Whale Watching Cruises in Virginia Beach: A Guide

This article was originally going to focus on whale watching cruises in Virginia, as in the entire state, but it turns that all the whale watching action is concentrated in Virginia Beach specifically. Thus, we have focused on whale watching cruises in Virginia Beach, and in so doing we have covered whale watching cruises in the larger state of Virginia. Below we have put together a guide to whale watching in Virginia Beach, which includes essential information like who you can book with and when you can go.

When looking for whale watching cruises in any given city, often the most difficult task is figuring out exactly who offers the cruises, and this is certainly true in Virginia Beach, where the situation is more complex than usual. What we have deciphered is this: there is one company that offers whale watching cruises in Virginia Beach, and that is Rudee Tours. However, Rudee Tours evidently partners with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, which is why in various reports and reviews online, people talk about their tour with Virginia Aquarium, instead of Rudee Tours, which technically runs the tour. From what we have gathered, the Aquarium provides staff resources to go on the Rudee whale watching cruises, and these Aquarium employees (or potentially volunteers) add an educational dimension to the cruises. What is strange is that there appears to be no mention of whale watching cruises on the Virginia Aquarium website, and we also couldn’t find any mention of the aquarium on the Rudee Tours website. So, the two operate together, but for whatever reason this doesn’t seem to be officially documented by either entity.

The other point of confusion is that it is not entirely clear which vessel you will take your whale watching cruises on. Rudee has several boats for the various tours they offer, and according to their website, the Rudee Flipper is used for whale watching and dolphin watching. (This is possible, as the dolphin tours take place during the summer, from April through October, and the whale tours are offered during the winter, from December through March, so the schedules don’t conflict.) However, several people report that the Rudee Whaler (not Flipper) is used for whale watching cruises, which is supposedly a larger vessel than the Flipper, but in fact the Flipper and the Whaler may be different names for the same ship. At times the names appear to be interchangeable, but at least a couple of sources indicate that these are different boats.

But we suppose all these details aren’t terribly important. They are worth keeping in mind if you want to do some research into the whale watching cruises of Virginia Beach – you are entering a world of disorganized and conflicting information, as you can see – but the bottom line is that Ruddee Tours offers whale watching cruises from December through March, and you can take one of these cruises if you visit Virginia Beach.

As for the essential information, you can buy tickets for the cruises at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the cruises also depart from this area. On the cruise, the two types of whales you can see are humpback whales and fin whales, as well as several other marine animals, like seals and porpoises. You aren’t guaranteed to see a whale on one of these voyages, but since they are only offered during the whale migration season, when humpback and fin whales are passing by Virginia Beach, your odds of seeing a whale are reasonably good. Some years are better than others, though, so it is important not to assume you will definitely see a whale on one of these cruises. (The situation is not like the Pacific Coast, where many companies will guarantee whale sightings.)

So, although the specifics of the whale watching outfit in Virginia Beach are a little complex, the essential point is that there is a company that offers these cruises. If you find yourself in Virginia Beach and want to see whales, there is a way to do this, and that is really all that matters.

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