Don’t miss the Pacific Gray Whale migration happening until March
—A whale breaching its 30-ton body out of the water and splashing back down is one of the most dramatic events for whale watchers to experience. Another thrilling behavior to see is “spyhopping,” when whales, dolphins and some sharks, rise partially out of the water, appearing to gaze at nearby whale watchers. Scientists think the habit lets the animal get a better view of nearby activity.
Whales can be seen along the Central Coast all year but the best times are during the migrations.
- The Pacific Gray Whale can be 45 feet long and weigh up to 33 tons. The best months to watch gray whales are December to February when they are migrating from the Arctic to their breeding grounds in Baja California then again from February to April during their northern migration.
- The Eastern North Pacific blue whales spend the summer and fall months feeding in California coastal waters then return to winter in the waters off of Mexico and Central America. Although the most elusive whale, blue whale sightings are reportedly increasing. Blue whales are the largest known animal on earth, growing to 100 feet and weigh about 150 tons. Even calves measure up to 25 feet at birth.
- The best months for seeing Humpback Whales are April through December when they are feeding off the coast of California. Humpback whales are distinctive due to their long, narrow, scalloped flippers. They grow to 55 feet long.
Fin whales are also sighted in Central Coast waters in the winter. Anytime you are on or near the ocean you can expect to see a lot of sea life including sea birds, sea otters, sea lions, dolphins, whales and maybe a rare and treasured orca sighting.
The best practice for watching whales is to have a pair of binoculars when exploring the Central Coast cliffs and shorelines. Whales can often be seen far out in the ocean from high spots, indicated by moving dark lines and shapes in the water. Your binoculars will come in handy for watching them.
For the excitement and drama of close-up encounters, Virg’s Landing offers whale watching tours out of Morro Bay and can be reached at (805) 772-1222 as well as Morro Bay Whale Watching (805) 772-9463 and Patriot Sport Fishing (805) 771-5500. Avila Beach is also a popular departure point for whale watching tours on the Central Coast.