There’s no doubt that seeing animals in their natural habitat adds a truly special experience to any time spent exploring the outdoors. Often, learning about the creatures that inhabit a location adds an extra dimension to the trip. It’s important to realize that you don’t always have to travel long distances to see great wildlife. In fact, there are exciting wildlife watching opportunities all over the United States.
Whales, Seals and Sea Lions in Depoe Bay, OR
Wildlife watching on the Oregon coast must include at least one whale watching adventure. Depoe Bay is the whale watching capital of Oregon. Although the Oregon coast is a playground for migrating gray whales throughout the year, the best months to see the whales are July through September. Visitors to Depoe Bay can see whales from the observation deck adjacent to the main road through town. However, for the best whale watching experience, book a trip with the team at Whale Research EcoExcursions. Trips are run by a team of naturalists that have been studying the summer resident whale population for 25 years. Because of their deep knowledge of the local whales, visitors have an excellent chance at seeing whales spout or fluke (show their tale). The luckiest folks may even see a whale breach!
Whales aren’t the only wildlife on offer in Depoe Bay. Seals and sea lions are another common sight along the Oregon coast. Harbor Seals and Stellar Sea Lions can be found year round. In the winter, you may see some California Sea Lion males, who migrate north to Oregon in the fall, winter and early spring. Northern Elephant Seals, who can grow up to 13 feet long, may be spotted when they come to shore for breeding season.
Places to Stay in Depoe Bay, OR
Situated on a cliff overlooking the aptly named Whale Cove, guests at the Whale Cove Inn are often treated to sights of whales swimming by. In fact, whale calves may be left to swim around the protected cove for the day while their mothers head out to feed!
Birding and Butterflies in Cape May, NJ
Wildlife watching in Cape May must include birding. National Geographic lists Cape May as one of the world’s best destinations for bird watching. Although there are great bird watching opportunities year round in Cape May, autumn is well known as the most magical time of year for birders. Indeed, more than 400 different species have been seen on the peninsula during the fall migration and the area is known for spectacular flights of peregrines, merlins, ospreys and sharp-shinned hawks. In addition to raptors, birders in Cape May will be treated to views of songbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds. The Cape May Bird Observatory is THE place to go to find special programs for every level of birder.
In addition to being a hot spot for migratory birds, Cape May is also a stop for migrating Monarch butterflies. The Monarch butterfly migration usually begins in late September and continues through mid October. Seeing the Monarch butterflies during the migration through Cape May is absolutely a bucket list worthy phenomenon. For a great spot to see butterflies and songbirds alike, visit the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and Gardens, where visitors can stroll through English cottage butterfly gardens that extend right to the edge of the ocean.
Places to Stay near Cape May, NJ
Dolphins and Manatees in St. Augustine, FL
The estuaries and marshes near St. Augustine, FL are home to a variety of colorful coastal creatures. From sea birds like the pretty pink Roseata Spoonbill to mammals like the playful Bottlenose Dolphin and the endangered West Indian Manatee, St. Augustine is a great choice for wildlife watching.
Visitors who want to see St. Augustine’s wildlife in their natural habitat should head to the Fort Matanzas National Monument. Located in the inlet where the Matanazas River flows into the Atlantic, Fort Matanzas is the smaller of the two famous forts in St. Augustine. If you visit the beaches at the Matanzas Inlet, you may see Gopher Turtles come down to wash off in the water or Loggerhead Turtles swimming in the waves. Additionally, visitors are very likely to see Dolphins and maybe even a Manatee.
Another great way to see the Dolphins of St. Augustine is through a kayak eco-tour, such as the one offered by Ripple Effect Eco Tours. The naturalist guides will lead you on a lovely afternoon or sunset paddle through the mangrove tidal creeks and the Matanzas River estuary. There is certainly something special about seeing the Dolphins in their natural habitats. At the same time, you may want to visit the oceanarium at Marineland Dolphin Adventures. There, you’ll get a chance to swim and interact up close with their resident Dolphins.
Places to Stay in Saint Augustine, FL
Featured Vacation Package
Stay at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island for the naturalist vacation that dreams are made of. Guests have been visiting Little St. Simons Island to experience the natural beauty of its 11,000 acres since the island opened to the public in 1979. One of Georgia's "Golden Isles", there are sweeping coastal landscapes, and abundant wildlife.
Every day, the Little St. Simons Island naturalists offer a host of excursions to immerse guests in the ecology of Georgia’s barrier islands and the plants and wildlife that can be found in this diverse environment. Lively discussions and hands-on experiences will craft memories lasting well beyond the vacation experience. Whether bird watching, hiking through the island habitats, kayaking the tidal waters, bicycling the island’s roads, or fishing the surf or tidal waters, the gifted naturalists will lead you through memorable and enriching experiences to savor for years to come. Stays are all-inclusive of accommodations, boat transfers to and from the island, three prepared meals daily, all activities, and use of all recreational equipment.
Little St. Simons can also be seen on a day trip to the island. Day trips include a ferry trip to the island, an eco tour with one of their experienced naturalists, a low country lunch, and an afternoon spent enjoying the seven miles of pristine private beaches.