In the waters off Newport Beach, whales can be seen just about every week of the year. Five species of baleen whales feed and migrate here. They are: Gray, Blue, Humpback, Fin, and Minke!
Gray Whales can be seen December though May, as the annual Gray Whale migration brings 20,000 of these whales along our coastline. The Grays make the longest round trip of any mammal: up to 12,000 miles per year! Starting in April, mother gray whales travel northward with their newborn calves, offering some of the best whale watching of the year as they frolic and play in the shallow waters of Orange County .
Blue Whales are the largest animals on earth, and from May through October you may have a chance to see one as it gorges on its primary food item, krill, in the waters off of Orange County. These 60-80 foot long behemoths sometimes feed less than two miles from Newport Beach Harbor. Having the opportunity to view the gentle giants from a 24 foot Zodiac boat is an experience that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Humpback Whales used to be a rare sight around Orange County, but not anymore! In 2014 they were sighted over 80 days, 2015 over 100 days, and we are on track to be at least 150 days of humpback sightings this year. Like Blue Whales, the Humpbacks are here to feed, but on anchovies, a small oily fish about 4 inches long. Humpback whales are spectacular, often making dramatic breaches and other boisterous displays with their flippers and fins. They will readily approach a boat out of their own curiosity.
Fin Whales are the second largest animal on earth, right behind the Blue Whale! Fins are darker colored, faster, and sleeker. They also like to eat krill, and can show up at any time. It seems the Spring is the most consistent opportunity to view these “greyhounds of the sea”. Sometimes they form social groups which can be very gregarious. They are an incredible animal to witness.
Minke Whales, last, and actually, least! These whales are the smallest in the Northern Hemisphere, topping out at just about 30 feet long. Like Fin Whales, they can pop up at any time of year. They are opportunistic feeders on anchovies and krill. One of their nicknames is “Stinky Minke” because their breath often smells really bad! They are so small, you cannot even see the spout from their breath. Minkes can be a challenge to watch, but once in a while you can find one that really wants to play!