A Guide To Whale Watching In Juneau

by | Apr 14, 2023

A Guide To Whale Watching In Juneau

Welcome to Juneau, Alaska – home of the majestic humpback whale! Whether you are an experienced whale watcher or a novice just starting out, this guide will help you make the most of your time in Juneau.

As an expert on all things whales and whale watching related, I can tell you that Juneau offers some of the best opportunities for seeing these creatures up close. From mid-May through early October, pods of humpbacks migrate along our coastline, making it easy to spot them from shore or even more closely with a boat tour.

No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for – whether it’s educational or recreational – there is something here for everyone when it comes to whale watching in Juneau. With the right know-how and tips from me, you’ll be able to take full advantage of everything this beautiful city has to offer. So let’s get started!

Overview Of Whale Watching

Whale watching is an exciting and rewarding activity for nature lovers. In Juneau, Alaska, the opportunities to observe whales in their natural environment are plentiful. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures of the sea while learning more about them and their behavior.

The best time of year to go whale watching in Juneau is during the summer months when many species migrate through the area, including humpback whales, gray whales, fin whales, minke whales, and killer whales. The most popular spots for viewing these animals include areas near Stephens Passage, Auke Bay, and Point Retreat. There may also be times when you can spot orcas in Gastineau Channel or nearby Lynn Canal.

Whether you’re looking to observe from shore or take a boat tour out on the water, there are plenty of ways to experience this unique animal encounter. With some luck and patience, you might even witness pods playing, breaching, or feeding!

Best Locations For Whale Watching In Juneau

Juneau offers some of the best whale-watching opportunities in the world. In this section, we will discuss the best locations for viewing whales in Juneau and how to make the most of your experience.

The Mendenhall Glacier area is a great spot for whale watching because it provides ample space for them to surface and breach close enough to shore that you can get an excellent view without having to leave the land. You may be able to see humpback, minke, or killer whales here if they are migrating through at the right time. Additionally, there are plenty of other marine creatures such as seals and otters that can provide entertaining diversions during your tour. To maximize your chances of seeing whales around the glacier:

  • Bring binoculars
  • Look out for signs like tail slapping, fin slapping, and spouting which indicate their presence
  • Listen carefully with hydrophones (if provided by boat tour)
  • Check tide charts so you know when high/low tides occur
  • High tide = more shallow water = more likely to spot whales
  • Lower tides bring creatures closer to shore

Nearby Auke Bay also has significant potential for spotting orcas due to its location near two major salmon runs – Chatham Strait in early summer and Stephens Passage later on. Boats leaving from here often offer longer excursions than those departing from downtown Juneau, allowing you a better chance at finding pods of killer whales feasting on schools of fish. Some tips for maximizing your chances include:

  • Scanning large areas for groups feeding together
  • Looking out for behaviors such as spy-hopping, breaching or lobtailing
  • And listening with hydrophones again (if provided).

Lastly, Tracy Arm Fjord is where many species gather each year during their migrations including gray, humpback, and minke whales along with porpoises, harbor seals, and sea lions. This is considered one of the top places in Alaska to observe these animals up close since they don’t usually venture too far offshore while navigating this narrow passageway surrounded by steep walls of granite cliffs on both sides. Be sure to look out for any shadows beneath the surface before getting too close with boats – but overall Tracy Arm Fjord provides unforgettable encounters with these magnificent creatures all season long.

With knowledge about these three prime spots plus tips on what sights/sounds may alert you to nearby activity, now you have everything needed to set out towards optimal viewing destinations when planning your trip!

When To Visit For Optimal Viewing

Juneau’s whale watching season usually runs from late May to early October. However, the best time to visit for optimal viewing is typically in June and July, when humpback whales migrate close to shore in search of food. During this period, there are also often increased sightings of other species such as orcas and dolphins.

For those hoping to spot larger groups of whales, August is a great month to come. The waters around Juneau see an influx of juvenile humpbacks during this time creating large feeding pods that can be seen from boats or land-based observation points.

