The Absolute Best Time for Whale Watching in Newfoundland

The Absolute Best Time for Whale Watching in Newfoundland

Every summer Newfoundland and Labrador hosts the planet’s largest gathering of humpback whales, nesting puffins, and migratory icebergs. It truly makes for the most memorable and spectacular trip of a lifetime. With a plethora of whale watching tours and other things to do, there’s something here for everyone. So whether you’re coming in for a long weekend, planning to stay a while, or here during the off season, you’ll never run out of people to meet and places to explore.

Whale Watching Season

Summers are a special time in Newfoundland and Labrador. Migratory icebergs travel south from Greenland and the Arctic Ocean to meet migratory whales travelling north for their summer feeding. NL is one of the best places in the world to see both, and April to August conveniently brings them here at the same time.

That being said, May through September is the absolute best time of year for whale watching in Newfoundland and Labrador. Whale tours typically begin around mid-April and last through mid-September. Some outfitters offer tours beginning as soon as March and extending to the end of October. There are slight variations between years depending on the weather and climate. For the 2024 season, tours are scheduled to begin around May and extending through September.

A whale tour boat quietly observing humpback whales.

Species

Humpbacks

The largest annual migration of humpback whales happens here off the coast of Newfoundland. Around mid-April, humpbacks begin returning from their southern migration. They stay through September, feeding on huge amounts of capelin and krill to build up their blubber stores for winter. Humpbacks are a favorite among whale watchers because they constantly leap and jump out of the water. At 40-50 feet long, it’s truly a spectacular sight to see.

Orcas

Orcas are another popular favorite among whale watchers because they are easy to recognize, even from far away. They can be seen traveling in pods around northern Labrador and down to the southern part of Newfoundland through the summer months. Orcas are curious and social animals that often breach and jump out of the water, much to the delight of onlookers and whale tour groups.

Minke Whales

At around 18 feet long, Minke whales are the smallest whales you will see in Newfoundland. They’re here all year but are most commonly seen during the spring, summer, and fall months.

Sperm Whales

Sperm whales (Moby Dick) are commonly seen through the summer months and into the fall. They’re about 60 feet long and known for their huge, rectangular, block-shaped heads.

Fin Whales

Fin whales are famous for being the second largest whale in the world. They have sleek, slender bodies that reach lengths of well over 60 feet. They don’t jump out of the water the way orcas and humpbacks do, but you can see them gracefully gliding near the surface in the summer months.

Puffins

Puffins are sharply dressed seabirds that live year-round in the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. Every year between April and August, hundreds of thousands of puffins come ashore to nest. Witless Bay is home to half of the breeding Atlantic puffins in North America. They nest all over the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador though, so if you come in the summer you’re sure to see some of these entertaining birds.

Closeup shot of an Atlantic Puffin.

Iceberg Season

Every spring, massive, awe-inspiring icebergs travel from the Arctic Circle and western Greenland down to Newfoundland and Labrador. When the icebergs come to visit, Newfoundlanders know that spring is in full swing. It’s an exciting time that signals the coming summer.

April through August is the best time to visit Newfoundland to see icebergs. If you’ve never seen one before – no words or pictures can explain what you’re missing. Icebergs are as unique as snowflakes; each with a different size, shape, and color. These enormous giants range from bright white to deep blue-green. If you’re already planning to visit, consider adjusting your trip so you can see some migratory icebergs while you’re here.

If you really love icebergs, don’t miss the annual Iceberg Festival held in the St. Anthony area from June 7-16, 2024.

An iceberg floating off the coast of Newfoundland.

Best Areas for Whale Watching

St. John’s

St. John’s has a variety of whale-watching tours to choose from. Catch a tour leaving directly from St. John’s Harbor, or take a catamaran from Witless Bay to see one of the largest puffin nesting areas in the world. In the summertime, the entire area is teeming with seabirds, whales, and visiting icebergs. Plus as the largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador, there’s no shortage of lodging, dining, and shopping options to enjoy while you’re in town.

Trinity Bay

If you like kayaking, consider a kayak tour in Trinity Bay. You’ll be right on the water alongside icebergs, dolphins, sea caves, humpbacks, rock formations, and the rugged natural coastline where puffins nest in the spring and summer. Choose between a half day trip or the 2-day which includes lodging and a hot breakfast. Spots fill up fast so it’s recommended to book early. Half-day tours run May 15 – September 15, and the 2-day tours go from May 21 – October 15.

If you don’t want to kayak, there’s also a classic 3-hour whale watch and iceberg tour in Trinity Bay that runs from April 15 – October 31.

Twillingate

Twillingate is on the north side of Newfoundland and worth the 5-hour drive from St. John’s if you want see more of the province. It’s right in the heart of Iceberg Alley, which is the path that icebergs travel down from Greenland. There are plenty of whale species and other wildlife to see, including seabirds, cormorants, and bald eagles. The remoteness of it all is the perfect opportunity to unplug and recharge near the wild natural waters of the Labrador Sea.

Whale Watching Map of Newfoundland

Zoom and click the map to see dates and info about different whale watching tours and events.

Cost & Pricing

A typical 2-3 hour whale watch boat tour costs around $100 USD for adults. A two-night accommodation package with kayaking and hot breakfast is around $850 per person.

Getting Here

Fly into St. John’s International Airport (YYT). From there, head into town and grab a meal at one of the local restaurants and check into your hotel. Rent bikes or enjoy a walking tour to see the city. If you’re planning to only explore St. John’s, you may not need to rent a car. However if you want to explore outside of St. John’s, you can drive across the whole island to St. Anthony in roughly 11 hours.

Highest Rated Whale Watch Tours

 

More Things To Do

There’s plenty to do in Newfoundland and Labrador when you’re not watching whales and icebergs. Check out the local food scene, visit some forest animals, or explore some wonderful towns on foot, bike, or by car.

Bottom Line

The waters off Newfoundland and Labrador are every whale watcher’s paradise, teeming with humpbacks, orcas, fin whales, minke whales, puffins, icebergs, fish, turtles, and more. With plenty to do in town and out in the country, visiting this place sets you up for making unforgettable memories.