The gray whale season is almost upon us here in Alaska! These massive animals are just now beginning their migration from their winter breeding grounds in Baja and heading north to the Chukchi and Bering Seas. On their journey north, they hug the coastline of North America and travel right where the Gulf of Alaska meets Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay. Beginning March 16th, witness their incredible journey on our Gray Whale Watching Cruise, which runs daily from 1pm-5pm until May 13th. In this blog, we will detail your upcoming Gray Whale Watching Cruise, what to expect, and what to get excited for. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)
Your cruise departs at 1pm right outside the boardwalk of the Harbor 360 Hotel, where you will be greeted by your captain and crew for the day. The trip cruises through Resurrection Bay and will venture just outside of the bay into the Gulf of Alaska in search of the migrating gray whales. On the way towards the end of the bay, the captain will be on the lookout for other wildlife such as otters, seals, mountain goats, eagles, humpback whales, and even orcas to stop and view. Although this is a gray whale tour, there are still opportunities to see other species of whales that reside in Alaskan waters year-round.
Historically, peak gray whale watching season is April – May. However, each year migration patterns change and can be unpredictable, and the quantity of gray whales fluctuates throughout the season. Our experienced captains communicate on the marine radio with each other and other boats in the area to find the best possible wildlife viewing opportunities each day. During the 4 hour cruise, you will travel 55 miles round-trip while the captain provides narration about the wildlife, ecology, and geology of the beautiful area.
Humpback whales, orcas, and other marine life can be spotted anywhere throughout your 4 hour trip. Since gray whales are still migrating to their destination when we see them, they are most frequently spotted where the Gulf of Alaska meets Resurrection Bay, in an area known as the Harding Gateway. Over 20,000 gray whales migrate north to the Arctic, passing through our cruise route from March – May. Spread out throughout these months, the gray whales can be seen traveling, commonly in small groups, around Cape Resurrection, Barwell Island, Rugged Island, and the Harding Gateway.
The scenery in Resurrection Bay is also not to be missed. During your trip you will visit several coves, searching for wildlife and taking in views of alpine glaciers peeking through the clouds. Thumb Cove, Humpy Cove, and Emerald Cove are among the most beautiful areas of the bay that you will get to travel through. Depending on the sea conditions, you may even get to cruise through Spire Cove, one of the most photographed spots in Kenai Fjords National Park. On your way back towards Seward, you have the opportunity to cruise by Bear Glacier, the largest glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Bear Glacier is a piedmont glacier, meaning that it sits back from the ocean in a broad valley with a terminal moraine, or beach, in front of it.
This tour begins in March, which means the temperature will be cold, and will feel about 10 degrees cooler on the water. Guests are urged to dress in layers, including a warm rain-proof coat, hat, gloves, and comfortable, rubber-soled shoes. You are welcome to stay in our heated cabins, but warm clothes are recommended for guests who would like to spend time outside on the viewing decks.
The average temperatures during the gray whale season are:
This is our first cruise of the season and falls outside of our peak cruising time from June – September. If you are local, have family visiting, or are from out-of-state and are visiting this spring, our Gray Whale Watching Cruise is a unique opportunity to experience Alaska in a way that most people don’t get a chance to see. If you’re looking for even more adventure this spring, book our Spring Fever Package for an affordable and fun Seward getaway. The Spring Fever Package includes our Gray Whale Watching Cruise, an overnight at the Seward Harbor 360 Hotel, and free tickets to the Alaska SeaLife Center, starting at $109 per person based on double occupancy. Gray whale watching season goes by quickly–don’t miss you chance to see them this spring with Major Marine Tours!