From late November through February you may see California gray whales, 40 – 60 feet long. They are migrating from the rich feeding fields of the Arctic region down the California coast. Pregnant whales are usually in the lead, with non-pregnant females and males following behind, courting and mating as they travel. After a four to seven week stay in the lagoons of coastal Baja, while the birthing takes place, the migration returns by the North Coast from late February through April. On their journey, the whales move past Point Reyes, the Farallon Islands, through Half Moon Bay and Monterey Bay, and follow the coastline along Southern California before reaching Mexico. Mothers and their calves leave last, so they can be seen passing by as late as early May.
To see the whales at close range, you can take a whale-watching cruise or, if you’re fortunate, you may sight one of these incredile creatures as you gaze at the ocean from a bluff. The fascinating migration of California gray whales can be observed from Sonoma County shores or on whale-watching cruises. Local fishing boats offer whale-watching cruises throughout the season. While on a cruise, you may see dolphins, humpback whales, harbor seals, seabirds, and possibly even a blue whale, the largest animal known to man. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods offers Docent led Whale Watching Tours.
Whale watching season along the Sonoma coast peaks in December and January. Great viewing opportunities abound at Gualala Point and Stillwater Regional Parks, or Black Point and Walk On Beach accesses (in Sea Ranch). The large males, females, and their calves, are often seen from Bodega Head. The local Whale Watching Club gathers there with “Official Whale Watcher” gear and shows visitors what to look for and where whales have been spotted. Other good locations include Fort Ross State Park, Timber Cove, Salt Point Park and Sonoma Coast State Beach (Shell Beach). Observers should look for the whale’s 10-15 foot spouts.