Whale Watching in Northern California
Northern California has a lot to offer visitors. Whether you’re spending a few nights soaking up the nightlife of San Francisco, meandering through the hills and valleys of beautiful wine country or hiking the legendary trails at Big Sur, you’ll appreciate all the magnificence and splendor the area possesses. However, there’s no doubt that one of the biggest draws to northern California is the majestic Pacific Ocean.
Whale watching is a huge tourist draw along the Pacific Coast and especially in northern California. If you have plans to go whale watching in this area, be prepared to see some of the world’s most beautiful and biggest sea creatures in the emerald waters. They swim far out in the ocean and come in closer to the coast to feed and swim in the inlets, so you stand a good chance of catching a glimpse, whether you’re out on a boat or watching from the shore. Here are some of the best ways to go whale watching in northern California.
Whale-watching cruises come in many different forms and varieties. You can take a two-hour tour from a local harbor or find week-long cruises that sail all the way down to Baja and back. You can spot whales almost any time of year, so get your binoculars ready! The Oceanic Society offers whale-watching trips that leave from San Francisco or Half Moon Bay. You can do a full or half-day boat tour and expect to see blue, humpback and gray whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions along with rare seabirds, great white sharks, sea turtles and heaps of other marine life.
Sticking out 10 miles into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes peninsula offers one of the best places to view the California gray whale. They spend about one-third of their lives migrating from the cold waters of Alaska down to the shallow waters of Baja, California, and you can see them passing through from a standpoint on Point Reyes. The optimal times to view them are usually mid-January and mid-March. You can take a shuttle bus from the Drakes Beach parking lot out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas, which are the best places for viewing.
Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center
Monterey Bay Whale Watch Center offers year-round whale-watching trips to let you see the wonderful diversity of whales and dolphins that inhabit the Monterey Bay. It’s one of the best places in the country to see a wide variety of marine life and seabirds. You’ll hop aboard a ship that will take you right up close to the shallow-water species like the gray whale, humpback whale, blue whale, northern right whale, dolphins and beaked whales, just to name a few. The captains have over 20 years of experience with nature trips and can offer you an intimate and knowledgeable experience aboard their ships.
Pacific Coast Highway
Another great way to see the wonderful whales of the Pacific is to take a drive along the legendary Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1. It weaves down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles and offers breathtaking views of the water and the staggering cliffs leading down to the shore. Keep your eyes on the road while you’re driving, but there are plenty of scenic overlooks where you can stop to get a glimpse of the giant whales making their way through the waters.