Here are the best spots for whale watching in the Bay Area


Gray whales are on the move – with their calves in tow.

The majestic sea mammals have begun their spring migration north along the California coast, escorting their 1,000-pound hatchlings from the shallow lagoons of Baja to the arctic waters of Alaska.

The whales’ northerly journey brings them closer to shore than their stay in the south, which means Bay Area residents can spot the spotted giants with or without binoculars (though binoculars are recommended). The parade of migrating couples will resume this month, peaking in early to mid-May.

Marine experts recommend setting out in the morning, when the sun is away from the water, and scanning the ocean surface for the telltale puffs of steam rising from the whales’ blowholes. Before heading to the coast, it is advisable to check the surf zone forecasts and coastal advisories.

Here are seven places that offer the best chance of spotting whales.

This granite promontory west of Bodega Bay is considered an important navigational landmark for the thousands of whales that migrate past the Bay Area each year, making it one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the female cows with their newly born calves. Keep an eye out for marine mammal enthusiasts with laptops, who frequent the peninsula to tally up their whale sightings, which can total over 100 in a single day.

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A popular whale-watching spot in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the southernmost point of Marin Headlands offers views of whale-populated waters, Bonita Cove, and San Francisco. While the Point Bonita Lighthouse itself is closed during the pandemic, visitors can view the lighthouse from Bird Island Overlook.

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Once a military outpost, the windswept cliffs offer plenty of whale watching opportunities within San Francisco city limits. Although the trails are paved, the steep paths to the sand dunes and the beach are not. Dogs are allowed off leash, making this a popular spot for dogs and their two-legged companions.

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This well-marked paved trail makes whale watching accessible to anyone with a motorized scooter, stroller, or bicycle. The parking lots on either side of the Devil’s Slide Tunnel add to the ease of use. Formerly known as a treacherous stretch prone to landslides, this former segment of Highway 1 is now part of the California Coast Trail that stretches 1,200 miles from Oregon to Mexico.

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