See up to 5 Types of Whales from 4 Departure Locations!
The world's best opportunity to see wild orcas is right here in the San Juan Islands, February through December.
Anacortes is our flagship location where Island Adventures first began back in 1996. Just a 90-mile drive from downtown Seattle, Anacortes is a convenient starting point for your wildlife adventure - no ferry required! The calm waters near the San Juan Islands are one of the best places in the world to view wild orcas. Humpback whales, minke whales, and, gray whales also call the region home. Soak in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest aboard the finest whale watching vessel on the entire west coast, the Island Explorer 5.
The Salish Sea is home to one of the richest varieties of marine life on the planet. This is simply the best place on earth to view the charismatic Southern Resident Killer Whales of J, K, and L Pods, and sightings of awe-inspiring transient, or Bigg's, killer whales are at an all-time high. In addition to orcas, humpback whales, minke whales, and gray whales are also frequently seen throughout the year. And we don't stop at whales! Our experienced naturalist guides will also highlight harbor seals, sea lions, Dall’s and harbor porpoise, bald eagles and many types of sea birds. The average tour covers 60 miles through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Our skilled captains and crew have built a rapport with local researchers, sharing information to aid in studying and protecting all whales in the area. Over the years, we've come to recognize each whale's unique markings and understand their individual personalities. If the conditions are just right, we can even listen to their conversations by using underwater microphones (hydrophones).
Anacortes Tour Information and Times
4-5 Hour Guaranteed Whale Watching Tours
10:00 AM Departure
Our 10:00 AM departure from Anacortes is one of our most popular tours. This departure time allows us to maximize time with whales and gets back early enough for a late lunch/early dinner in Anacortes before heading on to your next adventure. Don't miss out on the #1 whale watching tour in the Pacific Northwest!
4:00 PM Departure
During peak season, the 4:00 PM departure from Anacortes is most popular with our staff, locals, and professional photographers. There's an advantage to the afternoon tour as we already know either where the whales are or where they're not. Also, the lighting in the evenings softens, making it absolutely incredible for photographs!
Which Tour Should I Choose?
Often times, deciding on a departure time can be one of the hardest parts of the reservation process. We can confidently say that there isn't a tour time that's better than the other. If we knew of a trip that saw more whales over the other, we wouldn't run the bad trip!
We recommend choosing the departure time that works best in your schedule. Whales aren't on a rigid schedule, so both tours have the same whale sighting success rate. The benefits of morning versus afternoon come into play on the human side. Morning tours are great because you're first out on the water and have the rest of the afternoon to do as you please. The afternoon tour is great because you don't have to get up early, and you end your day with whales and some pretty incredible lighting for photographs.
Both tours are great, so choose the one that works in your schedule best!
$30 for 30
Big savings for booking in advance!
Adults save $20 when you book 30+ days in advance and an additional $10 with military ID, AAA, AARP, seniors 65+, or college student ID. This deal cannot be combined with promotion codes or other discounts and is valid on whale watching tours only.
Save $20 for booking 30+ days in advance + Save $10 with adult discount = $30 Savings
Anacortes Tour Range
When whales are in the center of the map, most companies do see them – we just get more time. When the whales are up north or out west, the Island Explorer fleet are often the only American boats watching whales
Because of our vessel speed, size, and duration of our tour, we're able to guarantee whales. Often times, whales can move up to 100 miles in a 24 hour period. Every day is a new adventure, but rest assured that you're choosing the company with the highest whale sighting success rate in the area.
Whales have been spotted on 6,431 of 6,630 tours since 2002. No other company compares.
What Vessel Will I Be On?
Island Explorer 5
The Island Explorer 5 is simply the best whale watching vessel anywhere.
She is 98' long, 30' wide with a cruise speed of over 25 knots. She is also incredibly quiet which will enhance your whale watching experience. 20+ years of whale watching experience has gone into the design of the Island Explorer 5. She has three full walk-around outside viewing decks with cathedral bow seating that provides more outside viewing area than any tour boat in the region. There are also two large heated cabins with seating for all guests, state of the art A/V system, and large comfortable bathrooms. Onboard guests will enjoy our South of the Border Cafe with hot food, fresh products, beer and wine for sale.
- Outside rail viewing space on one side of the boat for all guests
- Indoor heated seating for all passengers
- Three viewing decks for the best possible vantage point over the water
- Best galley menu of any tour vessel in the area – fresh and changing with the seasons
- High-speed catamaran with speeds capable of 25+ knots, giving us one of the largest ranges in the industry
- AED defibrillator onboard with highly trained/qualified staff and crew
Anacortes Check In Procedures
Please check-in at our main office on Commercial Avenue to pick up your parking pass. Check-in at least 45 minutes prior to departure is required or your seats may be given away to waiting passengers. It is essential for trip quality to depart on time. From the main office, you'll be traveling three blocks to the designated parking area at Cap Sante Marina
Local recommendations (food, areas of interest, etc.) are available from our friendly office staff. We encourage you to browse in the gift shop before or after your tour.
Check In Tips
- Check in at main office for parking pass
- Arrive early
- No need for paperwork
- Bring layers and sunscreen
- Remember your debit or credit card
- Bring your camera
Anacortes is known to have some of the best weather in the San Juan Islands. In the summer months, the temperature averages between 60 and 80 degrees fahrenheit. Even though the weather can feel warm on land, we always recommend bringing layers – sweatshirts and jackets – as it feels 10-20 degrees cooler on the water. Rain doesn’t have a negative impact on our tours as our excursion vessels are set up to go out in the elements and have lots of indoor space and cover.