Whales can be spotted off Sonoma’s rugged 55-mile coast throughout the year, but right now—the month of March—is the best time of all to lay eyes on these amazing cetaceans.
Pacific gray whales are traveling north now, heading back to their feeding grounds in Alaska’s Bering Sea from the warm birthing and pleasure lagoons of the Baja Peninsula. On this northward journey mother whales—accompanied by young calves making their first migration—tend to move slowly and stay close to shore, allowing the calves to nurse and rest.
The calves are just a few months old, despite their massive size. When born they’re about 15-16’ long and weigh close to a ton. For months they have gained weight at the rate of 60-70 pounds per day, thanks to drinking about 50 gallons of extremely thick and high-fat mother’s milk daily. By the time they head north they’ve blubbered up and become strong enough to survive the months-long journey.
Sonoma’s coast offers many ideal locations to view these amazing cetaceans as they breach, spout water through blowholes, and play.
A great place to catch sight of them is Bodega Head, a small peninsula that shelters Bodega Bay. On weekends through May, volunteers knowledgeable about whales are on hand to answer questions and give informative talks.
Bodega Head is part of Sonoma Coast State Park, where you’ll find many sandy coves and broad beaches just perfect for settling in with a picnic, exploring tidal pools, taking hikes—and keeping an eye out for traveling whales. Download a map and/or brochure of Sonoma Coast State Park.
If you want to combine a drive along the coast with whale watching, consider traveling north to Gualala Point Regional Park, the public access trails at Sea Ranch, or Stillwater Regional Park. Other good view spots include Fort Ross State Historic Park, Kruse Rhododendron State Nature Preserve, and Salt Point State Park.
Or opt for a whale-watch boat trip, which offers the chance to get relatively close to whales while staying at a safe distance (not only for you, but for them, too). Bodega Charters has two trips per day through April ($50/adults, $35/children under 13). Fish On Charters is also going out twice daily through February ($55/person, including children).
So what are you waiting for? The best time is now! Grab your camera and binocs and head for Sonoma’s coast this month to marvel over those migrating mother whales and calves.
Written by Sonoma Insider Suzie Rodriguez