Like visiting Santa at the mall, whale watching is the practice of observing an exotic creature in its natural habitat. Open eagle-eye oculars with today's Groupon: for $44, you get a Port Townsend–San Juan Island tour at Puget Sound Express (an $88.50 value). The Port Townsend–San Juan Island tour departs from Port Townsend at 9 a.m. and returns at 5 p.m., with a two-hour stop at Friday Harbor in the middle of the day.
Puget Sound Express guides passengers through an orca-whale-watching expedition across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The cruise is the company's trademark tour, integrating orca-whale watching alongside narration from an onboard naturalist and views of the beatific San Juan Islands. Once aboard the comfy Glacier Spirit, adventurers witness marine mammals playing, plunging, and paying taxes throughout the seas. After Glacier Spirit drops passengers off at Friday Harbor, guests are free to explore the shops and restaurants on the island via foot or bike. Following the two-hour stopover, the ship's crew will reel in wayward wayfarers and return them safely to the port of origin, with supplemental whale spotting along the way.
Puget Sound Express
For the Hanke family, it seems like Puget Sound Express has always been part of their lives. Raised in the Puget Sound his entire life, Pete Hanke honed his seafaring abilities alongside his father, Pete Sr. Together, the two started leading weeklong sailing adventures across the Pacific Northwest in 1981 and eventually started whale tours. Today, the business still remains a family affair, with grandparents, children, and grandchildren working side by side. Sherri Hanke, Pete’s wife, feels this is the company's biggest feature. "We have three generations of captains, so there is a wealth of knowledge there."
In addition to their family members, Puget Sound Express's crew is well acquainted with the area's 88 resident killer whales, which naturalists can identify based on their markings and slick leather jackets. Tours also pass into the habitats of other wildlife, often spotting humpbacks, sea birds, and bald eagles. The Hankes' most popular voyage tours the San Juan Islands, pausing at the fishing village of Friday Harbor. According to Sherri, this region is well known for its weather. "We refer to it as the Blue Hole, because it is like this circle of sunlight. It could be raining in Seattle and extremely sunny here."
The Hankes take adventure-seekers out on the M.V. Glacier Spirit, a modern, 70-seat vessel with open-air viewing decks and large windows allowing sightseers unencumbered views. Additionally, an on-board hydrophone listens in on whales' vocalizations to see which songs are currently stuck in their heads.
227 Jackson St.
Port Townsend, Washington 98368Get Directions