Whale watching in Virginia Beach is the best part of the colder off-season. As the whales make their annual migration from Canada to warmer waters, they’re frequently seen where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay making Virginia Beach whale watching an immensely popular activity and an absolute must-do when visiting the area.
When is Virginia Beach Whale Watching Season?
Whales begin to appear off the coast of Virginia Beach in December through Mid-March (based on temperatures), but the prime time to spot them is in January and February.
What Kind of Whales Are Near Virginia Beach?
Humpback whales, right whales, minke whales, and blue whales have all been seen in the area, but the most common sightings (and arguably, the most entertaining) are those of the humpback whales.
What Surface Behaviors Might You See?
Humpbacks are known to be especially acrobatic, showing surface behaviors like breaching, flipper slapping, or tail lobbing. Breaching is the ultimate reward for whale watchers!
Whale Watching in Virginia Beach with Rudee Tours
Tours depart from Rudee Inlet at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. Parking is free. Tickets can be purchased online in advance, or at the ticket window on the day of the excursion.
The seasick-o-meter on the dock gives fair warning to those who are motion-sensitive. I sailed two days in a row and it measured a 4 both days. The only time I felt a little nauseous was on the first day when I was inside the heated indoor area for too long. On the second day, I stayed outside the whole time and felt completely fine.
Souvenirs, food, snacks, regular and adult beverages can be purchased onboard the ship in the climate-controlled indoor seating area, and restrooms are available as well.
You are free to stand and move about the boat during the tour, but there is lower level seating available at the bow, stern, and sides of the boat and additional seating on the upper deck.
As the boat heads out from the marina to the ocean, you never know what you’ll see, like this lone fisherman out in a canoe.
Or a colorful cargo ship.
Or even a submarine heading out to sea.
We also spotted dolphins in the water, but they were too far away to capture on film. (Virginia Beach dolphin watching tours are available March-October.)
The experienced naturalists on board told us that if we spotted a large number of northern gannets in one area it was a good indication that whales were nearby. They share the same diet, so we tried to watch for flumes of misty water shooting out of blowholes.
Once we were out near the Chesapeake Bay shipping channel, we caught sight of a pair of juvenile humpback whales, and they began to entertain us with their gymnastics.
The whales were very curious about us, even peeking and letting us see an eye a couple of times!
They performed lots of flipper slaps and rolls so we got fantastic looks at their flippers and knobby bodies.
And just after the guide announced we’d stay for one more set of behaviors before heading back to shore, the whales performed a double breach. It was absolutely incredible!
I still have chills whenever I think about it.
Whale Sighting Guarantee – Rudee Tours guarantees you’ll see a whale on your whale watching excursion or you may take another excursion at no additional cost. No refunds are issued.
There are experienced naturalists onboard who share interesting info throughout the cruise about the whales and other wildlife.
Tips for Virginia Beach Whale Watching
- Check the forecast and try to choose a day with clear skies and calm winds. Boat tours take place rain or shine, but may be cancelled for high winds or extreme conditions.
- Dress warmly with a waterproof or water-resistant winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves. It can be VERY cold, especially when the sun isn’t shining. I kept hand warmers in my pockets and inside my gloves and I wore a jacket with a hood.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes, like sneakers. You’re free to walk around the boat the whole time but the rolling motion of the boat can make walking difficult.
- Bring binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens and be ready at all times to capture the magic. I was more successful in capturing the whales on video rather than in photos and then I created images from the video footage.
- Wear sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses are best when near water.
- If you’re prone to seasickness, take a motion sickness aid beforehand.
- The best place to stand when cruising with Rudees in Virginia Beach, in my opinion, is on the lower deck at the center bow of the boat. You’ll be able to see most if not all of the whales on both sides from that position.
Rudee Tours Virginia Beach
200 Winston Salem Avenue Virginia Beach, VA 23451