From November to February each year along the Mendocino coast, migrating California gray whales travel from their feeding grounds in Alaska south to Baja California, Mexico. There, in the warm coastal lagoons, they have calves who are raised to make the return trip between February and April. The whales undertake the longest annual migration of any known mammal—a round-trip of about 10,000 miles, and you can spot them along the way.
Where to See Whales
During their migration, the whales pass the coastal village of Mendocino, which is perched on bluffs overlooking the ocean. The location is ideal for spotting them spouting, breaching, and diving on their epic journey. Nearly any coastal turn-off can provide a great view, but there are a few key spots to keep in mind.
In Mendocino, hike along the gentle trails on the rugged coastline of Mendocino Headlands State Park, visit the Point Cabrillo Light Station, or take the Whale Trail at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
In Fort Bragg, the Noyo Headlands Coastal Trail takes walkers along rugged cliff tops with panoramic views of the ocean. It’s also near the Noyo Center for Marine Science, where visitors can use telescopes to spot whales and view marine science displays.
North of Fort Bragg, the platform overlooking the harbor seal site at MacKerricher State Park can also be a great place to spot whales (and don't forget to stop by Glass Beach while you are there). In Point Arena, the Point Arena Lighthouse is perched on ocean bluffs with front-row views.