Back in late March/early April we visited Seattle where we drank a lot of coffee and beer, went on a foodie tour, and made our way to Portland for a few weeks. While we were there we did a lot of hiking, drank delicious beer and soaked up some weirdness! We then finally made our way to Thailand for a trip of a lifetime! Since we had a round trip flight, we made our way back to Washington and made sure we planned a few fun things.
A lifelong dream of mine has always been to go on an Orca whale watch. I found an amazing deal on Groupon for Orcas Island Eclipse Charters, but the earliest date I could find was after our trip to Thailand. After we returned to Washington state, we decided to stay a few more weeks to hit up the orca whale watch and some other activities before heading east again.
We spent one night in Renton to sleep off our jetlag, and then headed up to Bellingham, Washington. We found a great Airbnb near a lake and another plus was that it wasn’t too far from where the whale watch would take off. While we were there, we also experienced the tulip festivals going on!
Skagit Valley Tulip Festival
Since my husband works east coast time 9-5, we get off from work to explore at 2 when we are on the West Coast! On one afternoon, we drove about 30 miles from Bellingham to Mount Vernon to see the tulips! Have you ever seen the photos of the colorful fields of tulips in Holland? Well something very similar exists in Washington, which was a great tip from our Airbnb host! The dates of the festival vary each year, but they are usually in the month of April. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival says “bloom dates according to mother nature.” I highly recommend going on a week day if possible, because we heard the traffic and lines are horrendous on the weekend!
Silly us, we drove to Tulip Town and did not bring any cash with us AND forgot our debit card at home. Derp! We decided to go down the road to Roozengaard where they accepted credit cards (thank goodness!) At Roozengaard, for $7 a person, you are able to walk through fields of tulips with rows and rows of colorful flowers. They also have other areas where they have carefully planted all different tulips in different patterns to form an amazing piece of living art!
Photos taken with courtesy of RoozenGaarde (Tulips.com)
On sight, you can purchase beautiful bouquets of tulips to bring home, or you can order bulbs for yourself or someone as a gift. This was actually my Mother’s Day gift to my mom! I sent her a card with all the photos I took, with a note that she would be receiving bulbs to plant for the following spring! Their gift shop was really cute too! Luckily this day was sunny and not raining, like most days in western Washington!
Orca Whale Watch with Orcas Island Eclipse Charters
The next morning, we got up early and headed out for our orca whale watch in the San Juan Islands! We drove about an hour south to the Anacortes ferry. This is really your only way to get to Orcas Island where the whale tour is. Tickets were about $13 round trip and the ride was a little over an hour. On the day of our ferry ride, it took a bit longer because there was a big bike ride on another island, so there was an extra stop, and a lot more passengers than normal. When the boat arrives on Orcas Island, the Whale Watch company is directly to your left off the pier. Very easy to find!
Have you ever seen Free Willy 2? Well the folks from Orcas Island Eclipse Charters were in that movie! They used their boat and captain for filming which was so cool! After a short introduction of the crew, we boarded the Orcas Island Eclipse Charters’ boat and found our seats inside. The inside of the boat was heated, and they were so nice to provide jackets, binoculars, and gloves! Thank goodness, because we were NOT prepared for this weather. Temps were in the mid-40’s with a crazy wind, it made for a chilly ride! We were guaranteed to see whales, but not necessarily orcas. I was so nervous we wouldn’t see the orcas because this has been a dream since I saw free willy.
We headed into Canadian waters, where we saw Big Momma, a beautiful humpback whale. The crew was absolutely wonderful, because they would announce where to look, based on info they received from other boats. Other passengers on board would also tell us if they saw anything, and we would all go running over to look! We eventually left the area of the humpbacks, and rode for what seemed like a long time. We made our way to a little island with a ton of sea lions and seals on it and a bald eagle! So majestic! As cool as this little island of wildlife was, it was also an orca feeding dream! As much as I would not want to see that live, I can still appreciate the circle of life.
Sorry if these make you a little dizzy! Got so excited!
We rode a little further to an area where there were some other smaller boats. They had sent our boat the signal that there might be some activity of orcas. HOW EXCITING! My heart was in my throat with anticipation! We got the signal to look at 9 o’clock and there they were! A whole pod of orcas, way off in the distance! Cue Michael Jackson’s Free Willy theme song! How cool! While we were busy looking at these guys, we hear a blow hole spout and look to 3 o’clock to find MORE orcas so close to us! The captain joked that they are supposed to keep 250 yards from the whales…..but the whales never follow those rules! I was in my glory watching these majestic animals swim by saying hello that I didn’t want it to end, but eventually it was time to turn around and head back.
On our way back, one of the naturalists came and sat with us with a book of all the orcas they have been following for years, including their pod names and the whales’ names! She showed us the orcas that their charter had named, which was so cool. She also told us that were really lucky that day. We drove about 25 miles further than planned way into Canada to see these whales. They don’t normally head that far out, but they wanted us to see the orcas. I was forever grateful for these kind people who clearly share their love of these wonderful beasts!
Although it was a cloudy cool day, we didn’t get any rain until AFTER the whale watch! How lucky!