The California Gray Whale’s annual migration from the Baja peninsula to the Alaskan coast makes for a predictable and wondrous spectacle. Between January and June these behemoths head north to feeding grounds in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas—typically staying within a few miles of land as they go.
Because they hug the coastline, Grays are one of the few whales that are routinely spotted from shore. Around this time of year you can also expect to see whale watching festivals pop up in honor of this natural phenomenon.
Three Mendocino County towns within a short drive of one another will host celebrations this month: the Mendocino Whale Festival (March 3-4); the Little River Whale Festival (March 9-12); and the Fort Bragg Whale Festival (March 17-18) will provide baleen enthusiasts with food, wine, beer, and a variety of activities in honor of their oceanic guests.
“The full round-trip migration from the Baja calving lagoons to the Bering Sea and back is 10,000 miles,” notes the Mendocino County Chamber of Commerce website. “The California Gray Whale travels the longest distance of any mammal, always in shallow waters making them visible from land. In addition, this species of whale is the only whose year-round habits and whereabouts are well known.”
In Oxnard, you can enjoy live entertainment, whale and marine educational exhibits, whale watching excursions, and a certified Farmers & Fishermen's Market at the Celebration of the Whales on March 18. The event is free and will have all sorts of activities for kids.
In Los Angeles County, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and members of Los Serenos de Point Vicente will host their annual Whale of a Day celebration on March 10. This free celebration centers on family fun and includes face painting, children’s games, exhibits, crafts, and food vendors.
Further south, the 47th annual Dana Point Festival of Whales runs over two consecutive weekends and features a jam-packed schedule that includes sand sculpting competitions, a parade, vintage car shows, drone demos, and movie screenings. The festival draws more than 100,000 visitors each year.
"The whales will begin their migration in late November," the festival team notes, "but from March 3–4 and 10–11 hundreds of these 35-ton leviathans will splash through the seaside community of Dana Point, the West Coast’s premier location to meet and greet these incredible creatures."
For more insights on whale watching in California, check out this comprehensive article.