Orca breaching near Morro Bay, courtesy of Mike Baird
Gray Whale from Cayucos pier, courtesy of Visitors Alliance of Cayucos
Sea otters in Morro Bay, courtesy of City of Morro Bay
Common Dolphin, photo courtsey of NOAA
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Male Northern Elephant Seal, courtsey Chris Yates NOAA
View our guide on when, where, and how to watch marine animals from shore.
With 19 sites and counting in California State, the Whale Trail provides access and best tips to viewing marine mammals. Explore the sites using the interactive map below or click the button to find a filterable listing of sites, amenities, and commonly seen marine mammals.
- All Regions
- CA Central Coast
- CA Northern Coast
- CA Southern Coast
Avila Beach Pier
Avila Beach is located just a stone’s throw from San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach on California's Highway 1 Discovery Route. Exit the 101 freeway and follow Avila Beach Drive, a scenic central coast road, which leads visitors through a lush valley lined with hundred year old oak and sycamore trees, and follows a meandering…
Shamel Community Park is a six-acre San Luis Obispo County Park with beach access and a beautiful ocean view. Leffingwell Landing Trail, Moonstone Beach, and all along the gorgeous ocean bluffs are the perfect places to watch whales and wildlife. The California Gray Whale migration south occurs in late December through February and migration north…
Cayucos is located on California’s scenic Central Coast, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The recently rebuilt Cayucos Pier was originally constructed in 1872 by Captain James Cass, the Founder of Cayucos. The Pier helped to establish Cayucos as a commercial port for ships sailing from Los Angeles and San Francisco to bring in…
Crissy Field Center
The waters within the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, located just a few miles from San Francisco, are part of a nationally significant marine ecosystem. Encompassing a diversity of highly productive marine habitats, the sanctuary supports an abundance of life, including many threatened or endangered species.
Dana Point Headlands
The four conservation parks that comprise the nearly 60 acres of the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area include Harbor Point Conservation Park, Dana Point Preserve, Hilltop Conservation Park and the South Strands Conservation Park. The conservation parks are home to over 150 species of plants and animals that are native to coastal Southern California including…
Discovery Center, San Simeon
The Coastal Discovery Center is a joint venture between Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and California State Parks. Located on beautiful San Simeon Bay, the Coastal Discovery Center celebrates the connection between land and sea.
Estero Bay is our gorgeous 15-mile bay situated in Los Osos/Baywood, Morro Bay and Cayucos. The calm waters are a home to many marine mammals, fish, birds and wildlife that are rarely seen in other parts of California.
Exploration Center, Santa Cruz
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center is located in the heart of Santa Cruz’s famed beach area, just steps away from the city’s Municipal Wharf and about .25 miles from the site of the new Whale Trail sign at Lighthouse Park.
Laguna Point is an easily accessible wildlife viewing platform. After parking at Laguna Point parking lot follow the level wheelchair accessible boardwalk 1/3 of a mile to the viewing platform where the shore and waters are abundant with marine life. Visit the MacKerricher State Park visitor center to learn more about our coastline.
Lighthouse Point, Santa Cruz
Also known as Point Santa Cruz, this area forms the northern boundary of Monterey Bay. It is one of the last open headlands in any California urban area. Surfers, tourists, birds - including the rare black swift - and wintering monarch butterflies are drawn to this area. The lighthouse is home to one of the…
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a 47-acre non-profit botanical garden stretching from Coast Highway 1 to the Pacific Ocean containing a wide variety of world-recognized plant collections. This botanical gardens is one of the few with an ocean view. Come experience the peaceful tranquility of our garden by the sea mixed with the rugged beauty…
Montaña de Oro State Park
Moñtana de Oro is a beautiful State Park located just south of Los Osos and six miles southwest from Morro Bay. The park features rugged cliffs, secluded sandy beaches, coastal plains, stream, canyons, and hills, including 1,347-foot Valencia peak. Naturalists, backpackers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders enjoy the solitude and freedom found along the park’s…
Morro Bay is a waterfront city in San Luis Obispo County, California. Located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Morro Bay is known as one of the most visually spectacular communities in America. Visitors can enjoy a plethora of year round activities including oceanside golf, kayaking, sailing, hiking, fishing, surfing, biking, bird watching, kite…
Navarro Point is a 56-acre Preserve containing stunning wildflowers and a 1.2-mile long coastal trail. Located just North of the Navarro River, this property offers spectacular views of the central Mendocino Coast.
