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Guide to Whale Watching in Orange County

I remember my first whale-watching trip off the coast of Morro Bay in the Central Coast at age 10 with my grandfather. With binoculars in hand and the wind blowing, we spotted several whales just feet away. The crowd gasped as the mist from the whale’s spout rained over our little boat. This brief, quiet interaction of these majestic creatures would be a moment I would never forget.

My first whale watching trip with my grandfather (facing backwards).

An old snapshot of my first whale watching trip with my grandfather.

Whales are on their annual migration from feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to breeding and mating spots in the lagoons off Baja – and what a season it has been. According to Dana Wharf, one of the most popular whale watching tour companies in Orange County, this has been a record season for spotting whales with more than 549 sightings of gray whales alone.

With just a few weeks left in the prime whale-watching season, here are a few of the top Orange County Whale Watching tours.


Harbor Breeze Cruises
100 Aquarium Way Dock #2
Long Beach, CA 90802

Visitors can take a two-plus hour boat ride with the possibility of spotting gray whales, dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life. Comfortable accommodations aboard the ships include lounge areas where you can enjoy a snack or drink provided by the galley service. The ship also has restrooms and expansive deck areas for viewing and photography. Group reservations may be made over the phone or purchased online. Reservations recommended. Tickets run $25-$35 per person.


Dana Wharf
34675 Golden Lantern
Dana Point, CA 92629

Dana Wharf is known by many as the originator of Orange County whale watching since opening in 1971. Each two-hour cruise is narrated by an expert captain who focuses on the educational aspects of these incredible creatures. Unlike other tours, Dana Wharf guarantees to spot some action or your money back. Be sure to check out the weekly updates on whale sightings on the Web site. Tickets cost between $25-$45. Tour times vary so be sure to check the schedule in advance.


Newport Landing Whale Watching
309 Palm St. #A
Newport Beach, CA 92661

Newport Landing operates whale-watching excursions seven days a week year round three to four times daily. Its boat, the Nautilus, has an indoor snack bar with beverages and snacks and both indoor and outdoor seating. Tickets range from $16-$25 each for group tours and can be purchased via phone or online. Limited captain seating packages are available for an additional charge.


Davey’s Locker
400 Main Street
Newport Beach, CA 92661

Davey’s Locker has been providing daily whale watching cruises for 30 years. Its primary whale watching ship is 65 feet in length with a large upstairs sundeck, wrap around outside seating, snack bar and large windows for viewing in an indoor seating area. Staff have extensive backgrounds in marine biology and knowledgeable in providing details on marine creatures, environment and ecosystems. Tickets range from $26-$32 each.

So, now’s your chance to catch one of those unforgettable moments for your family. The height of whale-watching ends at the end of April.

Kristal Zacharias is the mother of two beautiful, vivacious girls, and wife of a hunky husband who works in the action sports industry. For the past 15 years, Kristal has worked for several Fortune 500 companies as a professional communicator. Follow her journey at Clearly Kristal or on Facebook and Twitter.



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