Spy a Whale, Ring the Bell! Cruising to Langley, Whidbey Island

Venture to the cute town of Langley, Whidbey Island for whale spotting, farmer's markets, artist studios, and beautiful landscapes!

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Making spring plans? Think about heading to the small town of Langley, on Whidbey Island. Not only does Langley boast of a vivid arts scene and gorgeous downtown gardens, but it is also a premier whale-sighting spot!

Langley is located on the eastern side of southern Whidbey Island. A two-hour journey over the Mukilteo ferry takes visitors from the hustle and bustle of Seattle into another world. The Saratoga Passage is a protected body of water. Entry from the north is through Deception Pass at Rosario Beach and Possession Sound to the south.

Gray Whales Sightings from Langley (March-April)

The spring migration brings thousands of gray whales up the West Coast. Usually the whales migrate within 2 miles of shore along the 5000-7000 mile trip.

So, how did gray whales end up in the protected Saratoga Passage? Nearly 30 years ago, two explorer whales- fittingly named Earhart and Shackleton (after the pilot and polar explorer, respectively)- discovered ghost shrimp in the beaches of Whidbey and Camano Islands.

Amazingly, these huge whales (up to 50 feet in length and 90,000 pounds) wait until the height of high tide to feed in less than 10 feet of water. Read more about the daring feeding behavior of “Sounders” here!

Photo from Flip Nicklin of a gray whale scooping up mud to sieve through its baleen to filter feed on bottom-dwelling prey.

Check Out the Gunther the Gray Whale Skeleton in Port Townsend

Orca and Humpback Sightings from Langley

While Southern Resident Orcas are typically only sighted off the western coast of Whidbey Island in the more open waters of Admiralty Inlet (in the fall), Biggs Transient Orcas and Humpbacks are sporadically seen from Langley in the Saratoga Passage throughout the year.

Other commonly seen mammals include harbor seals, harbor porpoises, and California sea lions. Check out the Whale Trail Viewing Guide here.

Or, sneak down to the docks at the Langley Marina early in the morning to spot harbor seals resting on the docks. Be aware of giving them plenty of space!

How to Spot Whales

As seems to be natural human instinct, whale-watchers should start by scanning the surface for movement above and below the water line. Often, the presence of whale-watching boats and spouts make aquatic mammals easier to spot.

Please remember to watch wildlife responsibly by following the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Whale Bell in downtown Langley (and twin bell in nearby Coupeville) is a testament to this visitors’ love of whale watching. If you are fortunate enough to see a gray whale or orca on your journey to Langley, make sure to ring the bell!

Spy a whale, ring the bell!

Things to Do in Langley

  • Langley Whale Center (limited winter hours weekends 11AM-4PM)
    • Of course, visitors should check out the Langley Whale Center for an excellent gift shop, detailed information about our local marine mammals, and passionate volunteers.
  • Spend the afternoon kayaking the Saratoga Passage looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenery
  • Visit the garden and pool in the front of the Inn at Langley, or stay for a spa visit and dinner
  • Watch the glassblowers at Callahan’s Firehouse Studio and Gallery and purchase a unique souvenir
  • Trust me, you want to check out the Star Store downtown. All the groceries you need and many you don’t!
Take a kayak onto the water for wildlife sightings- like this lion’s mane jellyfish!

South Whidbey Harbor at Langley

For boaters, the port at Langley offers a helpful refuge between Edmonds and Deception Pass. Be warned, it is a tight and shallow marina! Contact the harbormaster on VHF channel 66A or 360-221-1120 for reservations. Bonus: hot showers are available through use of coins from the harbormaster.

For visitors, the floating docks are open from 9AM-9PM and are a great spot to sight harbor seals resting in the early morning hours!

The boat ramp next to the marina is also an excellent place to launch kayaks for wildlife viewing.

Kayak along the storm wall of the marina for a scenic backdrop!