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Pacific Ferries Whale Watching Tours

Jack Poole Plaza Orca Whale Sculpture

Pacific Ferries & Tours is a Vancouver tour company that used to offer whale watching excursions as well as ferry services to various destinations.


Changes to Pacific Ferries Services

Note: Pacific Ferries no longer operates its whale watching excursions. As of 2019, it now offers sightseeing boat tours to Indian Arm and Howe Sound instead. Click Pacific Ferries for information about the company’s new tour offerings, or click Vancouver Whale Watching Tours for other whale watching tour options.


Sightseeing Tours with Pacific Ferries

Pacific Ferries used to offer whale watching trips based out of Vancouver’s Coal Harbour at the docks by the Westin Bayshore Hotel at 1601 Bayshore Drive (or at least it did in 2018). The company also used to offer Hop on City Tours between Coal Harbour, Granville Island and North Vancouver’s Shipyards, as well as Island Hopping Tours to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast. As of 2019, the only tours the company still offers are trips to Indian Arm and Howe Sound.

Whale Watching with Pacific Ferries

Pacific Ferries used to be one of a number of Whale Watching Companies in the Lower Mainland. They offered tours that lasted 4 or so hours and cost around $145 (but free for children ages 4 and under).

When they were offered, whale watching adventures with Pacific Ferries went from Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver out to the waters of Howe Sound and the Strait of Georgia.

The views along the way were spectacular. From the boat you could see the Vancouver skyline, Stanley Park and the North Shore Mountains. On the way both to and from the various whale-watching destinations, the vessel went twice under the beautiful Lions Gate Bridge.

Lions Gate Bridge and Stanley Park

About the Whale Watching Boat

The Coastal Runner is Pacific Ferries’ main whale watching boat. The vessel carries up to 60 passengers, is fully-enclosed and has comfortable airline-style reclining seats. It also has large windows which are good for viewing, as well as an outer deck where passengers can enjoy the fresh air.

The Coastal Runner is a fairly fast boat, with the capability of reaching speeds of up to 20 knots (or 23 miles or 37 or so kilometres per hour). It’s actually one of the Lower Mainland’s fastest large-scale tour boats.

About the Whale Watching Tours

Whale watching excursions with Pacific Ferries usually took place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between the beginning of June and mid-September.

Trips usually lasted for about four hours, from start to finish, but were sometimes extended up to an additional hour at the discretion of the captain. If it took longer than normal to find whales to see, or if marine life is known to be farther from Vancouver than usual, that’s when the voyage could last for up to around five hours.

On a typical trip it could take 90 or so minutes of travel time to reach a whale-spotting destination. The vessel then stayed there for up to 30 minutes or so, but sometimes longer.

As per regulations, whale watching vessels cannot approach closer than between 100 and 200 metres of whales, depending on their species. That’s close enough to have a good look, but far enough away to respect the mammal’s natural habitat.

On most whale watching excursions passengers saw at least a small number of whales. Seals, sea lions and even the occasional porpoise or eagle were also not uncommon.

Very occasionally on a trip there were no whales to be seen. That could be disappointing. The good news though was that Pacific Ferries offered a guarantee – if there were no whales you could go again for free another day.

Seal Swimming in the Water
A seal in the water

Tips and Advice

Below are some tips and advice to help you make the most out of your whale watching experience with Pacific Ferries.

TIP #1: If you’re in town for only a limited amount of time, like if you’re a tourist on holidays, go whale watching nearer the beginning of your stay than the end. That way, if you don’t see a whale on your trip, you’ll still have time to try again should you choose.

TIP #2: Go on a sunny day if you can. Whale watching can be fun even when it’s cloudy, but the scenery is extra spectacular when there’s sunshine. (Note: that of course can be said of pretty much every outdoor activity in Vancouver!)

TIP #3: Spend time on the outer deck. The inside seating area is warm and comfortable, and the windows are good and large, all of which is great. It’s nice though to get outside and feel the breeze (and sometimes even an occasional tiny bit of ocean spray depending on where you stand).

TIP #4: When standing on the outer deck of the Coastal Runner when it’s moving be sure to hang on to the railing as well as to your hat.

TIP #5: Don’t forget your camera, and a zoom lens if you have one. Also, depending on the weather, an extra layer of warm clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and a windproof jacket can be good. The inside of the Coastal Runner is warm and cozy, which is great. Outside on deck is fun, although sometimes cool in the breeze.

Other Information

For further details about Pacific Ferries, or to make reservations for one of their tours, see the Pacific Ferries & Tours website.

For more information about whale watching in general, including additional tips and descriptions about what to expect, click Vancouver Whale Watching Tours.

For information about other types of tours and services with Pacific Ferries, see our article about Pacific Ferries.

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