Whale Watching in Alaska


Humpback whale
A humpback whale breaches near Haines, Alaska.


Alaska’s whale-watching season is only a few months away, and this year it could be more popular than ever. That’s because Big Miracle, the Drew Barrymore film based on the real-life rescue of a family of gray whales near Point Barrow in 1988, is likely to raise awareness of Alaska as a whale-watching destination when it opens February 3. At least that’s how Alaska Travel Industry Association President and COO Ron Peck sees it.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy films made an impact on the visitor industry for New Zealand,” Peck points out. “Given that Big Miracle is about saving one of nature’s biggest and most beloved creatures, the film may very well impact Alaska in a similar manner.”

Most Alaska cruise itineraries feature opportunities to spot one of these great mammals, and a number of land tour operators offer escorted packages or customized excursions that combine whale watching with other natural delights such as observing wildlife in Denali, Wrangell-St. Elias and Kenai Fjords national parks, as well as rail trips and glacier viewing. These tours generally run between Fairbanks and Anchorage, though some range as far southeast as Juneau or, for the intrepid client, far north to Point Barrow.

Gray Line of Alaska has a number of itineraries that advise clients to “bring your binoculars to look for whales.” Alaska Tours.com, Alaska Tour & Travel, Globus and Great Alaska International Adventure Vacations are among several others featuring whale-inclusive programs beginning in mid-May.

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