Every year, more than 20,000 gray whales make the 10,000 mile round-trip journey from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja for breeding season. That is the longest recorded distance that any mammal migrates on an annual basis.
Winter is peak gray whale migration season, and with 70 miles of California coastline directly along the route, whales pass right through Orange County. Also, Dana Point was just named the first Whale Heritage Site in the United States, making Orange County a world-class whale watching destination!
With whales measuring around 30-40 feet long and cruising at an average speed of six miles per hour, this parade of gentle giants truly a sight to behold. Whether you prefer to witness the gray whale migration from dry land, or want to get right in the heart of all the action, we break down the top spots around Orange County to spot them.
To view whales from shore, head to the end of the iconic San Clemente Pier, just steps from the resort. The quarter-mile long pier juts well into the ocean so you’re virtually guaranteed to spot marine life, and if you’re lucky, it’ll be a whale!
With no shortage of beaches around San Clemente, you have your pick of post-up spots. You can also head south a short distance to San Onofre State Beach, which is more secluded. You can also access hiking trails from the beach that provide expansive views of the ocean that are prime for whale migration sightings.
Simply pack a picnic, bring binoculars, and enjoy the show!
If you’d like to get a closer look at these creatures, Orange County offers several whale watching boat excursions. Tour operators will share their extensive knowledge of gray whales, and you may also spot other marine life such as orcas, seals, and dolphins.
Experience one-of-a-kind whale watching onboard Captain Dave’s catamaran out of Dana Point Harbor, which offers underwater viewing capability so you can see and hear whales below the surface. With a small number of people allowed onboard, the 2.5-hour tours give everyone a cushioned place to sit and plenty of room to spread out.
If you’d like to make a day trip out of whale watching, simply head south a little ways to Oceanside located in North San Diego County. Oceanside Adventures offers a two-hour narrated whale watching tour that’s perfect for the whole family.
No matter where you go to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants of the Pacific, you’re sure to have a whale of a time!
*This blog was published on 2/5/21. As state and local health guidelines are subject to change, please confirm hours of operation with local businesses prior to booking.