Explore San Francisco

4 Spots to See Gray Whales in Northern California This Winter

The ocean giants pass through the Bay Area on their annual migration south.

As our annual holiday traditions wrap up, gray whales are just beginning their own tradition: the migration. This month, these ocean giants commute south from the icy waters of the Arctic to reproduce in the warm lagoons of Baja California. With countless accessible vantage points, from shoreline to hills, Sonoma is one of the best spots to catch the action. You might see a whale's majestic breach or its powerful tail slap, and it's not uncommon to find curious whales staring right back at you. Grab your binoculars and read on for a look at some of the best spots to get up-close and personal with the grays.

Bodega Bay Head

This peninsula juts out into the ocean, providing some of the best views in Sonoma County. Stewards of the Coast volunteers staff the area on weekends with spotting scopes and answers to all your whale questions.

Salt Point State Park

Walking paths and drive-ins along this elevated stretch of coast provide frequent gray whale sightings.

Point Reyes

In Marin, Chimney Rock and the lighthouse offer the finest views in the park. On a good day, there are up to 100 whale sightings. Arrive early on weekends to beat the crowds and dress warmly.

Still Water Cove Regional Park

Later in the year, calm waters and wind protection make this a popular spot for mothers to bring their calves on their return trip north.

By the Numbers:

  • 15-18,000 number of gray whales migrating south
  • 11,000 roughly the number of miles grays migrate each year
  • 45 Feet length of a male gray whale
  • 75,000 Pounds weight of a male gray whale
  • 500 Pounds weight of a gray whale's tongue
  • 500 Feet how deep gray whales dive