It’s important to remember that there is no guarantee you will spot whales on any given day, so it’s always advisable to plan multiple trips if you have the opportunity. With proper planning and knowledge of the seasonal migrations, however, your odds of seeing these majestic creatures increase significantly! To ensure a successful trip out onto the water for whale watching in Juneau, it’s necessary to prepare properly with the right equipment and clothing…

Necessary Equipment And Preparation

When embarking on a whale-watching expedition, it’s important to be well-prepared. Here are some essential items to bring along:

  1. Binoculars – so you can get an up-close view of the whales without disturbing them
  2. Sunscreen and a hat – to protect yourself from the sun’s rays
  3. Light snacks and water – in case you get hungry or thirsty during your trip
  4. Clothing layers – so that you’re comfortable in any weather conditions

It is also helpful to have basic knowledge of whale behavior and ecology prior to your excursion as this will allow for a much more enjoyable experience. Make sure to check out local resources such as books and websites that provide information about different species of whales commonly seen in Juneau. Finally, it is wise to plan ahead by booking a tour with a qualified guide who has plenty of experience navigating these waters and spotting whales. This way you’ll be able to maximize your chances of seeing one! With all these preparations made, now it’s time to learn about the different types of whales commonly seen in Juneau.

Different Types Of Whales Commonly Seen

Juneau is home to a variety of whale species, many of which are commonly seen while out on the water. The most common whales visitors will see in Juneau include humpback, minke, and killer whales. Humpback whales can be identified by their long pectoral fins, knobbly head, and white underside. Minke whales have two distinct dorsal fins that appear almost like ‘horns’ when they surface for air. Killer whales have a black back with distinctive white patches near it’s eyes and above their tail fin.

It’s important to remember that each type of whale has different behaviors, so it’s best to keep your distance from these animals as much as possible. It’s also helpful to bring binoculars or a telescope along with you; this way you can observe them without getting too close. The more knowledge we have about these creatures, the better we can appreciate them from afar! With that said, let’s move on to ethical considerations for viewers.

Ethical Considerations For Viewers

When viewing whales in Juneau, there are certain ethical considerations that viewers should keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to remember to view the whales from a distance. This means not approaching them too closely either by boat or on foot. A good rule of thumb is to stay at least 50 yards away from any whale species you encounter while out exploring. Additionally, when traveling with a motorized vessel, be sure to reduce your speed as much as possible when around whales so as not to disturb their natural behaviors.

Secondly, refrain from making loud noises near the animals such as shouting or playing music – this can cause harm and stress to the creatures. If you happen to spot a mother and calf together, it’s especially important for observers to remain quiet and still since calves may become separated if disturbed. Lastly, never attempt to touch or feed marine mammals; they know how to find food themselves, and touching them could place both parties in danger!

With these ethical guidelines followed, we can ensure that our whale-watching experience remains enjoyable for everyone involved – people and wildlife alike! As mentioned earlier, local laws and regulations regarding whale watching must also be taken into account…

Local Laws And Regulations Regarding Whale Watching

Having discussed the ethical considerations of whale watching, it’s now time to dive into the legalities. As with any activity in Juneau, understanding local laws and regulations is essential for a safe and successful experience. Think of this as an oar that guides your boat through rough seas – know the rules before you embark on your journey!

The City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) have comprehensive bylaws regarding wildlife viewing activities, including whales. All boats must maintain distances from marine animals based on species-specific guidelines set forth by CBJ Wildlife Management Plan and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Additionally, there are noise restrictions intended to reduce disturbance to wildlife habitats; vessels must not exceed certain decibel levels while near marine mammals or when approaching them closer than specified distances. These standards apply regardless if you’re using a motorized vessel or human power such as kayaks or paddle boards.

Another important factor to consider is personal safety: never approach closer than 100 yards to whales unless otherwise directed by an authorized observer. It’s also illegal to feed wild animals throughout Alaska so please don’t attempt it, no matter how cute they may be! Moreover, all visitors should be aware that harassment of any kind towards marine mammals is prohibited under both state and federal law. Following these simple rules will ensure everyone enjoys a pleasant whale-watching experience in Juneau without compromising their well-being or the welfare of its inhabitants!

To navigate around the waters safely and responsibly knowing the laws, choosing reputable tour operators is key. Boat tours and charters can provide expert insight into best practices for observing local wildlife – knowledge that could potentially save lives…

Boat Tours And Charters For Whale Watching

If you’re looking for the best whale-watching experience in Juneau, taking a boat tour or charter is the way to go. Boat tours are led by experienced guides who know all the prime spots and will take you right up close to where whales congregate during this time of year. You’ll be able to get amazing photos as well as observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Charter boats also offer incredible opportunities for whale watching, especially if you want more personalized service and privacy. Charter companies have intimate knowledge of the local waters and can bring you closer than ever before to pods of humpbacks and orcas that migrate through Juneau’s channels every summer.

Whichever option you choose, make sure it fits your budget and expectations – some boat tours include snacks while others provide full meals; some charters give access to private beaches off-limits to non-charter guests. Ultimately, whatever type of boat trip you decide on should leave you with an unforgettable experience!

