The 2015 gray whale migration season has ended. Dates for the 2016 season will be announced in the fall. We are currently running Farallon Islands Whale Watching tours every weekend through November. Details here.
The annual gray whale migration is one of the world's most magnificent and accessible wildlife spectacles. Each fall, thousands of gray whales migrate from their summer feeding grounds around Alaska down to the waters of Baja California, Mexico where they breed and calf. In the spring, the whales and their calves migrate back up north for the summer.
Their migration pathway follows closely along the California coast, providing us with outstanding opportunities for coastal whale watching.
Oceanic Society offers gray whale watching from December through May out of Half Moon Bay (and sometimes San Francisco). Trips from Half Moon Bay last for 3-hours, with departures on Saturdays and Sundays.
Our gray whale watching cruises are offered most Saturdays and Sundays from late December through mid-May, and last approximately 3 hours each. As we look for gray whales and other wildlife, one of our expert naturalists will talk about gray whale biology and the conservation efforts that brought them back from near extinction, and will provide natural history information on other seabird and marine mammal species that we encounter.
Trips depart from Pillar Point Yacht Harbor in Half Moon Bay, approximately 1 hour south of San Francisco. There is one departure per day (Saturdays and Sundays only), at 9:00 AM, returning at approximately 12:00 PM.
Approximately 3 hours.
Our itinerary will be flexible, and we generally travel 1-12 miles offshore depending upon the location of the gray whale migration pathway.
Our Coast Guard certified vessel, the 56-foot Salty Lady, has an observation deck, limited indoor seating, and gender-specific bathrooms. Our captains are experienced in nature cruises and committed to marine conservation.
Warm, layered clothing with a waterproof outer layer is strongly recommended.
Free off-street parking is available at the harbor.
FOOD & REFRESHMENTS:
Bring snacks and beverages.
No smoking is allowed on Oceanic Society cruises.
Age minimum 8; an adult must accompany children under 15.
The focus of our trip is to observe gray whales as they migrate from their breeding areas in Mexico back north to feeding grounds in Alaska. We often see gray whale mother and calf pairs (the calves having just been born in Mexico), as well as whales traveling individually or in small groups. We also regularly encounter California sea lions, harbor seals, and harbor porpoises, and occasionally see humpback whales, Dall's porpoises, elephant seals, Steller sea lions, and other species.
We see a wide range of seabirds on every trip. Some of the species we encounter are: Common Loons; Eared Grebes; Western Grebes; Brown Pelicans; Double-crested Cormorants; Brandt's Cormorants; Pelagic Cormorants; Black Scoters; Surf Scoters; White Winged Scoters; Bufflehead Ducks; Black Oystercatchers; California Gulls; Herring Gulls; Western Gulls; Heerman's Gulls; Common Murres; Pigeon Guillemots; Buller's Shearwaters; Sooty Shearwaters; Red-necked Phalaropes; Cassin's Auklets; Rhinoceros Auklets; Common Mergansers; Northern Fulmars
The staff was very friendly and informative and the crew of the ship was outstanding. I would highly recommend this experience if you can fit it into your schedule. You won't regret it!
Lived in the Bay Area for 10 years, boy have I missed a great experience before.
For those who don't want to wait patiently for the action to come to them, catch a ride aboard a whale watching expedition out of Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay [...] Sightings are not guarantees ... but if it's rush hour, the payoff is great.
The Oceanic Society runs top-notch, naturalist-led, ocean-going weekend boat trips – sometimes to the Farallon Islands – during both whale-migration seasons.
On trips out of Pillar Point Harbor, I've seen whales parallel the boat's course for an hour. They can give a tail salute, spy-hop, even breach, with lots of "puff-of-smoke" spouts, as in, "There she blows."
Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle