Whale sightings in Cornwall

Our Cornish waters are well known for spotting some spectacular marine wildlife, from birds perching on the rugged rocks, to dolphins and whales putting on the occasional show.

This summer, there was an incredibly rare sighting of a humpback whale off the coast of Penzance. These giant creatures are on the list of endangered species across the globe, but have been known to feed around the Cornish shores. Whilst they have been known to visit the Cornish coastline before, it’s still unusual to see a humpback whale out in the wild, making their visit even more special.

But it’s not just humpback whales which have been sited around our coastline. We’ve been lucky enough to shelter a variety of different sea creatures, from bowhead and dwarf sperm whales to impressive giant fin whales. Even killer whales have been seen near Padstow and Newquay, as well as from the Isles of Scilly.

When is the best time of year to go whale watching?

You are more likely to spot whales during the winter months in Cornwall. It’s thought they only come to the UK’s waters to calve, where the water is warmer than other parts of the globe. Sightings for whales in west Cornwall are usually at their best during the winter, however they have been known to visit here in summer too.

Mink whale off the coast of Penzance by Marine Discovery Penzance

Where are the best places to go whale watching in Cornwall?

Mounts Bay and Land’s End

Marine Discovery has been offering boat trips around the coast of west Cornwall since 2005. Tours can last anything from one and a half hours, up to four hours. Their sailing catamaran, Shearwater II, carries up to 12 people with a stunning 360 degree viewing experience of the surrounding marine wildlife. Led by keen wildlife experts full of marine knowledge, Marine Discovery are proud conservationists who use their boat trips to collect scientific data and use a low impact vessel with environmentally-friendly sailing methods. 

Common dolphin by Marine Discovery Penzance


Pendennis Point is known for its whale, dolphin and sometimes seal sightings. Falmouth Bay itself has also seen humpback whales in the past, with passing fisherman catching the beautiful creatures on camera.

Porthgwarra and Gwennap Head

These two locations in west Cornwall, near Land’s End, are thought to be some of the best places in Cornwall for spotting exciting marine wildlife, including the rare humpback whales. You can also spot dolphin pods, seals, basking sharks and seabirds here.

Cape Cornwall

If you’re lucky, you can spot whales and dolphins out in the distance across the waves here. Make sure you bring a pair of binoculars to this stunning location to get the most out of your experience.

Trevose Head

Occasionally, you can spot the odd whale off this fantastic wild headland near Padstow. Look out for the white lighthouse then scan your eyes to the horizon to catch a glimpse of the marine life that can be spotted here, including seals and dolphins. 

If you see any exciting marine life out on your exploration of Cornwall, you can report it to the Sea Watch Foundation. This important organisation is a national marine environmental charity dedicated to recording and protecting marine life throughout the seas across the UK.

Images used credited to Marine Discovery Penzance.