If you find yourself in Oregon taking a whale watching cruise, there is a fairly good chance you are in Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay is the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” and while this title appears to be self-declared, the city has earned this moniker. There are several whale watching cruise companies that operate out of Depoe Bay, even though the city’s population is less than 1,500 and is home to the “world’s smallest harbor,” at least according to a sign at the harbor’s entrance. We have compiled the following guide to whale watching in Depoe Bay, Oregon to help you select the right cruise for you.
In a more general article about whale watching cruises in Oregon, we described what you can expect if you decide to take a whale watching cruise off the coast of Oregon (primarily grey whale sightings). We will therefore leave the whale watching experience behind and focus on the companies that you can book a cruise with in Depoe Bay. Before detailing what each company offers, though, it is worth noting, as we have in other articles about whale watching in a particular city, that every company offers a more or less comparable experience. The boats sail the same waters looking for the same types of whales (they are sometimes looking for the same exact whales), and generally speaking, each excursion to sea lasts between one to two hours. This isn’t to say that the companies lack distinguishing characteristics – they use different boats that are operated by different people, after all – but it does mean that you probably shouldn’t worry too much about who you end up booking with. You are setting sail on the sea to look for whales, and this goal will be met regardless of what company you book with.
There are four different whale watching outfits in Depoe Bay: Dockside Charters, The Whale’s Tale, Whale Research EcoExcursions, and Tradewinds Charters. Although they operate separate websites, Dockside Charters appears to own and operate The Whale’s Tale, which was the first company in Depoe Bay to sail a “zodiac style whale watching boat,” to use their precise words. (For the record, Whale Research EcoExcursions also operates a Zodiac boat, so The Whale’s Tale can no longer lay exclusive claim to this style of whale watching in Depoe Bay.) Zodiac boats are stable inflatable boats that hold only a small number of people; the boat operated by The Whale’s Tail, which is not surprisingly called “Whale’s Tail,” holds only six people, for example. For obvious reasons, sailing on a small inflatable boat is different from sailing on a regular vessel made out of a hard material, and thus The Whale’s Tail and Whale Research EcoExcursions offer a whale watching experience that is distinct from the other two companies that operate out of Depoe Bay. However, both inflatable boats sail the same waters as the other ships pursuing the same marine life, so despite variations of boat style, the companies are all unified in their aim.
One notable difference between the companies, a difference that is somewhat inexplicable, is the price each charges for their cruises. Generally, companies that operate out of the same city charge almost exactly the same for a cruise, but in Depoe Bay, this isn’t the case. For instance, Tradewinds Charters offers a two hour cruise to adults for $35, whereas Whale Research EcoExcursions’ two-hour cruise cost $50. Dockside Charters and The Whale’s Tail don’t even offer two-hour cruises, and instead only sail for hour and 90-minute periods. With a current two-dollar discount in effect, Tradewinds and The Whale’s Tail offer hour-long cruises for $16 and $23 respectively, and an hour-long cruise with Whale Research EcoExcursions costs $30. It makes sense that The Whale’s Tail and Whale Research EcoExcursions charge more because so few people can fit on an inflatable ship, but why Whale Research EcoExcursions charges more across the board for their cruises is a little hard to explain. However, the owner and operator of Whale Research EcoExcursions, Carrie Newell, is a professor of marine biology whose graduate work focuses on gray whales, so you at least get unusually precise and thorough information when sailing with Whale Research EcoExcursions.
To conclude, there are several whale watching cruises in Depoe Bay and they all offer comparable experiences. However, each company has distinguishing characteristics and different prices, so what cruise you go with will ultimately depend on what style of cruise you are hoping to take and how much you are willing to pay for it. For more general information, check out our overview of whale watching cruises in Oregon.