Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Whale watching from a Zodiac boat

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon is a big deal. Seeing a whale in its wild environment is a real thrill. Even more thrilling is seeing a whale in its wild environment from an open Zodiac boat, up close and personal at eye level.

Whale’s Tail of Depoe Bay whale watching tour

I recently enjoyed a whale watching excursion with the Whale’s Tail out of Depoe Bay that brought pure joy to my heart. First of all, I don’t swim well enough to save my life so I was pushing the envelope a bit for me to start. Second, I had never been out on the ocean. Not really. Since, I don’t count ferry trips to Vancouver Island or fishing in the bay as ocean excursions. Lastly, I chose to book a whale tour with a company that operates a Zodiac boat. I wanted to see a whale up CLOSE and I wanted to be able to put my hand in the water. I wanted to feel what it is like to ride ocean swells.

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

We arrived early at the harbor of Depoe Bay. If you have never been down on the back side of the Depoe Bay Bridge you are missing something. While it is hailed as the world’s smallest navigable harbor, it is a lovely area tucked away beside another of the historical bridges that graces Highway 101. Designed by Conde McCullough and built in 1927, the arched concrete bridge was expanded in 1940. Furthermore, McCullough designed many of the beautiful bridges along Highway 101 in this same Art Moderne style of the day. The Depoe Bay Bridge creates a picture perfect gateway to this small harbor, but, you have to be in a Zodiac boat to fully appreciate it.

Safety first with a life jacket

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Since parking was convenient, we easily found our way to Dock 2 where our boat was docked. After donning my rain gear, hat and gloves, I was ready come rain or shine. Consequently, it appeared to be possibly a rain day. Safety first, as I maneuvered into a trusty life jacket and tucked myself away in a seat behind Captain Gary’s chair.

Don’t forget your sunglasses

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

With great excitement we set out for our 1 ½ hour tour. My husband kept humming the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. I didn’t expect we would find ourselves stranded on any deserted tropical island that day. Most of all, I just wanted to see a whale!

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Meanwhile, motoring away from the bay toward the west gave the opportunity for me to look back at the quaint buildings that make up the main drag of Depoe Bay. An unexpected surprise was watching the surf hit against the rocks. Such beauty to see from the other side!

Whale watching is fun

Soon, we neared other boats in the area, and as Captain Gary slowed the engines to near idle, we sat. It was very interesting to be floating on a relatively calm ocean. It was quiet. I realized, “Oh, we are just waiting for a whale to make itself known”.  Consequently, the radio crackled with a cryptic message and we were soon off boating in another direction. It wasn’t long before we saw a spout, and then another. Two whales side by side. And, then, I saw the body of a whale as it rolled across the water and disappeared below. I tell you, my heart nearly stopped. It wasn’t a close up or even a major sighting, but it touched my heart. Finally, to be so near to a multi-ton creature in the wild in a little boat was truly an amazing feeling.

Whales breathe at the surface

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon


Getting ready for a deep dive

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

I learned a lot of things about whales that day as we zigged and zagged as the whales directed us. First, because Captain Gary is an experienced seaman. Second, because he has a heck of a lot of knowledge about whales. What I learned firsthand is that whales usually spend about 30 minutes below the surface eating after they breathe. Consequently, that meant there were periods of waiting with no sightings as we searched for whales.

There are lots of other things to watch in between whale sightings

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Oceanography 101

Watching waves crash against rocks as I walk the 804 Trail  near our  house in Yachats is one of my favorite coast past times. Watching waves from a Zodiac boat is spellbinding because you are really close. Especially relevant, towards the end of our tour the wind came up and the swells were larger. We were about a mile and a half out from shore in water about 90 feet deep. I noticed the surface of the water within a swell is textured with a multitude of small ripples. I am not an oceanographer, but the why question came to mind. Was it from the wind? Or, is that the nature of swells to be made up of a complex network of small ripples that build into a wave? Hmmmm.

Bird watching

Birds bobbed in the water, sometimes with their black necks and heads the only visible body part as they rode the swells. Like little stove pipes sticking out of the waves. Just hanging out over a mile from shore riding the waves. “Hey, Bob! How’s it going?”. “Oh, great. Just bobbin’.”

Migrating gray whales on the Oregon Coast

Most importantly, we were watching for migrating gray whales coming out of the Baja as they pass the Oregon Coast on their way north to the feeding grounds up north. Adult whales with their calves in tow. Furthermore, Captain Gary informed me there are a number of resident whales that choose to summer between Lincoln City and Newport. These resident whales have names and are regularly sighted in the Depoe Bay area all summer. Therefore, I am scheduling my summer calendar to fit in another tour in June. Most notably, I want to make the acquaintance of Scarback and her pals.

Mother Nature was good to us

Finally, our tour came to an end and we returned to the harbor, entering through the arch of that beautiful bridge. Lucky for us, raindrops began falling only during the last few minutes of our tour. Mother Nature was good to us.

Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon


Whale Watching at Depoe Bay, Oregon

I highly recommend a whale watching tour with Whale’s Tail at Depoe Bay while on your Oregon Coast vacation. Take your camera and binoculars. It is a great time for families, too. Gary and Kit at Whale’s Tail are great people to deal with and their customer service is superb. Furthermore, you can book online right from their website. The only thing I would have done differently is take a selfie with Captain Gary. Another reason to make that June booking!

Have you ever been on a whale watch tour? Have you ever ridden in a Zodiac boat on the ocean?