Explore the Outdoors of Mendocino County
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Outdoor Adventures in Mendocino County California

The Whales Go Swimming By

Whale Watching on the Mendocino Coast

The Whale Festivals for the year have wrapped up but the whales are still swimming by. We have not hit the peak of the gray whale migration on the Mendocino Coast. One can expect to see gray whales migrating along the coast through the beginning of May. Year round we have gray whale and orca sightings. In the late summer and fall, we will see humpback whales.

Gray whale swimming in the Noyo Bay.

The best place to see whales up close is to go out on a boat.

Several charter boats in the Noyo Harbor offer whale watching trips December through April. Check out All Aboard Adventures.

Guide’s Tip - If you are prone to motion sickness, take precautions before going out on a boat. I limit alcohol consumption the day before, drink plenty of water, and sometimes will take an over the counter motion sickness medicine before the trip.

Here are my favorite places on land to watch for whales on the Mendocino Coast:

  1. Noyo Headlands Park South - On the northern migration, mamma whales often travel close to shore with their babies. It is not uncommon for them to cruise into Noyo Bay and come very close to the north point of Noyo Bay.

  2. Laguna Point in Mackerricher State Park - stroll on the boardwalk out to the overlooks and watch for whales. You are also likely to see harbor seals on the rocks. If you go at low tide, Mackerricher is a great spot for tidepooling.

  3. Point Cabrillo Lighthouse - Walking along the headlands of Point Cabrillo is a good spot to watch for whales. Check out the marine science exhibit to learn fun facts about gray whales.

  4. Point Mendocino - Mendocino Bay - Whales often travel into Mendocino Bay. It is not uncommon to see them cutting across the bay. We have even seen them just outside of the surf at Big River and in the cove by Portugese Beach.

Guide’s Tip - Binoculars are often nice for watching whales from land (not from a boat). If you forgot yours or are shopping for a new pair, definitely check with the binocular experts at Out of This World in Mendocino. Also, watch your footing on shore when watching whales.

If you are getting skunked for seeing live whales, there are several displays with whale bones on the Mendocino Coast. Mackerricher State Park has a whale skeleton display. The Noyo Center for Marine Science in downtown Fort Bragg has an Orca Skeleton on display. Stay tuned for when the Noyo Center puts the blue whale skeleton on display.

For more information on the Pacific Gray Whales, check out this information complied by the Noyo Center for Marine Science.

Cate Hawthorne