You don’t even have to leave the shore to see orcas in Seattle.
On the coast of Puget Sound, Seattle brings visitors within reach of some spectacular whale watching. There are four resident communities of orca whales within the Northeastern portion of the Pacific Ocean, with the Southern Resident Killer Whales—a pack of 76—being the most likely to appear near Seattle. You can up your odds by taking a whale watch from Edmonds or Port Townsend, but there are also several spots to see Free Willy in his natural habitat without leaving shore.
Take Tacoma’s verdant “Five Mile Drive” around Point Defiance Park for several views of Puget Sound that often include orca and humpback sightings. If you miss the whales, it’s also a great place to catch goldfinches flitting in the trees, and sometimes even bald eagles soaring along the horizon.
Grab the ferry to Vashon Island for front-row seats to an unscripted orca performance. These majestic creatures often bob and bow less than 50 feet away from shore.
Alki Beach is the westernmost point in Seattle—curving out into the chilly waters of Puget Sound. It’s a great place for walkers, sunbathers, picnickers, and whale-watchers alike. If you don’t have any seal pup or orca sightings, the views of the Cascade Mountains will definitely make up for it.
Humpback whales are often seen in the shallow waters off Possession Point feeding on krill. Hunted to near-extinction in years’ past, their consistent presence in Possession Point indicates they’re making a comeback.
On the southwest side of Whidbey Island, the public beach at Bush Point allows for prime whale watching. Walk the shoreline and look for them across the narrowest point of North Puget Sound.
Thomas Hladky Memorial Park
Often called “Whale Bell Park,” this park’s main attraction is a brass bell that visitors are encouraged to ring with each whale sighting.