Whale Watching on the U.S. Pacific Coast
I get absolutely giddy with joy around spring time. As an avid whale watcher, the spring season means that humpback and gray whales make their annual 12,000-mile journey from cold Alaska waters to breed in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean further south.
Starting now through early April, state parks, recreation departments, and beaches throughout the West Coast have set up a string of whale-watching sites for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of a humpback or gray whale diving, jumping, or gliding over the top of the water. Volunteers are usually on hand to guide visitors, too. In Oregon, the parks and recreation department has volunteers stationed at 28 different locations to help curious seekers find good whale-watching spots.
Though the best way to watch whales in the water is to hop on a charter boat tour, you can also watch for free from shore. Typically, the whale migration route is about one or two miles offshore and there are certain hotspots along the coast where you can sit with binoculars and watch. On the Olympic peninsula, for example, whales pass right by the town of Westport, WA–roughly three hours from Seattle.
This past weekend, I was able to break away from a family gathering with a few friends and drove to Big Sur on the California coast. We hiked along McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to McWay Falls in hot pursuit of any early whale migration sightings. We planted ourselves near the cliff overlooking the cool, blue water while sipping warm coffee and waited. Though I never did get my chance to see the gray whales that morning, I was excited to pick up fresh eucalyptus leaves on our way back.
Here are a few places that have great whale sightings. Feel free to send me some of your great sightings, too!
You can begin your walk to the whale sighting location by following The Clatsop Loop Trail, which was once a part of the Louis and Clark expedition.
Friday Harbor on San Juan is known for the best sightings of Orca (killer) whales. You can also spot bald eagles, sea lions, and seals in their natural settings.
This is one of the oldest parks in California. Take the San Simeon Creek trail for the best chance to whale sightings. The great thing about the park is wheelchair-friendly paths.
Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member MissBliss.
My name: Song Yang
How I earn my keep: I work and play at Travelocity.
Travel ambitions: At the moment, I'm dreaming of whale-watching in New Zealand; hiking the mountains of the Douro Valley in Portugal and motorcycling through rice paddies in Laos.
Best meal I've ever had while traveling: An incredible discovery of pulled-pork tacos in La Paz. The surprisingly delectable treat came from a makeshift taco stand at 1 a.m. Splashing lime juice onto our greasy tacos with fresh pico de gallo, we ate amongst the locals to the sound of blaring mariachi music under Christmas lights. It was fabulous!
Great travel lesson learned: Giving money back to the community by supporting local businesses whenever possible.
Favorite place on Earth: My home: New York City. Can it be possible for another city to be as vibrant as New York? If so, email me.