Pacific Northwest Experience Guide

Over 400 islands dot the 7,000-square-miles of the winding, reaching Salish Sea. With no mind to borders, this interwoven marine system (with depths over 600 meters in places) connects inlets, channels, and fjords of British Columbia and Washington State.

And Mother Nature did well. The moisture-rich, moderate climate heartily nurtures the region’s flora and fauna. More than 200 species of fish and 100 species of birds nest in towering trees, boggy marshes, and coastal nooks and crannies; and numerous marine mammals live in or migrate seasonally to these waters.

Join the ranks of hefty black bears, wily chipmunks and flying squirrels, and nearly 40 mammal species exploring windswept beaches, pastoral island meadows, and massive old-growth forests on our coastal Washington or British Columbia adventure cruises.

Wildlife Guide


Land Animals & Birds

Peacefulness in the wilderness areas of the Salish Sea is plentiful, but that doesn’t mean it’s always quiet. Squawking seabirds, tapping woodpeckers, chattering chipmunks, the cry of an osprey—keep eyes and ears open for spectacular wildlife.

  • Spotted and snowy owls
  • Bald Eagle and Golden eagle
  • Pileated woodpecker
  • Rufous hummingbird
  • Great blue heron
  • Cormorants
  • Seabirds
  • Bear
  • Olympic marmot
  • Red fox
  • Black-tailed deer
  • Mountain goat

Marine Animals

Seaweeds, kelp, and other nutrients comprise foundational parts of the food-chain that attract myriad other marine life. Shallow, tidal areas are colored with orange starfish, crabs, and sea anemone. Deep channels are favorite feeding grounds for orca. And it’s a common sight, to spot sea lions spying on you too!

  • Orca whales
  • Sea lions
  • Harbor seals
  • Sea and river otters
  • Dall’s porpoise
  • Dolphin
  • Giant Pacific octopus
  • Pink, purple, and orange sea stars
  • Sea urchin and sea anemone
  • Gumboot chiton
  • Pacific salmon

Plants & Flowers

The Pacific Northwest is known for lush, dense forests and rugged, tree-lined coasts. Plants grow with abandon in the moisture- and soil-rich region—including rhododendron that burst with color and old-growth trees that age into the hundreds of years.

  • Douglas fir
  • Western red cedar
  • Grand fir
  • Rhododendron
  • Dogwood
  • Sword fern
  • Red flowering currant
  • Trillium
  • Wildflowers: columbine, bleeding heart, camas, glacier lily, avalanche lily, Olympic daisy
  • Salmonberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry

Seasonal Variations

In the Pacific Northwest, spring bustles! Meltwaters from coastal ranges cause waterfalls to thunder. Rhododendron and tulips bloom alongside trillium and currants. Fall is rich with the glow of red-orange-yellow foliage. And migrating birds pass through along the Pacific Flyway during both seasons.

Locals often tease, if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes—and they’re often right! While each season offers different and unique conditions, we unquestionably believe our home region is gorgeous every month of the year!

Seasonal Variations for Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest Slideshow

Snow-capped peaks, tide pools full of busy life, kayaking close to steep fjord walls, playing peek-a-boo with bobbing harbor seals… Click on the image at left to see a sneak peek at sights in coastal Washington and British Columbia.

What to See & Do on a Pacific Northwest Cruise


On Board

  • With binoculars in-hand, keep watch—high above, along shore, and in the water—for eagles, bears, porpoises, orca, and sea lions from the bow deck
  • Wind down with a sunset, cold pint of local brew, and a game of cards with your travel companions in the lounge
  • Visit your captain on the Bridge and learn how Captain Vancouver’s maps and navigation are still important tools today
  • Take in the spectacular sunrise set against the Coast Range or Olympic Mountains from toasty-warm hot tub
  • From the bow, breathe in the salty, fresh air and look for brilliant constellations in the pitch-dark night sky

In the Water

  • Kayak through one of the most beautiful places on earth, Princess Louisa Inlet
  • Snorkel along coastal Washington's rocky outcroppings in search of sealife amongst the Salish Sea's San Juan Islands
  • Paddle board among rocky outcroppings and intertidal wetlands alongside seabirds fishing for their dinner
  • On kayak outings, keep your eyes peeled above and below the surface for marine life lurking close by
  • Along glacially carved islands and fjords, a skiff excursion reveals bird colonies at a wildlife preserve or bioluminescence in the waters surrounding the Harmony Islands

On Land

  • Visit with locals—from oyster farmers to Popeye, the Friday Harbor marina's resident harbor seal
  • Temperate rainforest hikes lead you under dense canopy for an up-close exploration of local flora
  • Hike towering summits for unobstructed views of the surrounding islands and mountain peaks
  • “Treasure-filled” tide pools nature walks reveal hermit crabs, waving sea anemone, barnacles, tiny fish, slow-moving sea stars
  • Learn the region’s Native American and whaling histories, and depending on itinerary, explore a seaside town and Victoria, BC; or keep the focus on national and federal parks.

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