Lauren Kramer | 08/17/2020 | Food & Hidden Gems |   

Head out on a Whale Watch for a Spectacular Staycation

One of the best ways to soak up Whatcom County is with San Juan Cruises. Spend the day exploring Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands on one of their whale watching or wine, beer and dinner cruises this summer and fall. 

The trips are as exciting as ever too, with lots of wildlife sightings, fascinating information about the islands’ history and geology and loads of sightings of whale pods, seals, sea lions, porpoises and birdlife this time of year. “We see orcas 97% of the time,” said Drew Schmidt, a captain with San Juan Cruises. “It’s pretty rare when we don’t see whales.”If your whale watching trip is a bust, passengers will receive a “bummer card.” This card has no expiration date and is good for 50% off your next whale watching adventure.

It was a calm day in the San Juans with the ocean still and flat, perfect for sightseeing. We entered Rosario Strait, a major shipping lane for roughly  500-to-600 oil tankers per year, and passed Orcas Island, the largest in the San Juan archipelago. 

On rocky outcroppings, we slowed to look at the 2,500 lb sea lions newly arrived from Alaska. They were sharing the rocks with harbor seals, basking in the sunshine as we sat down for a lunch of lasagna and Caesar salad. 

In his 12 years with the company, Captain Jeff Drovdahl has been witness to some extraordinary orca sightings. A couple of weeks ago he saw a group of transient orcas moving between the whale watching boats, curious about the vessels and their occupants. 

Even with regulations preventing boats from being within 200 yards to an orca whale, guests can still have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  “One time we had whales breach next to the boat and our guests were showered in whale snot,” said Drovdahl.

At the time Orca J-35, also known as Tahlequah, was pregnant again. Tahlequah received national coverage and sparked worldwide concern after losing her baby two years ago. “We were all nervously excited, holding our breath to see what happens,” Drovdahl said.

As we cruised back into Bellingham Bay, I realized how lucky I am to have all these incredible sights in my backyard. There’s something special about exploring San Juan Archipelago and being able to spend the day on the water. If you have a trip planned to Bellingham or Whatcom County soon, make sure you book a day with San Juan Cruises. 

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism
Visitor Center Located at I-5 Exit 253 - Check Hours
904 Potter Street, Bellingham, WA 98229
Phone: 360-671-3990

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