Nestled on the northeastern coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the charming village of Telegraph Cove serves as the gateway to one of nature’s most extraordinary adventures. Living in North Vancouver Island, this has been on my bucket list for a while! I was fortunate to partake in a magical whale-watching tour in Telegraph Cove with Prince of Whales Tours.
No matter how often see videos and photos of whales, these massive creatures never fail to take my breath away. I am thrilled to share my North Vancouver Island whale-watching experience on a Prince of Whales Tours. Thank you to Kim Kufaas for inviting me on this adventure and sharing these amazing photos. Here’s everything you need to know about whale watching in Telegraph Cove.
About Telegraph Cove
Located on the rugged northeastern coast of Vancouver Island between Port Hardy and Campbell River, Telegraph Cove is a hidden gem that exudes charm and natural beauty. It is located in the heart of the traditional territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation.
This quaint and picturesque village, once a telegraph station in the early 20th century, is now a gateway to remarkable wildlife encounters and breathtaking coastal scenery. It’s a must-stop road trip destination in Canada during the summer months!
The village has just 20 permanent residents but sees over 120,000 tourists each summer. Surrounded by lush forests and nestled in a sheltered inlet, Telegraph Cove offers a unique blend of history, adventure, and tranquility.
In addition to whale watching, tourists flock to this quaint village to fish, hike, and observe other wildlife. A vibrant wooden boardwalk also outlines the village’s rich history. It’s truly an adventure-lovers paradise and one of the best eco-tourism destinations in British Columbia, Canada.
With its rich marine life, stunning sunsets, and warm hospitality, Telegraph Cove captures the hearts of visitors and leaves a lasting impression that will have you returning for years to come!
When is the best time to go Whale Watching in Telegraph Cove?
The best time to go whale watching in Telegraph Cove depends on the specific species of whales you wish to spot. Generally, the peak whale-watching season in this area extends from May to October. The summer months of July and August are particularly popular, as the weather is typically more favorable, and sightings are more frequent.
You are the most likely to spot orcas during mid-July to mid-September and humpbacks from mid-may to mid-October. We visited at the end of September and saw 7 (yes, 7!) humpbacks!
However, it’s important to note that wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed, as they are subject to the unpredictable nature of these magnificent creatures. By taking a guided whale-watching trip, your chances of spotting these majestic giants will be higher due to their expertise and knowledge!
Whale Interpretive Centre at Telegraph Cove
If you want to learn more about whales in the area, plan a visit to the Whale Interpretive Centre. It is home to the largest collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia, and there is a fascinating genealogy chart in the centre that shows the entire population of Northern Resident Killer Whales.
Researchers learned to tell orcas apart by their saddle patches, dorsal fins, and calls. This non-profit hopes to increase public awareness about marine mammals and their current threats.
About Prince of Whales Tours
Prince of Whales is a family-owned and operated tour company offering whale-watching tours out of Vancouver, Victoria, and Telegraph Cove. From May to October, they have three different choices of tours out of Telegraph Cove, including the Half-day, The Zodiac, and a private whale-watching tour.
During all their tours, they guarantee whale sightings (with a 95 percent success rate), or they will take you on another tour! In addition to spotting these majestic whales, Prince of Whales also prides itself on educating guests about sustainability, conservation, and the area’s history.
While on tour, you can sit in the covered or uncovered section, sipping complimentary tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Each tour even comes with a free photo package to commemorate your experience.
Make sure to keep your eyes peeled the entire time because you’ll likely spot other wildlife, such as bald eagles, sea lions, seals, sea birds, and dolphins.
We did the half-day tour near the end of the season in September, and we saw 7 (very active) humpback whales. The half-day tour starts at $149 and lasts for approximately 3 hours. 100 percent worth it!
Thrill seekers may enjoy the Zodiac tour as you’ll still spot the same wildlife, but you’ll be onboard a different type of boat that travels up to 55 km/h (35 m/h) in a high-speed, open-air, rigid-hull inflatable zodiac.
Whales Around Northern Vancouver Island
The Broughton Archipelago is the largest marine park in British Columbia. The cold currents of the Broughton and Blackfish Archipelagos provide abundant food and habitat for large and small marine creatures. Marine animals of all sizes use these waters for feeding, breeding, resting, overwintering, and migrating.
If you want to see various marine wildlife, especially whales, North Vancouver Island is the place to go. You can encounter Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales, Gray Whales and other animals like porpoises, seals, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, and ocean birds.
Transient Killer Whales make regular visits to the Johnstone Strait area. They feed exclusively on fish, particularly Chinook salmon, following the annual salmon run up the west side of Johnstone Strait. Some return to this area year-after-year, feeding on juvenile herring. In contrast, Humpback Whales are in the area primarily during the summer and fall seasons. Gray Whales make a rarer appearance in the spring and summer, while elusive Minke Whales are spotted primarily during the summer and fall.
The productive water in the area also attracts dolphins, Dall’s porpoises, sea otters, sea lions, harbour seals, and many species of birds. The White Sided Pacific Dolphins often travel through the Broughton Archipelago in pods larger than 100, which is amazing to see if you have the opportunity.
Tips For Going Whale Watching in Telegraph Cove
- Bring (and take) motion sickness medication before the tour if you are prone to getting sick on the open water.
- Pack in layers! It’s always colder out on the water.
- Even though it may be chilly outside, make sure to bring sunscreen along!
- There are bathrooms on the half-day tour, but no bathrooms available on the Zodiac tour.
- Make sure to make a reservation beforehand, as tours typically sell out.
Telegraph Cove Whale Watching FAQs
You may also see sea lions, seals, dolphins, bald eagles, and seabirds.
Whale season in Telegraph Cove runs from Mid-May to Mid-October.
August is the best month to see whales due to an increased chance of seeing both Orcas and Humpbacks and maybe even a bear on shore! The weather is typically the nicest during August as well. However, any month will be worth it!
Most whale experts agree that morning is the best time to book a whale-watching tour. But you can spot whales at any time of day during the season.
YES! In addition to seeing seven humpbacks, our tour guides were friendly and knowledgeable. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to go whale-watching in Telegraph Cove.
Although there are so many reasons to visit Canada, a whale-watching tour out of Telegraph Cove just may top the list. After whale-watching, be sure to check out the other adventurous things to do in Telegraph Cove and the broader North Vancouver Island. It is an excellent destination to add to your summer bucket list!
Bella Bucchiotti is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for food, dogs, fitness, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.