Newfoundland is a great place to go whale watching: peak season (July – August) brings a vast number of whales to our shores, so it’s virtually impossible to miss them.
That said, up-to-date information about whale whereabouts is always very useful and that’s what this page is for.
Sharing your sightings
If you’ve recently seen a whale along our coast, please share your sighting here, it’s as easy as leaving a comment below:
Reports about other marine animals near shore, like seals, sharks, sunfish, tuna, and turtles, are welcome here too.
To familiarize yourself with some of the cetaceans that visit Newfoundland, here are some photos of whales that I’ve seen here:
Humpback whales are the most commonly seen whales in Newfoundland. They travel in groups and often venture very close to the cliffs in pursuit of their favourite meal: capelin. The two whales in the picture above were seen feeding for hours below the East Coast Trail near Brigus South. The bright objects being dragged alongside the whales are their long white pectoral fins.
Minke whales are quite common in Newfoundland too, but in contrast to their acrobatic friends the humpbacks, these smaller whales are elusive and solitary. If you’re lucky enough to see a minke whale from close up, you’ll note that it too has a bright spot on its pectoral fin, it’s just harder to spot because of its small size.
Finbacks, also called fin whales, are the largest whale species you can expect to see in Newfoundland. They don’t come close to shore every year, but when they do they’re hard to miss, being substantially larger than humpbacks.
Blue whales are even bigger of course, but they’re so rare you shouldn’t get your hopes up for seeing one of them here.
White-beaked dolphins are fast and restless, they don’t hang around like whales do so get a good look when you see them. If you want to see them from the towering cliffs along the East Coast Trail, use your binoculars to scan the bay surface for their large dorsal fins and ceaseless splashing.
Atlantic white-sided dolphin:
Perhaps more social than larger whales, I’ve seen dolphins respond to my presence with curiosity. The dolphin in the above picture was one of a group of five animals corralling herring in a shallow cove near Summerford. I spent over an hour observing them, and every once in a while they came up to see if I was still there.
Killer whales are ruthlessly efficient hunters, the summer of 2010 was the scene for several minke whale hunts that ended up on social media. Because all killer whales around Newfoundland are so-called transient or Bigg’s killer whales, an encounter with these whales is highly unpredictable and very special indeed.
Harbour porpoises are the smallest whales around here, small and cute enough to cuddle and take home with you if you could. Because porpoises are tiny you’ll probably overlook them when you’re watching for whales. Your best chance of seeing them are from a whale watching tour boat, where you can ask your guide to keep an eye out for them.
Whales in the East Coast Trail Guide:
- Whales on wikipedia: humpback whale, minke whale, finback whale, white-beaked dolphin, killer whale and the harbour porpoise.
- Other marine animals on wikipedia: harp seal, harbour seal, grey seal, ocean sunfish, basking shark and the leatherback sea turtle.
- Atlantic Whales has information on specific whales, including ID photos of the different Killer Whale pods that can be seen around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Featured photos and stories about whale watching:
- Capelin watching - July 2016
- A fantastic last day on the water - June 2014
- A hike with some wildlife - October 2013
- Beat the heat, see a whale! - July 2013
- Humpbacks in Mobile Bay - July 2013
- Jumping Humpbacks at St. Vincent’s beach - June 2012
- Whale watching with Marije - August 2011
- Whale play - July 2011
- Killer Whale movie - August 2010
- Killer whales at the OSC - August 2010
- Whales at Middle Cove - August 2010
- Whale watching in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve - July 2009