Every year, around 25,000 gray whales make their migration from the Arctic to Baja and back again. From around the beginning of February through the end of April, the gray whales migrate back North, which makes it a great time to catch sightings of the majestic mammals along the California coast. In L.A. we are lucky to be so close to two world-class whale-watching destinations: Dana Point Harbor and Ventura Harbor.
Although Dana Point Harbor is known for great year-round whale watching, they pay tribute to the annual migration with the Dana Point Festival of Whales. The 51st Annual Festival of Whales will kick off with a Welcoming of the Whales Ceremony at the Ocean Institute on Friday, March 4, at dusk. The free, kick-off event will feature music, food trucks, refreshments and hands-on educational activities. The Festival of Whales Magical Migration Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 5, features marching bands, giant floats and balloons as it travels over the Island Way bridge.
New this year, is a giant art installation “Fluke: A Tale of Plastic,” by artists Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova. The life-sized depiction of an adult gray whale tail raising its fluke, will be constructed on March 5 and remain on display throughout the festival. The sculpture highlights Dana Point Harbor’s partnership with nonprofit beach cleanup group “Stand Up to Trash.” The artists will use trash collected from the cleanups, like single use water bottles and damaged trash bins, to create the sculpture.
Ventura Harbor, about 125 miles north of Dana Point, is another excellent spot to catch a glimpse of the gray whales migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel. Island Packers, family-owned and operated since 1968, offers daily Winter Whale Watching trips from Ventura Harbor through April 23. Sightings include Pacific Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Fin whales, and the occasional Orca. Half-day trips depart at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. $42 for adults, $38 for seniors, $30 for ages 3-12 and free for ages 2 and under.