What to Know
- Gray whale excursions and outings are leaving daily from Long Beach, Ventura, and other coastal cities; the Island Packers trips begin on Dec. 26 each year
- The grays' SoCal-close season lasts through the middle of April
- You may or may not see a gray whale while on the boat, but birds and dolphins are common (and thrilling) sights
THAT CALIFORNIA GRAY: The Golden State earns its beam-laden, super-sunny nickname throughout much of the calendar, but at the end of the year? Things, on the whole, can be mighty gray, with heavy clouds, damp days, and other grayful goings-on, the sorts of elements that add a wintry layer to our lives. It is timely, then, that our minds should turn to another gray-named phenomenon, one that also makes its annual debut just as we stow the Christmas bows and boxes: It's the gray whale, a beloved beastie that enjoys its California-close moment from late December through to the middle of April.
THE 26TH OF DECEMBER, in fact, is the generally acknowledged start day for gray whale-watching season off the Southern California shores, and while there isn't a line-up of mammoth mammals at some sort of starting line, you can bet there are boats ready to go in search of these splashy superstars. Island Packers, the official concessionaire to Channel Islands National Park, offers one of the our state's main ways to look for grays, with trips heading into Santa Barbara Channel now leaving daily. A whale sighting is never guaranteed on these airy outings, but sunshine, some bracing salt spray, water-loving birds, and the occasional dolphin cameo can add joy and wonder. The trips run at around 3.5 hours, and an adult ticket is $42. Bundling up? Definitely dress in layers, and remember your sunblock, even if it is cold out on the waves.
THE GRAYEST SEASON... concludes on April 23, 2022, if you're seeking a gray-t time out on the Pacific, one that may involve a few flukes. And if you don't encounter some of those wonderful whale tails? You just might see a blowhole or two, or perhaps some spyhopping, the amazing act of a whale checking out what's happening above the ocean's surface, while we simultaneously check out what they're doing. There's some magic to that moment, two mammals connecting across a watery expanse, if only for a meaning-filled instant.