Few sights along the Oregon  coast elicit more excitement than that of a surfacing whale. The most common large whale seen from shore along the west coast of North America is the gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). These behemoths can reach 45 feet in length and 35 tons in weight. The sight of a mammal as big as a Greyhound bus erupting from the sea has a way of emptying the mind of mundane concerns. Wreathed in seaweed and sporting barnacles and other parasites on its back, a California gray whale might look more like the hull of an old ship were it not for its expressive eyes.
Some gray whales are found off the Oregon coast all year, including an estimated 200–400 during the summer, though they’re most visible and numerous when migrating populations pass through Oregon waters on their way south December–February and northward early March–April. This annual journey from the rich feeding grounds of the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Alaska to the calving grounds of Mexico amounts to some 10,000 miles, the longest migration of any mammal.
Their numbers peak usually during the first week of January, when as many as 30 per hour may pass a given point. By mid-February, most of the whales will have moved on toward their breeding and calving lagoons on the west coast of Baja California .
Early March–April, the juveniles, adult males, and females without calves begin returning northward past the Oregon coast. Mothers and their new calves are the last to leave Mexico and move more slowly, passing Oregon late April–June. During the spring migration, the whales may pass within just a few hundred yards of coastal headlands, making this a particularly exciting time for whale-watching from any number of vantage points along the coast. Researchers speculate that gray whales stay close to shore as a way to help them navigate.
With numerous charters available, Depoe Bay  is the whale-watching capital of Oregon. But the best charter company on the coast for whale-watching is the Marine Discovery Whale-Watching Tour in Newport . If you'd rather keep your feet firmly on land, the best places to spot whales are at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park  in Winchester Bay and Cape Sebastian  near Gold Beach.