The annual gray whale migration is one of the world’s most magnificent and accessible wildlife spectacles. Each year approximately 15,000 gray whales swim south from Arctic feeding grounds to their Baja California breeding and calving grounds, making for some of the world’s best whale watching opportunities right off the California coast.
From December through May, gray whales can be observed from California’s shore, and whale watchers are bound to view other wildlife including blue whales, killer whales, sperm whales, humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, and aquatic birds.
Grab your binoculars, pile on layered clothing, and set out on a search. You’ll be looking for whales spouting water through blowholes, displaying their flukes (tails) as they dive in search of the tiny shrimp they eat (krill), or just hanging out.
There’s something about seeing one of these beautiful and massive creatures gliding through the ocean that brings out a sense of wonder in spectators. You’ll see tiny tots and regal elders alike shouting with excitement: “Look, a whale!” or “It’s spouting!” People seem willing to wait endlessly to catch even a far-off glimpse of a whale, and the sight of one close to shore can make for a great day.
One of our favorite whale-watching spots in the area is Bodega Head. About four miles long and one mile wide, this small peninsula juts well out into the ocean. Its placement not only helps to shelter Bodega Bay but also attracts observers who want to get some amazing views of the whales as they pass by.
Another great viewing spot is Point Reyes in Marin County. Jutting 10 miles into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the finest spots to view the gray whale. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary provides a 20-mile wide “highway” along which the whales cruise; sometimes they travel in the close lane (nearer to shore), and sometimes they travel in the far lane (farther out to sea). The areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots anywhere. Some other suggestions for spotting whales are coastal vantage points near Monterey Bay and Half Moon Bay, both south of San Francisco.
Our Half Moon Bay, Muir Woods, and Northern California Coastline tour experiences can easily be adapted into a “California Coastline Whale-Watching” tour experience as you cruise from viewpoint to viewpoint in a Tesla Model S all-Electric luxury sedan. Additionally, our curators can customize any of our other tours or completely develop a new tour experience to meet your desires. We can also assist with boat charters and transportation to and from the ports. Call our office at 707.724.0247 or book online today.
Although the period from January through March is the peak time period to view the migration, don’t forget to come back from April through May, as the whales return North. There are plenty of opportunities to spot the mothers and their calves!