Noyo Center for Marine Science
The Noyo Center for Marine Science Crow's Nest Interpretive Center sits directly on the Noyo Headlands in Fort Bragg. It is accessed via the Noyo Headlands Park Coastal Trail on a easy walking paved path. The Crow's Nest has an expansive view of the Pacific Coast and supplies spotting scopes for marine mammal watching. There…
Oceano and Nipomo
Oceano and Nipomo are authentic California beach towns at the edge of the largest dunes complex in the state, found along California’s Highway 1 Discovery Route. The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is the only place in California where visitors may drive on the beach and enjoy the area’s diverse recreation opportunities, from ATV…
Pacifica Municipal Pier
The Rev. Herschell Harkins Memorial Pier (a.k.a. the Pacifica Municipal Pier) was built in 1973 and thrusts out almost a quarter mile into the Pacific Ocean. It is a popular spot for fisherman and for wildlife viewing.
This stunning preserve, south of Point Arena, is now open to the public. Mendocino Land Trust (MLT) completed construction of a parking lot and 2.2-miles of trail in 2017. This 73-acre preserve is home to the endangered Point Arena Mountain Beaver and several rare plants, as well as a creek (which is recovering from cattle…
Pismo Beach is located along the Central Coast of California half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. This classic California beach town is famous for its miles of beautiful white sand beaches, outstanding accommodations and a rich wine region only minute’s away. Many visitors who come to Pismo Beach are now calling it their…
Point Arena Light Station
The Point Arena Light Station, 23 acres of rugged peninsula surrounded by water on three sides and shouldered adjacent to the Point Arena-Stornetta Unit of the California Coastal National Monument, is the premier visitor destination in Mendocino County. The Lighthouse Tower stands as an iconic figure on the landscape of the American Pacific Coast, and…
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Considered a “crown jewel” of the California State Park system, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve draws nature lovers from around the world. With its breathtaking beauty, fascinating wildlife and cadre of friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, Point Lobos is a place to experience nature’s wonders at its best.
Point Reyes National Seashore
From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures over thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people.
Port Hueneme Pier
The Port Hueneme Pier was originally constructed in 1956 and is 1,250 feet long and is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The pier offers sweeping views of the Channel Islands and California coastline. The pier is next to a wide, sandy, and uncrowded beach.
San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay
Located on San Francisco’s iconic waterfront, Aquarium of the Bay provides unforgettable encounters with local marine life that inspire both wonder and conservation. This marine nature center offers 300 feet of crystal clear acrylic tunnels holding 700,000 gallons of carefully maintained San Francisco Bay water that sustains approximately 20,000 animals who live in the Bay…
San Simeon's viewing site is situated on Scenic Highway One, 3 miles south of world-famous Hearst Castle and the 1860's site of shoreline whaling at historic San Simeon. Located on a sloping terrace above the Pacific, this site is 7 miles south of Piedras Blancas Light Station where the Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale Cow/Calf…
Set on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Slide Ranch combines breathtaking natural beauty with a down-to-earth vibe. Slide Ranch is an educational farm on the Marin coast dedicated to connecting people to nature. By wandering through our garden, saying hello to our animals, and exploring wilderness and the coast, we give opportunities for people…
Surfer’s Point, off Figueroa Street, includes one of California’s premier surfing and windsurfing spots. A landscaped promenade and the Omer Rains Bike Trail connect this sandy beach to the Ventura Pier. Promenade Park, next to the beach commemorates the site of an ancient Chumash village. Beach and park facilities include restrooms, showers, a spacious lawn…
The Ventura Pier was opened in 1872 and juts into the Pacific Ocean from the city of Ventura and the Ventura Beach. It's open year-round, weather permitting and free for all.