny. You leave Port Townsend at 10am and head southeast toward Everett. You cruise through the Puget Sound for more than an hour, while the captain talks about certain points of interest. On our way out, we saw sea lions, a seal and tons of birds hanging out on the water. We also had a sunny (but very chilly) day, so that made the cruise even more enjoyable.
Once we made it to Everett, it didn’t take us long to spot some gray whales. We spent more than an hour watching the whales in the area. One of the whales was “logging” (basically taking a rest with his back out of the water). Our boat probably floated within 40 yards of him, and he didn’t seem to mind. He would just throw his blowhole under the water, spout it out and keep chilling. He did that for about 10 to 15 minutes. Our guide said that’s as close an encounter he’s had with a gray whale in years. While most of the passengers (there were about 30 of us) were watching him, some folks in the back of the boat actually saw a different whale breach a couple of times. I was really disappointed I missed that, but I guess beggars can’t be choosers.
The tour lasts between four and five hours, so that means we had to turn around and head an hour+ back to Port Townsend. We got back to the marina around 3pm. It’s a long trek, so make sure you have some food. You can order a lunch through Puget Sound Express when you buy your tickets, or you can simply bring your own food onboard (that’s what Tove and I did). On top of lunch, Puget Sound Express also offers drinks and their famous Blueberry Buckle coffee cake for purchase on the boat.
If you’re booking a Puget Sound Express whale watching tour, I would advise bringing binoculars (even though there are some already on the boat) and a good camera. You can snap all the cell phone pictures you want, but most of the time you’re watching the gray whales from a distance. That means a camera with a good zoom lens is highly recommended. I also think it’s a good idea to put down the camera for a second and just watch the whales do their thing in the water. I know we all want cool pictures that we can post on Facebook, but you shouldn’t miss the moment.
There’s something incredible about gray whales (or whales in general). They’re incredible creatures, and you don’t get to see them very often. Thanks to Puget Sound Express we were able to view them up-close and personal. Puget Sound Express isn’t exclusive to gray whales either. They also have orca whale watching tours from May-September. Those trips range anywhere from four hours to three days. Tove and I would really like to scope out the killer whales later this summer. When we do — we’ll definitely book our trip through Puget Sound Express!
Have you ever taken a Puget Sound Express whale watching tour? How was your experience? We’d love to hear all about it! Please leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to also check out Seattle Bloggers for more fun things to do and see in Port Townsend, and all over the Puget Sound area!