Whale watching…it’s on everyone’s bucketlist – and why? Because it’s such a magical experience. Seeing a whale breaching, well, it’s incredible. The enormous power, the immensity of the whale, and the rareness of actually seeing one? There’s nothing else like it.


So let’s say you’re lucky enough to be in one of my favorite places in the world, St. John’s, Newfoundland. And, let’s say you want to go whale watching.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. 

Here’s how:


Head to Bay Bulls, just south of St. John’s (it’s a very scenic and short drive), to O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours. They do a variety of tours, but we went on the whale and puffins tour. This is an award-winning boat tour, which will take you out to the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve – the largest Atlantic Puffin colony in North America.


The boat loads up with interesting people (talk to your neighbors!) and then heads out to sea. Expect to be gone for a few (magical) hours. First up, the incredible landscape. I took many a photo of rocks, coastline, waves – for a Midwest girl, this is heady scenery. Take a look…

Newfoundland Coastline

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On the way to the Ecological Reserve, you’ll come across magnificent Humpback Whales, playing and feeding in the water. At first, we saw one small hump running through the water. Then more activity – a spurt of air and water, and then a long shiny black spine, slicing the waves for a second or two. Collectively, we all held our breath. And they resurfaced, and we all could breathe again.

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We stopped and stared for a bit (let’s be honest, staring is what you do when you see whales). We saw a mother and two baby (!!) whales – playing, breaching, and generally showing off. Thousands of pictures were taken. I am sure others took some, too. 


We soon learned to recognize the light green shapes under the water as the whales coming to surface. Often, two would surface at a time, and the third (usually the smallest baby) would be hanging out just below. And then, we left all too soon, although it felt like time stood still for us while the whales were running the show. So, just a few more photos.


whale watching video clip HERE

Sea Birds of all kinds

We then headed to ‘Puffin Island’ to see the aforementioned sea birds, seemingly limitless seagulls, the world’s second largest colony of Leach’s storm petrels, kittiwakes, and murres. They are LOUD! Let’s be honest here – as a farmgirl, I recognized the smell as we got closer – chicken coop. All that white on the rocks? Yeah. Nature. Don’t follow your nose…somehow, breathe through it or around it, because the sight of so many birds – and types of birds – is astounding. More photo opps. CUTE BABY BIRDS! 

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Did you know that puffins are small? And they BURROW? So while you think you’re going to get a great shot, really, it’s just a small bird in front of a hole in the grass or dirt. Seeing the young puffins trying to get some air and take off from the water was interesting – you couldn’t help but to root for each one on their learning journey.

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Our 13-year old daughter, who was smiling the WHOLE TIME we were out, said, “It was an amazing experience. We saw so many whales – it was an incredible learning opportunity. The guy narrating the tour was hilarious – he definitely made me more interested. Here’s another thing about the puffins – they are tiny! I was surprised. I was also surprised at how many seagulls there were. Highly recommended – the best thing we did in Newfoundland.

Whale Watching Tips: 

Get there a bit early, so you can use the restroom, not be stressed, and look at the GIANT SQUID in the shed(What?!)


Take a selfie with the mermaid statue – there are a few scattered around the St. John’s area – can you find them all?


Bring a jacket – it can get chilly (if you forget, you can always sit inside the glassed-in cabin, and stay warm AND whale watch).

Bring a bottle of water, in case you get thirsty (although they have a bar inside the boat, so no worries if you don’t).

There are two levels on the boat. The top level will provide you with the best 360 degree viewing access. However, if you get sunburned easily, like me, then sit on one of the benches on the main level, just outside the glassed-in cabin. Here’s the view from my bench seat:


After whale watching, heading back to O’Brien’s in Bay Bulls – what a gorgeous harbor!


Read the full article HERE