The gray whales are back, hugging the California coast while they make their 10,000-mile journey from Alaska to breed in the warm-water lagoons of Baja, Mexico, and back. In January, crew members on a whale-watching boat used a drone to record a baby gray whale and its mom off Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point.
Capt. Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Whale Watching estimated that the calf spotted Jan. 7 was a day or so old, the Associated Press reported. “You could still see the fetal folds on it behind the blowhole,” he said. (You can watch video at bit.ly/babygraywhale.)
Want to spot a whale on your own? Pacific gray whales are on the move through April along the coast. Here’s what you need to know to see them.
Where to watch from land
Palos Verdes Peninsula: Every year since 1984, trained volunteers with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society count the number of whales as they make their way past the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Bring your own binoculars and watch from the same spot as counters mark their daily and season totals on a board for all to see. Number of whales seen as of early February: 392, including 33 calves heading south.
Ventura: The end of the Ventura Pier is a good place to spot migrating grays when they pass between the Channel Islands and the mainland. The pier, built in 1872, is open year-round and it’s free.
Dana Point: You’ll have a good vantage point at the 60-acre Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. Go to the nature center’s patio for the best views of the ocean and the whales. (The center will let you check out binoculars for free.) You can also attend a free Whale Walk & Talk at 9 to 11 a.m. the second Saturday of the month.
For more whale-watching places from land, go to TheWhaleTrail.org, which maps sites from San Diego to British Columbia, Canada.
Where to take a whale-watching tour in Southern California
Tours usually include a naturalist on board to help identify whales plus other wildlife such as dolphins and seals. Most operate until mid-April.
Los Angeles County
- L.A. Waterfront Cruises, 1150 Nagoya Way, San Pedro; $30 (two hours)
- Harbor Breeze Cruises, 100 Aquarium Way Dock #2, Long Beach; $35 (2½ hours)
- Redondo Beach Sportfishing & Whale Watch, 140 International Boardwalk; $35 (2½ hours)
- Marina Del Rey Sportfishing, 13759 Fiji Way, Marina Del Rey; $35 (2½ hours)
- Spirit Cruises, 429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach; $25 (two hours)
- Dana Wharf Whale Watching, 34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point; $49 (two hours)
- Newport Landing Whale Watching, 309 Palm St. A, Newport Beach; $34 (two hours)
- Davey’s Locker, 400 Main St., Newport Beach; starting at $28 (twp hours)
- Flagship Cruises & Events, 990 N. Harbor Drive; starting at $45 (3½ hours)
- H&M Landing, 2803 Emerson St.; starting at $30 (three hours)
- Hornblower Cruises & Events, Pier 2: 970 N. Harbor Drive; starting at $50 (3½ hours)
- Fun Cat Sailing, Gate A-D, 955 Harbor Island Drive; $85 (3½ hours)
- Adventure Rib Rides, 1380 Harbor Island Drive; $98 (three hours)
- San Diego Whale Watch, 1617 Quivira Road; $48 (tjree hours)
- Island Packers, 1691 Spinnaker Drive, No. 105B; $38 (3½ hours)
- Channel Islands Sportfishing , 4151 S. Victoria Ave., Oxnard; $58
- Wild Blue Adventures, 4151 S Victoria Ave, Oxnard; $45 (2½ hours)
Where to see gray whales to the north
- Santa Cruz Whale Watching, 1718 Brommer St.; adult: $51.00, child (ages 4-13): $36.
- All Aboard Adventures Charter Boat, 32410 N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg; $40
- Anchor Charter Boats, 32440 N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg; $40
- Telstar Charters, 32390 N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg; $40
- Golden Gate Whale Watch, Pier 39, just off the Embarcadero; $45 (2½ hours)
- Gray Whale Watching Tour, Pier 39, just off the Embarcadero; $59 (3½ hours)
- Sanctuary Cruises, 7881 Sandholdt Road; $45 (two to three hours)
- Blue Ocean Whale Watch, 7881 Sandholdt Road; $50 (three to four hours)
- Chris’ Whale Watching, 48 Fishermans Wharf; $41
- Discovery Whale Watching, 66 Fishermans Wharf; $47 (3½ hours)
- Monterey Bay Whale Watch, 84 Fishermans Wharf; $49 (three hours)
- Princess Monterey Whale Watching, 96 Fishermans Wharf; $50 (2½ hours)
Tips for whale watchers
▶ Planning is key: Winter is prime time for whale-watching in California, which means trips can fill up fast. Make reservations.
▶ Dress warmly: Although it may feel warm on land, layer up with a windbreaker or other jacket on top. Temperatures may be 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the ocean.
▶ Carry sun block: Wear sunscreen even if it is overcast or gray. You can get sunburned even under cloudy skies because sunlight bounces back up from the water’s surface.
▶ Take binoculars: It’s the only way to get an up-close look at the whales.
▶ Wear flat, rubber-soled shoes: The deck is likely to get wet, and a wet deck is a slippery deck.
▶ Take seasickness medication before you go: If you are prone to seasickness, take medications at least an hour before you board.