Whale Watching Cruises in Ketchikan, Alaska: A Guide

The whale watching cruises in Ketchikan, Alaska are limited. As far as we can tell, there are only two companies that specifically market their boat tours as a way to see whales, and for these companies, whale watching isn’t even their main focus. It is therefore somewhat difficult to find information about whale watching in Ketchikan, but we’ve done the work for you. Below we compile our findings about whale watching cruises in Ketchikan into one guide.

Since the whale watching scene is so modest in Ketchikan, you might wonder why we would even bother writing about it, and for this we have two answers. First, we strive to be comprehensive, as our article about whale watching on the pacific coast of the United States shows, and second, Ketchikan is a big city by Alaskan standards. It is the sixth-most populous city in the state, which is amazing when you consider that it only has around 8,000 inhabitants. But regardless of its size, and of more relevance to us, it is a popular port of call. So, it is not as obscure of a place as you might imagine, and large numbers of tourists flood into the city during the summer Alaskan cruise season.

The two companies that indicate that whales can be seen on their tours are Ketchikan Outdoors and Snow’s Cove Lodge and West Rock Alaska Tours. (Despite its compound name, the latter is technically one company, although the tours we are concerned with are operated by the second half of the name.) Ketchikan Outdoors offers “expeditions” with their fleet of Zodiac boats, which are small, motor-powered inflatable rafts. The passengers drive the boats themselves, and although you are obviously guided on your tour, there is evidently some degree of flexibility in how you spend your time cruising around. Inlets and estuaries can be searched for creatures like bears, and then in the larger bodies of water you can find whales and other sea life. West Rock Alaska Tours offers a variety of different sailings on a larger ship, including a “Sea Lions and Whales Tour.” These tours often stop by West Rock to see Stellar Sea Lions, but humpback whales are routinely seen in this area as well. Killer whales can also be spotted in the waters that the “Sea Lions and Whales Tour” covers. Finally, it is worth mentioning that any sort of boat tour you might take, whether it is offered by Ketchikan Outdoors, West Rock Alaska Tours, or another company, could bring you in contact with a whale. Obviously, you have a better chance of seeing a whale when you specifically look for them, but the waters off of southeast Alaska have a lot of whales, so essentially any trip into the sea could produce a whale sighting.

As you can see, there isn’t too much in terms of whale watching in Ketchikan, and in fact there are’t really whale watching cruises in the way that we normally define them, which is something like “a cruise that is exclusively dedicated to seeing whales.” Given this fact, it is worth mentioning that another popular place along the routes of cruise ships, Juneau, has an abundance of whale watching opportunities, so if you are on a cruise that takes you through Juneau, you might consider whale watching there instead of Ketchikan. That said, it is nevertheless possible to see whales on tours from Ketchikan, and the fact that the boat tours from the city have multiple focuses isn’t necessarily a drawback. So, you’ll have to figure out what you want to do, and hopefully we’ve given you some helpful information for making up your mind.

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