Whale Watching in the Bay Area
The Bay Area is a great place to watch whales because its coastline resides within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a 276-mile stretch of Pacific Ocean between Marin and San Luis Obispo Counties.
Gray whales, blue whales, humpbacks and orcas can all be spotted beachside and by boat. Whales migrate up and down the North American coastline every year, giving us humans lots of opportunities to watch their journeys.
The Bay Area’s biodiversity makes for nutrient-rich waters where sea life can feed, making it one best places in the world to view whales and other marine wildlife. So grab your binoculars and visit one of these spots along the coast to see some whales in their natural habitat.
Bodega Bay Head Park, Sonoma Coast State Park – Stand on top of the cliffs of the Bodega Headland for a bird’s eye view of migrating gray whales. Whales can also be viewed from one of the charter whale watching boats that operate out of the Spud Point Marina. Westshore Road, Bodega Bay.
Point Bonita Lighthouse – This1855 lighthouse perched 300 feet above the water in the Marin Headlands provides a prime spot for whale-watching, as well as excellent views of the Pacific to one side, and San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the other. Bunker Road at Alexander Avenue, Sausalito.
Point Reyes National Seashore – Come to Point Reyes Peninsula to catch a view of whales passing through the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, among other animal and plant life. While you’re there, don’t miss a tour of the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, which just reopened to the public on Nov. 8 at the conclusion of a $5.7 million rehabilitation project. Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Chimney Rock Road, Inverness.
San Francisco, the Peninsula and South
Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge – This small group of islands in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary are located about 30 miles out from the Golden Gate Bridge. While not open to the public, it is a hotspot for whale watching tours because its diverse ecosystem makes it a feeding ground. Numerous charter companies offer tours, some leaving from Pier 39 on The Embarcadero in San Francisco.
Pigeon Point Light Station Historic State Park – This historic lighthouse south of Half Moon Bay celebrated its 147th anniversary this year. Whales, seal and other marine life can be regularly seen just beyond the surf. Have a picnic on the beach or take a hike on the walking trail to complete the day. 210 Pigeon Point Road, Pescadero.
Pillar Point Bluff – Take a walk on the Jean Lauer Trail, a mostly flat, kid-friendly trail along the San Mateo County coastline just north of Half Moon Bay. Look for migrating whales from atop the bluff, the beach or one of many other vista points along the trail. Airport Street, Moss Beach.
Monterey Bay – Monterey Bay, with Santa Cruz to the north and the city of Monterey to the south, is one of the best places to go whale-watching because of its rich, natural habitat that attracts all kinds of sea life to feed. Whales often feed close to the shore, making it easy to see them without having to go on a boat ride. For a closer look, there are dozens of companies offers tours.
Malaika Fraley is a calendar editor at Bay Area Parent.