The gray whales are back. Where to go whale watching in California

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The gray whales are back, hugging the California coast on their 10,000 mile journey from Alaska to spawn in the warm water lagoons of Baja, Mexico and back. In January, crew members of a whale-watching boat used a drone to record a baby gray whale and its mother off Salt Creek Beach at Dana Point.

Captain Frank Brennan of Dana Wharf Whale Watching estimated the calf spotted Jan. 7 was about a day old, the Associated Press reported. “You could still see the fetal folds behind the vent,” he said. (You can watch the video at bit.ly/babygraywhale.)

Want to spot a whale for yourself? Pacific gray whales move through April along the coast. Here’s what you need to know to see them.

Where to look from land

Palos Verdes Peninsula: Every year since 1984, volunteers trained with the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society count the number of whales as they pass through the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Bring your own binoculars and watch from one spot as counters mark their daily and seasonal totals on a chart for all to see. Number of whales seen at the beginning of February: 392, including 33 calves heading south.

information: Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive West, Rancho Palos Verdes; bit.ly/ptvincente

Ventura: The end of Ventura Pier is a good place to spot migrating grays as they pass between the Channel Islands and the mainland. The pier, built in 1872, is open all year round and it’s free.

Information: Ventura Pier, 750 Harbor Blvd., Ventura; bit.ly/venturapier

Dana Point: You will have a good vantage point over the 60 acre Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. Head to the nature center patio for the best ocean and whale views. (The center will let you borrow binoculars for free.) You can also attend a free whale walk and talk from 9 to 11 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month.

Information: Dana Point Headlands, 34558 Scenic Drive, Dana Point; bit.ly/danapointwhales

For more whale watching locations from land, head to TheWhaleTrail.org, which maps sites from San Diego to British Columbia, Canada.

Where to Take a Whale Watching Tour in Southern California

Tours typically include an onboard naturalist to help identify whales as well as other wildlife such as dolphins and seals. Most operate until mid-April.

Los Angeles County

Orange County

San Diego

Channel Islands

Where to see gray whales in the north

santa cruz

Mendocino

San Francisco

foam landing

Monterey

Tips for whale watchers

Planning is key: Winter is the perfect time for whale watching in California, which means trips can fill up quickly. Make reservations.

Dress warmly: Although it may feel hot on dry land, wear a windbreaker or other jacket over it. Temperatures can be 10 to 15 degrees cooler over the ocean.

Bring sunscreen: Wear sunscreen even on overcast or gray days. You can get sunburned even under cloudy skies because sunlight bounces off the surface of the water.

Take binoculars: This is the only way to observe the whales up close.

Wear flat shoes with rubber soles: The deck is likely to get wet, and a wet deck is a slippery deck.

Take seasickness medicine before you go: If you are prone to seasickness, take your medication at least one hour before boarding.

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