Are you wild about whales, but would you prefer to watch them from the shore? Here are some of the best beaches where the likelihood of whale spotting is higher than average. Some of these seaside locations specialize in whale related viewing platforms and programs. Others enjoy a word-of-mouth reputation for being whale sighting locales. All of them are great places to enjoy the many splendors where the ocean and the land meet.
East Coast Whale Watching Beaches
In Maine in June, July and August, good whale-spotting locations from shore are at the West Quoddy Head tip of Campobello island, the easternmost point of land in the USA. Other choices are Bass Harbor lighthouse, Seal Island, Mount Desert Rock (the farthest offshore of Maine’s islands), the shoals of Jeffrey’s Ledge, and Matinicus Rock.
For fantastic on-the-beach whale watching at Provincetown, Massachusetts, go out to the observation deck at the Race Point Beach visitors center. Take along your binoculars. If you want to get even closer, there are whale watching tour boats at the nearby Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.
At Virginia Beach, Virginia, whale watching is a winter activity from the end of December until the middle of March. Early morning winter whale watching from Little Island Pier is a local tradition. Consider taking part in their annual Winter Wildlife Festival, which occurs in January (in 2016 it is January 29-41).
The northeastern Florida coastline from Daytona to St Augustine offers the rare opportunity to see the North American Right Whale. There are a number of places along the coast to consider, including Guana Tolamoto Matanzas National Estuarine Preserve, where you can the short walk to the beach. for viewing Right Whales winter in the ocean there. It is also a pet friendly beach. Or take up a position on the the sands at Ponte Vedra Beach.
West Coast Whale Watching Beaches
Lovely La Push, Washington, is the headquarters city of The Quileute Tribe. Famously, they host an annual “Welcoming the Whales“ ceremony, usually in the spring. March and April are usually the best times to see the gray whale migrations. If you are on a promontory, your sweep of the ocean is larger, making seeing the whales more likely. Of course, you can enjoy the wildly rugged Pacific coast with its cliffs and sea stacks all year long.
San Juan Islands, Washington’s Lime Kiln Point State Park is such a good place for whale spotting it is also known as Whale Watch Park. Here you can see all kinds of wildlife, including shore birds, red foxes, a nesting pair of bald eagles, and orcas. These distinctive black and white killer whales are frequent visitors to the waters off South Beach. The park Includes trails and a lighthouse built in 1919.
In Oregon, head for Gold Beach and its ideally situated neighbor, the six-mile-long Bailey’s Beach, just two miles north of the town. This idyllic location on the Oregon Coast is a great place to do whale spotting from the shore. Another great whale watching spot nearby is Cape Sebastian. During Whale Watching Week you can look for 26 vantage points all along the Oregon coast with big “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs. Trained volunteers help visitors spot gray whales during the winter (late December) and spring (March) migrations.
Mendocino, California, offers a variety of venues for whale spotting from shore. Consider the Mendocino Headlands State Park, just a short stroll from Mendocino Village, where they can be seen swimming just a hundred yards off the cliff face. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, in Fort Bragg (the only public garden in the continental U.S. right on the Pacific Ocean) or the new trail in Pomo Bluffs Park also offer good possibilities, with their lookouts and benches. At MacKerricher State Park a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk crosses the headlands to a deck on Laguna Point. There is an annual whale festival at Fort Bragg in March.
At Point Reyes National Seashore in California, the rangers report that the peak of the southern migration of the gray whales usually occurs in mid-January and that of the northern migration in mid-March. Late April and early May afford the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore. Numerous ranger led whale programs are offered during the whale season.
Moss Landing north of Monterey can be a congregating place for humpback whales in July and August. Sometimes they swim close enough to see them from shore for free at the north jetty. Anchovies attract the whales, and then the whales attract both the locals and the tourists to this California beach.
Whenever you choose to go whale watching, remember to take along some essentials, your binoculars, your camera, polarizing sunglasses, drinking water, and a hat with a brim to ward off the reflections. Be patient, as you are entering the world of the wild, where whales will do what they please. You may see them, and if so, the memories will last a lifetime.