Whale and Dolphin Watching

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Ocean ExplorerEvery year the Whales make their journey between Alaska and Baja California. Along their migration route they pass by Southern California and thrill onlookers with their magnificent breaches and water spouts.

Several species of Whales pass by our shores but the two most common are the Giant Blue Whales and their relatives the Gray Whales.

The best way to admire those whales and their cousins the Dolphins is to take a boat cruise from one of the port towns along the coast. 

You can watch the Gray Whales during winter and early spring – or you can watch the Blue Whales and some Humpbacks during summer. You can always find lots of Dolphins. 

Tip: Whether you are going in winter or summer, dress warm or bring a jacket with you. The temperature seems to drop the further you go into the ocean. 

Related book: Whale Watcher: A Global Guide to Watching Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises in the Wild

There are many tour operators along the coast. It is hard to decide whom to go with – but after some research – we decided to go with Newport Landing. This tour operator departs from Newport Beach - right next to the Fun Zone. They have more than 20 years of experience and can locate Whales and Dolphins with ease. 

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Blue WhaleAlong with Whale watching cruises, Newport Landing offers other services like sunset cruises, evening cruises and deep sea fishing trips. See Whale watching Orange County for a full list of services.

We went on the Ocean Explorer and loved the boat and crew. The boat is medium sized with two levels so it is not overcrowded. The upper deck has a bigger open area with a large canopy. The lower deck has an enclosed observation, a mini bar and a snack bar. We decided to head to the upper deck to enjoy the views. 

The cruise starts on the calm waters of Newport Bay - dodging sail boats, speed boats and jet-skis and passing by beautiful houses and busy beaches. 

At the tip of the bay and behind the south barrier you can spot Big Corna Beach – one of the popular destinations in the area. Also right at the entrance of the bay you can see a large population of Sea Lions living on a navigation buoy. 

The cruise continues into the ocean paralleling the coast and passing by Newport Coast, CrystalWhale and Dolphin Watching - BeachesCove, Laguna Beach and Dana Point. When the captain, crew or passengers spot a whale or a pod of Dolphins the captain slows down the boat or comes to a complete stop.  

Tip: The waves in the ocean tend to be choppy, so if you are prone to motion sickness, take some precautions before you start.

On our trip we only saw one Minke Whale – which is smaller than the Gray Whale – but we saw a lot of Dolphins. We watched a large pod of the Common Dolphin feed and compete for the food with diving birds. We also watched Dolphins chase the boat, go under it and pass it – as if they were playing a game with us. We saw dolphins jump out of the water and heard some squeaking. 

Whale and Dolphin Watching - Sea LionsAlthough we did not see any of the great Whales on this trip we still enjoyed our time out on sea. We saw playful dolphins, watching flocks of flying and diving birds and visited a colony of Sea Lions. 

After the cruise it was time for lunch. We decided to try Harborside restaurant which is located in the same building because it had a high Zagat rating. It overlooks Newport Bay with an excellent view. The food and service were good  but the prices are a little on the high side.

Related picture book: Beautiful Whale

If you prefer not to take a boat trip, you can still watch Whales - during their migration - from the shore. There are several popular spots for viewing the whales. Here are a few: Dana Point, Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, Point Dume, Big Sur, Morro Bay. At Cabrillo National Monument you can view from the glass-enclosed observatory. 

Newport Landing (Whale watching Orange County)

309 Palm St. #A
Newport Beach CA. 92661
(949) 675-0551