Whale Watching Cruises in Port Townsend, Washington: A Guide

Port Townsend is a small town on the northeastern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, right on the upper edge of the Puget Sound, and this makes it an ideal place to take a whale watching cruise. Although whales are occasionally seen off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend is primarily a good whale watching cruise departure point because of its proximity to the San Juan Islands, which is a whale watching mecca of sorts, at least if you want to see killer whales. (Washington is a big whale watching state largely because of the killer whales that live around the San Juan Islands.) Below we outline everything you need to know about whale watching cruises from Port Townsend.

Port Townsend is one of the several towns and cities that surround Washington’s whale watching zone, which is primarily constituted by the waters that surround the San Juan Islands, where the killer whales are found, but also includes some of the other areas in the maze of land and water that is found off the northeastern coast of Washington. (For instance, during a brief period in the spring, there are some gray whales that make their way into the Puget Sound.) Port Townsend is unique in that it is one of only two whale watching departure points on the Olympic Peninsula. (The other is Port Angeles, but whale watching cruises only depart from here for a fraction of the season.) There are several departure points on the “mainland” of Washington, and there are a number that are located on the San Juan Islands themselves, but Port Townsend is the only major one on the Olympic Peninsula.

There is only one whale watching company that operates out of Port Townsend, and that is Puget Sound Express. The company offers four different types of whale watching cruises, and thus probably has something that will appeal to anyone who cares to take a whale watching cruise from Port Townsend. The first two types of cruises are half-day sailings aimed at seeing killer whales – one leaves at 10:00 AM and the other leaves at 2:30 PM. The tours are supposed to last about four hours, although they can occasionally be a little longer or shorter depending on where the whales are. The half-day cruise that starts at 10:00 AM begins operating on May 1st and ends in October 27th, and so lasts the entire duration of the killer whale watching season, but the one that starts at 2:30 PM has a much shorter season, starting on June 28th and then ending on August 31st. An adult ticket for these cruises costs $95 and a children’s ticket costs $65.

Puget Sound Express also operates an all-day whale watching cruise during the killer whale season that doubles as an official ferry route between Port Townsend and Friday Harbor (on San Juan Island). This cruise starts at 9:00 AM and then arrives at Friday Harbor at 12:30 PM, where the ship stays for two hours. It departs from the island at 2:30 PM and arrives back to Port Townsend at 5:00 PM. A round-trip ticket costs $88.50 for adults and $48.50 for children, and a one-way ticket costs $55.50 for adults and $42.50 for children. Finally, from March 15th to April 30th, Puget Sound Express offers a four- to five-hour cruise that focuses on seeing gray whales, which are migrating south at this time of year. This cruise costs $85.00 for adults and $65.00 for children.

With this information, you now know essentially every relevant detail about whale watching cruises in Port Townsend. Only one company offers them, but this company offers a lot of them, at least from spring through mid-autumn, so you should be able to find one that appeals to you if you are in the area during this part of the year. For more general information, check out our articles on whale watching in Washington and the San Juan Islands.

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