Virginia Beach Whale Watching: A Spectacular Winter Experience
Virginia Beach is renowned for its sun-soaked shores and lively summer activities. However, as the temperature drops and vacationers retreat, the majestic whales take center stage, making winter whale-watching excursions a must-do experience for nature enthusiasts and tourists alike.
Winter Wonderland for Whales
From December to March, the icy winds bring more than just frosty weather to Virginia Beach. The colder months also usher in the migration of humpback whales, minke whales, fin whales, and other marine species. These gentle giants travel south from the frigid waters of Canada and New England to the warmer Atlantic Ocean, offering an unparalleled Virginia Beach Whale Watching experience.
A Unique Winter Attraction
While summer is typically the peak season for beachgoers, winter at Virginia Beach presents a unique opportunity for visitors to witness these awe-inspiring marine creatures in their natural habitat. Despite the chilly weather, numerous wildlife encounters await those who venture out on a Virginia Beach Whale Watching boat trip.
Best Ways to Experience Whale Watching
To fully appreciate the magnificence of these migrating whales, a boat trip is highly recommended. Unlike many well-known whale watching spots on the west coast, Virginia Beach does not have elevated vantage points along the shoreline. Additionally, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Center does not house large marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Local Operators Offering Whale Watching Tours
Three local businesses offer winter whale-watching excursions in the coastal waters of Virginia Beach. Each tour operator provides a unique experience, with varying amenities, schedules, and pricing. As whale sightings cannot be guaranteed, it is essential to keep in mind that these majestic creatures are in their natural habitat, and the likelihood of spotting them may vary each year.
Rudee Tours is a prominent tour operator located near the south end of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center at Rudee’s Inlet. They offer two-hour educational tours during the winter season, where passengers can learn about the migration patterns of whales, seals, dolphins, and waterfowl. The boats are ADA-compliant and come equipped with a snack bar, restrooms, and a heated indoor cabin.
Address: Rudee Tours, 200 Winston Salem Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 Dates: Winter trips generally run from just before Christmas through mid-March. Prices: $30 for adults / $25 for children 4 – 11 years old / Children 3 or younger are free / Season Pass $250 Website: Rudee Tours
Virginia Aquarium Winter Wildlife Boat Trips
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center offers a 2½-hour ocean exploration tour aboard their Atlantic Explorer. Accompanied by expert researchers and marine educators, guests can spot various fascinating winter wildlife, including humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises.
Address: Virginia Aquarium, 717 General Booth Blvd, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 Dates: Just before Christmas until about the first weekend in March Tour rates: non-members: $31.95/adults and $26.95/ children aged 3 – 11 Virginia Aquarium Members: $28/adults and $24/children Website: Virginia Aquarium Winter Wildlife Boat Trips
First Landing Charters
For those seeking a more intimate and personalized experience, First Landing Charters offers private whale watching tours for up to six passengers. Departing from Chick’s Oyster Bar on the northern edge of Virginia Beach, the tour takes visitors along the Chesapeake Bay, passing the historic Cape Henry Lighthouse and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Address: Chick’s Oyster Bar, 2143 Vista Cir, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 Tour rates: $325 – $400 for up to 6 passengers Website: First Landing Charters
Things to Know Before Scheduling Your Tour
As the prime sighting months for whales are usually January and February, take note of the following tips when planning your Virginia Beach Whale Watching experience:
- Call the tour boat office to check for recent whale sightings.
- Check the weather forecast and choose a day with calm seas and clear skies.
- Inquire about the amenities provided on each boat, such as toilets and sanitizing stations.
- Find out if the boat companies offer any concessions if no whales are seen during the trip.
- Morning and afternoon trips are suitable for whale and dolphin sightings, so schedule your tour according to your convenience.
Marine Wildlife to Expect
While embarking on a Virginia Beach Whale Watching tour, keep an eye out for a diverse range of marine creatures, including:
- Humpback whales
- Fin whales
- Minke whales
- Bottlenose dolphins
- Harbor porpoises
- Harbor seals
- Brown pelicans
- Northern gannets
- Double-crested cormorants
Tips for a Memorable Whale Watching Experience
To make the most of your whale watching adventure, follow these tips to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip:
- Wear flat, non-skid shoes with good traction, as boat decks and stairs can become slippery.
- Dress in warm, layered clothing and bring gloves, a hat, and a scarf.
- Check the weather forecast and confirm your trip with the tour operator before heading to the boat.
- Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, medications (including motion sickness medication, if needed), a camera with a telephoto lens, and binoculars.
Other Wildlife Boat Trips
If you happen to miss the whale-watching season or are looking for other wildlife-focused experiences, the Virginia Aquarium also offers various boat adventures throughout the year, such as:
- Dolphin tours from March to May
- Stargazing excursions
Virginia Beach Whale Watching is an unforgettable experience that should not be missed during the winter months. With various tour operators offering unique encounters with the ocean’s gentle giants, there’s no better way to appreciate the beauty of these magnificent creatures while learning about their migration patterns, habits, and conservation efforts. Embrace the winter season at Virginia Beach and embark on a memorable whale watching adventure!