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, walruses, 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 of several exciting 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 not easily predicted 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:
Whale watching tips and descriptions of the whale species along Newfoundland’s east coast can be found in the East Coast Trail Guide, a digital trail guide and photo book available on Apple Books.
- Wikipedia links for whale species around Newfoundland, both common and unusual: humpback whale, minke whale, finback whale, blue whale, sperm whale, killer whale, beluga whale, white-beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, and harbour porpoise.
- Wikipedia links for other marine wildlife around Newfoundland, both common and unusual: harp seal, harbour seal, grey seal, bearded seal, ringed seal, walrus, ocean sunfish, basking shark and leatherback sea turtle.
- The Atlantic Whales website has information on specific whales, including ID photos of the different Killer Whale pods that can be seen around Newfoundland and Labrador.
Featured stories about whale watching:
We saw a number of whales off the Avalon lighthouse this afternoon in a group. One came within 50 feet of shore. This one looked grey in color. Awe inspiring !
Thanks for sharing, sounds very cool! I’m not familiar with the Avalon lighthouse, can you tell us where it is?
My mistake. I believe it is called the Ferryland Lighthouse? It is just beyond the Avalan Colony archeological historic site. Hope that helps!
Ah yes! A lovely place to see them 🙂
A very large basking shark was reported by a tour boat out of Trinity today, surely a sign of more unusual late-summer sightings to come 🙂
Sunfish are now being spotted too, typical for late-season sightings, and an awesome sight to be sure. Whales are still present, and in some numbers, but won’t stay around for long as the bulk of them usually move on after mid-August. Go see them while they’re here 🙂
Killer whales seen yesterday off Battle Harbour, Labrador, and off Twillingate, Newfoundland.
Humpback whales still being spotted in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, and in Trinity Bay, but quite a bit further off the coast then earlier in the season.
Pod of 3 killer whales seen in bonne bay on Aug. 18th
Awesome, thanks for sharing, I saw them there myself once a few years back, hunting a minke 🙂
We are heading to Trinity today for a whale watching tour. Crossing all my fingers and toes some whales have stuck around for us to see before heading off.
I hope so too, it’s not as easy to see them in late August as it is in early August, but there are still many interesting things to see out there 🙂
Minke, finback, and humpback sightings still coming in from Trinity Bay, though in smaller numbers than in peak season. I’m sure there are still whales to be seen elsewhere along the coast too, but the tour boat operators in Trinity Bay just do a much better job reporting what they see. 🙂
Minke whales sighting on Upper Amherst Cove this morning along the coast at 6:30 am
Thanks for sharing your sighting from Bonavista Bay 🙂
Hundreds of dolphins sighted in Trinity Bay this week, several whales and ocean sunfish too 🙂
Christmas day 2022 saw a whale near cape st francis. Really not sure what type. Didn’t get a picture sadly.
Thanks for sharing Karen, so nice to see them at Christmas! There’s a good chance it was a humpback whale, there’s always a few of them around, even in winter 🙂
With the May long weekend behind us, tour boats are out on the water again.
Around Trinity, humpback whales have been active for a while now, with frequent sightings coming in from Trinity Eco-Tours. Good times ahead 🙂
A large old Humpback is Frequently seen in Smith Sound, Trinity Bay this month
Lovely shot of the whale in those calm waters 🙂