NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Best Sites for Whale-Watching

Gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California (Mexico) in December and January and return to Alaska in March and April. In northern California this trek takes them along the coast, past Pt. Reyes, the Farallon Islands south to Monterey Bay and beyond. While in Mexico they feed, mate and give birth. The northern migration includes males, females and calves. Being mammals, the whales breathe air and must surface every 3-5 minutes. That is what offers us the opportunity to see them. In northern California, the whales follow one of two paths, one closer to shore and another farther out. The choice is theirs. The spots listed below offer the best opportunities to see them from shore. Boat tours are better yet.

Gray whales can grow to 50 feet in length and weigh 45 tons. Their migration of 12,000 miles is unmatched in the animal kingdom. Kayakers with a sense of adventure have had some almost other-worldly encounters with these gentle beasts. The only bad actor in this play are the killer whales which feed on both adults and their young. But such is life in the natural world.

Klamath River Overlook- Klamath

In our view this is the best spot of all. The overlook sits on a high bluff overlooking the ocean and the mouth of the Klamath River. The height provides an unprecedented view, and whales frequently come in very close to shore to feed and linger before continuing their trek. The overlook is on Requa Road just north of the village of Klamath about 2 miles off Hwy. 101.

Humboldt County State Parks

Humboldt Lagoons State Park (Dry Lagoon), phone: (707) 677-3121

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (Gold Bluffs Beach), phone: (707) 464-6101, extension 5300

Patrick's Point State Park, Trinidad (Wedding Rock, Patrick's Point and Palmer's Point) . Ph: 707-677-3570.

Westport- Union Landing State Beach (the bluffs), Westport. Ph: 707-937-5804

Mendocino County State Parks

MacKerricher State Park, Ft. Bragg (Laguna Point), Ph: 707-964-9112

Sonoma County State Parks

Sonoma Coast State Beach (707) 875-3483. Rangers and volunteers offer whale-watching tours at Bodega Head in December & January and again in March & April.

Fort Ross State Historic Park (707) 847-3286
Salt Point State Park (707) 847-3221

Monterey County State Parks
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park (Vista Point, Highway 1), phone (831) 667-2315
Garrapata State Park (831) 624-4909
Patrick's Point State Park (707) 677-3570
Point Lobos State Reserve (831) 624-4909
Point Sur State Historic Park (831) 625-4419

San Luis Obispo County State Parks
Montaña de Oro State Park, phone: (805) 528-0513
San Simeon State Beach, phone: (805) 927-2035

National Parks

Pt. Reyes National Seashore (Pt. Reyes Lighthouse; Chimney Rock) Note that in migration season, on weekends and holidays, a mandatory shuttle system is put in place and the road to these sites is closed.

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