Accommodations Near Prime Whale-Watching Spots

If you’re looking for the best accommodations near prime whale-watching spots in Juneau, look no further! Here’s a list of great places to stay that can offer amazing views and plenty of comforts:

The Baranof Hotel – Located on the waterfront, this hotel offers stunning views of both the mountains and sea. It also has an outdoor pool area perfect for relaxing after a day out at sea.

Alaska Rainforest Resort – This cozy forest retreat is just minutes away from some of the most prime whale-watching spots in town. Enjoy rustic cabins with wood-burning fireplaces or upgrade to luxury suites with private balconies that overlook the water.

Totem Lodge – If you want access to some of the best whale-watching excursions around while being close to downtown then take a look at Totem Lodge. All rooms are equipped with kitchenettes so you can cook your own meals if wanted. Plus they have two outdoor hot tubs where you can soak and watch whales swim by right outside your window!

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve – Take a trip out into nature and get closer than ever before to wildlife here in Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve. Stay overnight at one of their lodges located directly within the park boundaries and be one step ahead when it comes time to go searching for whales during your visit.

Mendenhall Lake Cottages – Spend some quality time by staying lakeside at these quaint cottages situated along Mendenhall Lake. You’ll enjoy breathtaking mountain vistas as well as easy access to nearby trails leading down towards Auke Bay; renowned for its abundance of humpback whales swimming through each summer season.

No matter how long your stay may be, there are plenty of options available near prime whale-watching spots in Juneau. With comfortable lodging, convenient amenities, and spectacular scenery all around you’ll be sure to make lasting memories here! Now let’s move on to resources for further information about enjoying whale watching safely and responsibly…

Resources For Further Information

Whale watching in Juneau is a truly magical experience. Every year, hundreds of humpback whales migrate to the waters around Juneau during the warmer months of spring and summer, creating an unforgettable spectacle that any nature lover will cherish for years to come. As such, there are plenty of resources available to learn more about whale watching in this beautiful Alaskan city.

For starters, you can visit tourism websites like TravelJuneau or ExploreJuneau for information on tour operators offering guided tours as well as tips on where to find the best viewing spots. Additionally, local wildlife centers provide programs specifically designed for people interested in observing these majestic animals up close. For instance, The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers free public lectures discussing various aspects of whale biology and behavior throughout the season.

Finally, online forums dedicated to whale-watching enthusiasts offer helpful advice from experienced observers who have seen it all firsthand – from identifying different species to spotting signs that indicate when they’re ready to surface again after a deep dive underwater. With so many resources at your disposal, you’ll be sure to make some incredible memories while exploring one of nature’s most exquisite spectacles!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Cost Of Whale Watching Tours?

When it comes to whale-watching tours, there are a variety of options available. From boat charters and large tour groups to private tours, the cost will vary depending on what type of experience you’re looking for. In this article, I’ll break down the different types of whale-watching experiences available in Juneau and their associated costs.

Boat Charters:

  • Large Group Tours: Touring companies offer group boat excursions that can accommodate up to 10 people. These trips usually last around 4 hours and typically include snacks and beverages aboard the vessel. The average cost for these trips is $200-250 per person.
  • Small Group Tours: For those who want more personalized attention from the guide, smaller boats can be chartered with experienced guides leading the way. Prices range from $350-$400 per hour a great option if you have just a few friends or family members joining!
  • Private Tours: If you’re looking for an exclusive adventure without any distractions, then consider booking a private tour with one of Juneau’s experienced captains and naturalists. On private tours, guests receive customized itineraries tailored specifically to their interests so they get the most out of their time in Alaska’s waters. Rates generally start at $500/hour but may increase depending on how many passengers are onboard and how long your trip lasts.

No matter which type of tour you choose, make sure to research each company thoroughly before booking so you know exactly what you’re getting into! Whale watching is an incredible opportunity to observe some of nature’s largest mammals in their natural habitat – don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Go Whale Watching?

Whale watching in Juneau can be a thrilling and educational experience, but the best time of day to go whale watching is essential. Most experts agree that the optimal time for spotting whales is between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm. For example, when I took a group of tourists out on one of my Juneau whale-watching tours last summer, we were able to spot several humpback whales in just two hours!

