Paddling places with sea otters

What are some good places in North America to see sea otters from a kayak? I was thinking how lucky I’ve been to find seals, whales, dolphins, etc. But so far, no sea otter.

Port Angles, WA
I saw a bunch right off the launch at Freshwater Bay.

Saw several off the coast around Brunswick last year.

Central BC Coast
Once wiped out on the coast they are coming back in a big way. In 2007 we met a researcher who was studying a small population of sea otters that were establishing themselves in the Goose Group. On that trip we encountered a few further north in Laredo Channel and a couple in the McMullin Group.

We ran into the research team in Shearwater at the conclusion of trip and they were very excited to hear of our sightings.

Fast forward to 2009 and on a trip south from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy we stumbled upon a large group of ~100 Sea Otters between the McNaughton and Simonds Groups. They were everywhere. Clearly they are re-establishing a strong presence in their aboriginal haunts. Continuing south they were regular companions.

I would say that if you want to paddle with Sea Otters you could plan a trip out of the Bella Bella area to Queens Sound. Great paddling, very pretty, good fishing, plenty of Otters.


We paddled with them in Monterey Bay
Also in most of the inlets and bays in Alaska.

We have some neat old 35 mm pictures some place of the ones in Monterey Bay. They would dive down and bring up a shell or some sort of undersea critter, then they would lie on their backs and crack the shell open with a rock that they also had with them. At the same time a gull would swoop down and try to steal the meal. Many times the gull would actually get it. We also had some of the mothers lying on their backs with the baby in their arms.

They would roll them selves in the air bladders of the giant kelp and take a nap.

Very neat critters to observe !

Jack L

South Carolina

– Last Updated: Jan-06-11 9:30 PM EST –

I see them every year but not from a kayak. It's possible but you would have to know where they go at the right time of year and paddle there often.

Ours would be river otters although the only time I see them they are in salt water areas.

Otter or Sea Ottter

– Last Updated: Jan-07-11 12:48 PM EST –

The distribution map for sea otters can be found here:

Looks like Monterey bay and south through Big Sur for CA sea otter.

Alaska sea otter can be found in places in Alaska, BC, and Washington.

Saw several this afternoon
Just outside Santa Cruz CA harbor, and they are always visible, even from shore, at Elkhorn Slough, Moss Landing CA.

I’m just trying to imagine what you could have seen that could somehow be mistaken for a sea otter.

Sounds like mainly Pacific coast
Thanks for the replies. A few nights ago I watched a DVD that showed sea otters on their backs, whacking shells open as they floated with kelp anchors. It reminded me that there are still so many creatures and things to see, so many places to go. So much to learn, too.

River otter story
Last October I was paddling on the Catawba River near Rock Hill SC and spotted a (larger than normal) river otter swimming on its back eating a catfish tailfirst. I watched it for probably 2 minutes as I silently approached. It was enjoying its meal so much that it apparently had its eyes closed until I was probably 8 feet from it (only canoes and kayaks could do this) when it suddenly opened its eyes and saw the MASSIVE object (14 ft Wenonah Argosy) and it panicked so violently that the catfish head went flying about five feet into the air while it pulled off an emergency dive. It was SO FUNNY!

Elkhorn Slough/Monterrey Bay
One of the kayak companies up in Santa Cruz used to do a sea otter paddle … thinking it was Kayak Connection, but I am not sure.

Monterrey Bay and Elkhorn are great places for a flat water paddler to get on the water in Central California.

I have seen them at wilder spots like Pt. Lobo and along Big Sur.

Sounds like a good reason to visit the west coast. The paddling is good, too.

Santa Cruz
Had a couple swim up to my kayak today

Glacier Bay Alaska
saw many many there.

Maine? No. Sea Otters are a Pacific Basin animal and prefer kelp beds . If ever there was one here in Maine it would be a news star.

Grey Seals or harbor seals can be mistaken for them. The little harbor seals are playful and like to surf with kayakers.

I’ve seen one sea otter up around Tofino on Vancouver Island. Otherwise I’ve seen dozens of otters in the ocean, but they were river otters not sea otters.


Right out of the Santa Cruz harbor are kelp beds full of sea otter families. I have paddled beyond the kelp beds and been mesmorized by the dolphin pods that swim back and forth along the coastline there. I have had otters jump up on the front deck of my kayak while I was filming dolphins. Usually a lot of great sea activity along that stretch.

Do you have a pirate logo on your kayak? If so, you told me about the Coast Guard Auxiliary activity.

Rafts of Sea Otters
Best place I have been to for sea otters is the Nuchatlitz area on west coast of Vancouver Island. I saw several large rafts of sea otters there, and many single ones.


It’s the year for that
The last time I paddled anywhere on the west coast was in 2009. It’s time to go back there, and this time I’ll stay longer and paddle more.

I used to refer to a former coworker as Mr. Bicoastal. Now I know what it’s like to have that affliction.

At least it’s a nice drive out there.