Travel Attractions

California Whale Watching

Commercial whale watching dates from the winter day in 1955 when Chuch Chamberlin offered trips to see gray whales as they passed southern California on migration. The cost was 1$ US. Pioneer whale- watching naturalist Raymond M. Gilmore soon took over the trips which became something of a legend in California.They were whale watching at its best - part science, part education, full of unpredictable whale action and lots of fun. They were popular over three decades into the mid-1980s. Gilmore witnessed the growth of intense public interest in the whales and the birth and growing pains of a substantial industry that began modestly, but by late 1970s spread quickly up and down the west coast of North America along the entire length of the gray whale migration. From there it expanded to include other whale species in California and to whales in the North Atlantic and around the world.

The gray-whale-watching season in California varies along the coast during winter and spring as the grays migrate south to the mating and calving lagoons of México, then return north to feed mainly off Alaska. In addition, during summer, blue, humpback and other whales can be seen. In 1991, there were more than 50 companies or non-profit societies operating whale-watching tours from some 20 ports all along the California coast. The impact of whale watching thus is spread out along the entire 840-mile coast.

When To Go

Visit north California to Washington between December and May for migrating Gray Whales and June to September for summering ones; between August and October Blue and Humpback Whales and small cetaceans can be seen off central California. It can be cool on the water even when warm on land, and there is also the possibility of rain.

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