To ensure you have the most successful whale-watching outing possible, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Try to arrive at your chosen viewing area early as whales tend to surface more often during this part of the day.
  2. Keep an eye out for signs from marine mammals such as spouts or fins breaking through the water’s surface; these are indicators that there may be something nearby worth investigating.
  3. Bring along binoculars so you can get a better view of whatever might come into sight.
  4. Be sure to stay quiet while on board and avoid making any loud noises that could scare away potential sightings.
  5. Dress appropriately based on weather conditions – if it looks like rain, make sure you bring a waterproof jacket or poncho with you!

Being prepared and knowing what time is best can help make your whale-watching trip unforgettable – not only will you get amazing views, but also gain knowledge about their behavior and habits too! With all that said, it’s clear that mornings offer prime opportunities for observing different types of whales in their natural habitats by taking advantage of tidal patterns throughout Alaska’s waters. So next time you’re planning a visit to Juneau don’t forget to set aside some extra time for exploring its majestic wildlife.

Is There A Minimum Age Requirement For Whale Watching Tours?

Asking about the age requirements for whale watching tours is a common question. It’s important to know if there are any restrictions when planning for an exciting day out on the water. With that in mind, let me share what I know about whale watching and age limitations.

Generally speaking, most tour companies will accept children of all ages onboard their vessels. However, depending on the company, some may require participants to be at least five or six years old before they can join the excursion. If you plan on bringing young kids along with you, check with your specific tour operator beforehand so everyone knows what to expect.

Ultimately, it’s up to each individual tour provider as to which age limit they set forth – but regardless of how old one might be, every participant should always follow safety guidelines while out on the water. That includes wearing appropriate clothing and footwear as well as listening carefully to instructions from crew members or guides throughout the journey.

In light of this information, anyone looking forward to a fun-filled day of whale watching should contact their chosen tour company ahead of time regarding any questions related to age requirements or additional safety measures during their trip.

Is There A Maximum Group Size For Whale Watching Tours?

Are you looking to go whale watching in Juneau, Alaska? You’re not alone! Many people flock here hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic creatures. But before you book your tour, it’s important to know about the maximum group size for such an outing.

When it comes to whale-watching tours, there are typically three different sizes:

  1. Small groups (2-6 people)
  2. Medium groups (7-15 people)
  3. Large groups (16+ people).

As someone who has seen their fair share of whales over the years, I can tell you that small and medium-sized groups tend to be best when out on the water searching for them. This is because larger boats may scare away some of these gentle giants before anyone has a chance to get a good look at them! That being said, if you have more than 15 people wanting to join in on the action then don’t worry – most tour operators will make arrangements accordingly so everyone gets a chance to witness this incredible experience.

So whether you’ve got two friends joining or sixteen family members coming along, rest assured there’s something available for all group sizes. All that’s left now is picking out your spot on deck and getting ready for one amazing adventure!

Are There Any Safety Precautions To Consider When Whale Watching?

Exploring the wild ocean with majestic marine mammals is an experience that no one should miss. It can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come face to face with nature’s most magnificent creatures, and safety must always be taken into consideration when venturing out on such an adventure. When it comes to whale watching, there are indeed some precautions that should be kept in mind.

First of all, as with any activity involving wildlife, respect for their space and environment is essential. The whales’ well-being and continued existence rely heavily upon our caution during these encounters. Therefore, it’s important to remain at a safe distance from them – typically about 100 yards away – so that they do not feel threatened or disturbed by your presence. Additionally, avoid making loud noises or sudden movements which could startle the whales and make them flee unexpectedly.

In addition to approaching safely and respectfully, it is also wise for tour participants to wear protective clothing while out on the water. Since the weather conditions may change rapidly without warning, wearing layers of waterproof garments will help keep you comfortable if temperatures drop suddenly or rain begins to pour in unexpectedly. Also, always have sunscreen close at hand since sitting under the sun for hours can cause severe sunburns very quickly in certain regions.

It goes without saying that proper precautionary measures need to be taken before embarking on any whale-watching excursion; however, doing so can allow visitors an unforgettable encounter with these incredible creatures in their natural habitat!


Are you ready to experience the majestic beauty of whale watching in Juneau? Then it’s time to start planning your trip! Whale watching is one of Alaska’s most popular activities, and there are some important things to consider before setting out.

The cost of whale-watching tours varies depending on the boat size and tour duration. Generally speaking, prices range anywhere from $50-$125 per person. It’s also best to plan your excursion for early morning or late afternoon when the light is optimal for spotting whales. And don’t forget that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult – a great opportunity for parents and kids to get up close with nature together!

Finally, safety should always come first when whale watching. Be sure to take all necessary precautions including wearing life jackets at all times and following any instructions given by experienced guides. With these tips in mind, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing adventure full of lifelong memories!

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