Gray Whale-Watching in Alaska: Two options for families

Spring in Alaska is a WHALE of a lot of fun. Gray whale-watching, to be exact.

AKontheGO has headed south in the past to explore the warm, sunny climate of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and the Alaska residents who snowbird down there. No, not humans. Whales. Beautiful gray whales.

Gray whales migrate 5,000 miles between Mexico and the Arctic; a 10,000-mile round trip, and half of that is with kids in tow, and Alaskans are fortunate to have a window seat to this migration, when all these whales swim north, stopping now and then for a bit of a food break, rest stop, and playtime for babies. Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska are perfect places for gray whale-watching, and two companies offer trips to help your family take advantage of  this annual ritual.

Gray whales and a view; what more could a family want? Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Kenai Fjords Tours departs Seward mid-March through mid-May with a four-hour tour that is a great introduction to day cruising for kids; with lunch, wildlife guide (there’s a lot more than just whales out there, you know), and a shuttle service to and from your car. At $80/adults and $40/kids age 2-11, it’s a good deal, too.

Ready, set, breach! What a photo from Major Marine. (This is a humpback, not a gray whale, since grays are sometimes more difficult to spot.) Image courtesy Major Marine Tours.

Major Marine is another stellar company in Seward, with tours beginning in early March and lasting through mid-May. The company also has a nifty overnight deal called the Spring Fever Package that adds an overnight stay at Harbor 360 Hotel and admission to the Alaska Sea Life Center. Why not break away for a weekend and explore the village of Seward before it becomes choked with cruise ships and cars? Day tours are $89/adults $44.50/kids 2-11 for the four-hour tour. 

Major Marine Tours boat snugs up against the coastline of Resurrection Bay near Seward. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Tips: Dress everyone in warm layers and add rain boots or non-skid, sturdy shoes for kids. Those decks are slippery! Bring snacks, drinks, games, quiet toys, and a cozy blanket for littles if four hours becomes too long for younger family members. Seasickness shouldn’t be a problem, but weather can be wacky and waves, bumpy, so bring ginger candy, crackers, and lay low on the sweets while traveling (it can upset tummies, further). Ask the crew for suggestions, too, since these guys and gals are experts.

I recommend day cruising for kids age 4 and up, or younger if enough adults are along for the ride. Remind kids about walking on deck, keeping feet to the floor, and respecting space; these boats are not enormous and can be crowded.

Above all, relax! Look for eagles, otters, porpoise, sea lions, and other Alaska creatures during your cruise. Gray whale-watching is more than that, you know. It’s a full day of uninterrupted family fun.


What a view from the bridge. Ask if you can get a tour on your gray whale trip — Most captains love to explain the ins and outs of boat life. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO



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