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California RECOMMENDATIONS See all

Whale Watching off the Central Coast

By Hudson, USA, June 2011

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December to right around the end of March and beginning of April is prime Gray Whale watching season along the Central Coast of California. The season varies slightly depending upon where along the coast you plan on observing these lumbering leviathans and what type of whale you’re most keen to see (Blue and Humpback Whales migrate from around July to September), but the best watching is undoubtedly at the seasonal cusps.

Whales migrate according to feeding and breeding schedules. Leaving the warmer waters of Baja California where their mating rituals take place, and returning to feed in the colder, food-rich waters off the coast of Alaska, the whales hit something of a bottleneck off the coast of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands in what is known as the Santa Barbara Channel. This small California town is known locally as the American Riviera and boats a mean annual temperature of 72 degrees F. It is a beautiful, palm tree–lined place to stop and eat, and the harbor here has several whale watching agencies that take you out to see the estimated 10,000 Grey Whales that pass through this bottleneck every year.

Further up north in Monterey, another small and picturesque coastal village, there are more great opportunities to jump aboard a ship and go float about with the whales. Good culture in this sleepy town too, with Steinbeck’s Cannery Row famously set here, and one of the nicest aquariums you’re likely to ever get a chance to visit.
Another good place to spot a whale or two, though this time from ashore, is Gualala Point Regional Park. Here, the park sticks out a bit into the Pacific ocean and so allows for prime cetacean viewing while staying nice and dry with your feet firmly planted on solid ground.

Though there are places all along the California coast to spot these majestic giants, the above are merely some of my tried and tested favorites. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and see some whales while you can!

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