I will be taking a family trip to visit my sister in Seattle the 3rd week of July. It will be my first visit to the northwest. I know there are whale watching excursions year round, but I wanted unbiased information rather than just looking at advertisements. She lives in Port Orchard, so one question is about commute time from there to departure point. The other is, how likely to see whales this time of year? I recently saw humpbacks in Dominican Republic, so that will be hard to top! Looking forward to hearing from locals.
July is a good time to go. From May - September you usually have a 90% chance of seeing Orcas. Most whale watching tours will stay out on the water for up to 4 or 5 hours until they find the whales, so it can definitely turn into an all day thing. Once you get close enough to the Orcas the boats are required to turn off their engines, so sometimes you can get lucky and get a good amount of time with them. I can't recommend a specific company to book a tour through, but the best place to see whales is in the San Juan Islands (most departing from Anacortes). Your sister can take the ferry to Seattle and Anacortes is about a 2 hour drive from Seattle, or you can take a ferry from downtown Seattle to some of the bigger islands (Lopez, Friday Harbor) or take the Clipper to Victoria B.C., which takes about 3 hours. All these places will have whale watching tours and private boat charters. Hope this helps!
Gray whales are passing through the PNW around December/January (heading south,) March/April (heading north.) In July I would spend a few days in the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau watching the Orcas....
Check out this link, Orca Network