Twice each year, some 20,000 gray whales pass along the California coast as they swim south to breeding lagoons on the west coast of Baja California during winter months, then back to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic’s Bering Sea in spring. The round trip for these sea giants is roughly 12,000 mile and is considered one of the longest among mammals.
If you’d like to witness this epic journey, the peak months for whale watching are January through May. If the weather is good, whales can be seen within a few hundred yards of coastal headlands. During spring migration, even little whales are a big deal, as the recently born calves cavort with their mothers on their way back to colder waters.
Click through the above gallery for prime whale viewing locations along the Sonoma Coast. For more winter adventures, check out our guide to local waterfalls.
PLEASE NOTE: Always read and obey warning signs along the coast. Ocean conditions can change quickly, and the absence of a particular sign does not mean there is no threat of hazardous conditions. Always keep a safe distance to the ocean and be careful when looking through binoculars and taking photos.