As we get into late winter/spring which is prime gray whale viewing off Orange County, we can expect lots of sightings close enough to shore that you can view them without being on a boat. While booking a trip on a whale watching boat is of course the best option to see whales, for those who get sea sick easily or like to stay on land there are some other options for you. Certain spots along the Orange County Coastline tend to have more sightings close to shore due to the whales favoring certain beaches which enable them to roll around in the shallows to run barnacles off, these gray whales are known to get into about 10 feet of water which is right in the shore break. There is no better time of day as these gray whales are all migrating non-stop however lighting is better from shore in the morning and afternoon.
See whales from shore in Orange county!
1. Crescent Bay Point Park, Laguna Beach
This is a hidden gem tucked away a few hundred feet from Pacific Coast Highway, this park offers an incredible view of The Pacific with lookouts on a bluff that sticks out farther than the surrounding houses. Because of this vantage point allowing you to see up and down the coast, you will have a great view for spotting gray whales migrating past. This particular location is great for spotting dolphins swimming past as well. If you look straight out, you will see rocks jetting out of the water which is called Seal Rocks, it's a common place for sea lions to gather along with sea birds, if you have binoculars you should be able to spot some sea lions there. This is our number 1 spot because all of those along with the beautiful blue water down below at Crescent Bay.
2. Dana Point Headlands
This location offers a nice high vantage point out to sea and down the coast. What's cool about this spot is the fact that you can actually see whales from the comfort of sitting in your car if that's your thing, there is parking along the headlands overlooking the ocean. There is also a nature trail that will offer you a better vantage point which overlooks Dana Point Harbor as well and at the top of the headlands is an interpetive center that has lots of great info.
3. Balboa Pier
While there are several piers in Orange County, some piers like Huntington and San Clemente rarely ever see whales due to water depth and geography of the coast since the gray whales will tend to take a straight line route rather than following every bit of the coast. However, this very special spot between Balboa Pier and The Wedge is a favorite spot for gray whales to come in very close to shore to roll around in the shallows, sometimes coming into 5 feet of water. There are not many places that the gray whales do this behavior so this is a very special spot. Sometimes the gray whales will stop by and do this behavior for a couple minutes while sometimes they will do it for several hours, it seems like it happens more so during morning hours and when it's nice and calm with no wind. This location is not the best to see the most whales but this location will have the best experience seeing them from shore, you might just have to be very patient or get lucky. While they might stop and roll around here on their southbound migration, it's much more likely to happen during their northbound migration which happens here around March-May.