Whale Watching Oregon Coast
Each year the gray whales travel north on their way towards Alaska. The first surge swims past Oregon around the end of March and thousands of people come to the coast to catch a glimpse of the migration.
I set out from Portland for the two and half hour drive south to Depoe Bay, “the whale watching capital of the Oregon Coast.” I hit the famous 101 Highway just north of Lincoln City, which is another sweet beach town with lots of local sights and cute stores.  My first stop was the Pelican Brewing Company at Siletz Bay. With wide windows overlooking the water.  I had an excellent clam chowder in a bread bowl and a small batch beer called Redbird. As usual, I sat at the bar. As a solo woman traveler, I always feel safe and it feels less awkward than sitting at a table. I have found great conversations with bartenders and other folks sitting at bars, as well as fantastic recommendations for food and fun.
It was a miraculously sunny and mild day. It was spring break and the town was full of families hoping to catch sight of the whales. I booked with Dockside Charters for an hour trip in the early afternoon. If you want to go out on a boat, which I absolutely recommend whether you catch sight of the whales or not, you will need to book at least two weeks ahead as they fill up quickly.
The boat held about 30 people of all ages. It is so interesting to me to see the seafaring culture in coastal towns and how the environment affects all parts of life there, from clothing to food to housing. We moved out of “ the worlds’ smallest harbor” and into the waters. I realized for all my adventures, this was a first. I’d not been out on a boat like this before, cruising into the wide, wide ocean. It was so beautiful to see the sun shining on the shifting waters. We passed a buoy filled with lounging sea lions as we headed out into the open waters. Looking back on the coast, I was struck with the breathtaking sight of snow covered mountains in the distance.
I was enjoying the warm sun and the views when within 10 minutes of being on the water, we saw our first whale. Let me tell you something. There were folks on that boat who I am sure were very different from me, in beliefs or lifestyle or politics. But when we all saw that whale, the collective gasp of joy and wonder and awe dissolved all of that and made us just humans together. The gray whale hump rolled up out of the water and soon a second back rose alongside it. Then they disappeared again to resurface with a breach just a few minutes later. This time we all cried out as the whales’ noses appeared as they rose up and then curved down and we witnessed the famous whale tail flip. The two whales continued to ride alongside us for at least 30 more minutes, granting us several sightings of back, noses, and tails. The captain exclaimed we were getting a fantastic show. Each time the entire boat cried out and pointed and had a wonderful collective experience. It was a pinnacle memory for me, for sure.
We returned to the dock and I walked down the main street to Gracie’s Sea
Hag…because sea hag. I had a lovely fish and chips lunch with a local amber ale. I then began the trip north along the 101 stopping frequently at the state park beach sites. The drive is so lovely with views of the ocean as you drive through tall trees and lush greenery. I should have documented which beaches I stopped at but I highly recommend just taking your time and exploring them on a leisurely drive. Many of them offer trails and hiking and camping as well so you could really make quite an adventure of discovery along this drive. The trails are well marked with the difficulty level and offer warnings and advice so you are well prepared for safety as well as fun. As a Midwestern girl, I was just delighted to see so many people on the beaches in all sorts of weather. Wrapped in puffy coats and the ever present beanie, families and individuals were there having fun playing with discs, and kites, and dogs. There were even brave cold water surfers! The rock formations, windswept trees, sand dunes, and sea caves were just such a novel and unique landscape, and the sunset was otherworldly.
The towns of Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Astoria are popular destinations and you can learn about them in numerous blogs and travel sites. I stopped briefly in each one just to get a taste for what I want to do when I return. The central and northern Oregon Coast has far more to offer than I imagined. The southern coast is even more extraordinary and deserves a separate telling. Now that I am aware of the fabulous scenery and adventure available, the Oregon Coast is a top ten destination recommendation, especially during Whale Watching Week!!

Robin Murphy

Robin Murphy is a lifelong explorer, driven by a profound passion for travel that runs through her veins. Whether immersed in the depths of nature or steeped in rich cultures, travel is an integral part of her very identity.

For Robin, travel isn’t just a personal pursuit—it’s a cherished family tradition. She firmly believes that every journey holds the power to enrich, enhance, and expand the meaning of life itself.

While her primary career led her to the theater, where she imparted wisdom to young minds about the human experience, Robin found that the qualities cultivated through travel mirrored those she sought to instill in her students. Resilience and adaptability, she maintains, are inherent outcomes of every adventure. After all, one cannot embark on a voyage and return unchanged, regardless of the destination.

Robin wears many hats, including that of a speaker, workshop facilitator, and author. Her essay chronicling her first solo cross-country drive is featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s celebrated anthology, “Eat. Pray. Love. Made Me Do It.” She’s a passionate advocate for women’s travel, specializing in retreats and adventures designed for personal growth.

As a mother of four, with children spread across New York, Colorado, California, and Oregon, Robin has successfully passed on her wanderlust genes. She now lives the nomadic life, effortlessly transitioning between her cherished family and friends while continually ticking items off her ever-growing bucket list.