Whale watching with binoculars, especially from a boat, requires a lot of stability. Additionally, the distance you need to maintain from these majestic animals means that you need a long focal length with a wide, crystal clear field of view.
Most tour operators have strict guidelines to follow when approaching whales and they need to stay a certain acceptable distance away from the whales for obvious reasons.
So when you choose a pair of binoculars we need to bear a few simple things in mind. Lookout for weatherproof capabilities, weight, magnification and ease of use on a boat.
We reviewed the 5 best binoculars for whale watching from a boat or from land.
Related Article: Best Monocular Review
Top Rated Binoculars for Whale Watching
1. Nikon Aculon Variable Zoom Binocular
The Nikon Aculon takes first prize for being perfectly balanced and easy to use. This ergonomically designed binocular is lightweight and has a rubberized exterior that stays grippy even in the wettest conditions. Obviously this makes it great for a wet environment like boat based whale watching.
Take a look at some of the other awesome features on the Nikon:
- 10 – 22 X magnification
- Fingertip zoom control button
- Multi coated eco glass lenses
- Turn and slide multi click eyecups for a customized fit
The Aculon is really one of the best binoculars we could find in this value bracket and one that has all the top features you would expect from Nikon.
Great magnification, easy zoom control and the customized ergonomic design makes this our first choice.
2. Vortex Optics Diamondback Prism
The Diamondback from Vortex Optics is such a nice, compact binocular. Super lightweight with a short hinge design makes the Diamondback one of the lightest and smallest binoculars on our list.
The rubberised exterior armour and the convenient thumb grip depressions allow the binoculars to easily be held in one hand while viewing. The rubber film is grippy and stays that way even when the binocular gets wet.
Check out the specs:
- 8 X magnification
- Multi coated dielectric lenses
- Multi-position eye cups provide a custom fit
- Fully rubberized exterior
The Diamondback might not have the magnification and other features that the Nikon has, but it stands out for ease of use and simple, efficient design. It’s definitely a great option.
3. Bushnell H2O Waterproof Small
Bushnell is a leader in outdoor optics, from rangefinders, spotting scopes and binoculars. Rarely can you go wrong with a Bushnell.
The Bushnell H2O waterproof binocular is a good set of binoculars for whale watching. Bushnell proudly uses some of the best optics available to produce their products and the H2O binocular is no exception.
Take a look at the awesome specs:
- 8 X magnification
- 42 mm
- Fully rubberized with a rippled soft touch grip area
- 100% waterproof and fog proof
- Twisting eyecups for custom comfort
- Limited lifetime warranty
The Bushnell H2O has been nitrogen purged and the lenses and eyepieces are O-ring sealed for a complete water and fog proof design.
The housing has been rubberised with a non-slip soft touch rubber for a comfortable grip. They also come with 4 rubber end caps, a strap and a handy carry case. Definitely a worthy choice when compared to the others in our selection.
4. Wingspan Optics Compact Binoculars
The Wingspan Optics Wide Views binoculars were primarily designed for bird watching as the name suggests. However the features used for birdwatching are exactly what you need for whale watching. To boot, the Wingspan is completely waterproof and fog proof, making it ideal as a dual purpose, nature watching binocular.
Take a quick look at these awesome specs:
- 8 X magnification
- 42 mm
- Amazing 430 foot wide view at 1000 yards
- Waterproof and fog proof
- Twist-up eyecups that are large enough for people wearing glasses to comfortably use
- Comes with a case, strap and lens protectors.
What stands out for us is the extra wide angle view of the Wingspan, seems perfect for scanning the ocean surface for whale activity. The quick and easy zooming and close range focus of two meters is just epic.
Now although the Wingspan is “exclusively” a bird watching binocular, it works equally well for whale watching considering the fantastic weatherproof feature and the wide angle view.
The Celestron Skymaster is a brilliant binocular for land based whale watching, not everyone is capable to do boating trips for various reasons and the Skymaster makes that possible.
The Skymaster is fairly large and robust and has an adaptor to make it tripod friendly. This feature is excellent and means that you can set the binocular up on a tripod in a certain position and perfect views of whales with its 15 X magnification.
Take a look these specs:
- 15 X magnification
- 70 mm aperture
- Rubberised exterior
- Longer eye-cup relief for those who wear glasses
- Tripod adaptable
- Focus dial is super easy and fast to use
Comes with accessories including carry case, tripod adaptor, lens covers, rain guard and strap.
The Celestron Skymaster is the perfect binocular for older whale watchers and those who just don’t want to be out on a boat. Although the Skymaster is too big to be a comfortable hands on binocular for boat whale watching, the affordability and quality makes it an awesome acquisition nonetheless.
How to Buy the Perfect Set
Overall Best Binoculars
The Nikon Aculon is our first choice for boat based whale watching simply because it has all the attributes rolled into a clean and easy to use product. It is light, has brilliant optic clarity and also boasts the highest magnification out of all the binoculars here.
The Vortex Diamondback and the Bushnell H2O follow the Nikon closely with lesser magnification ability but extremely good optics and fog proof features. This is something to bear in mind on the water. It is easy for water and especially saltwater to creep in everywhere and cause that inevitable fog on the inside of the lenses. Fortunately Bushnell and Vortex have made very sure that their binoculars are completely sealed and filled with nitrogen to give you no fuss clarity in any weather conditions.
Dual Purpose Bino
Wingspan optics created an exclusive bird watching binocular which just happens to be perfect for whale watching too. The incredible 430 foot wide view sets this binocular apart from the rest. Really a great buy.
Shore Based Whale Watching
For those of us who want to stay high and dry, avoiding sea sickness and sea spray, the Celestron Skymaster is the perfect choice. With its 15 X magnification and large 70 mm aperture, the Skymaster will allow us to sit safely on the beach and still get beautiful views of the whales. The tripod adaptability is a bonus with this and tripods are fairly cheap to buy and complete this set.