Whale Watching Orange County
Departing from Newport Beach in heart of Orange County, Newport Landing has multiple whale watching cruise departures each day. Orange County whale watching is year round. Starting early summer to mid fall a wide variety of baleen whales are viewed, like the Humpback, Finback, Minke and Blue Whales. Orange County residents and tourists from all over the world come whale watching in Orange County to see these giants. One of the largest the Blue Whale, can reach over one hundred feet and 100 tons, yet they eat some of the smallest animals called krill, shrimp like creatures that are barely visible to the naked eye.
Orange County Whale Watching Visitors Information
Along Orange County’s coast the annual 20,000 strong gray whale migration takes place from late fall through spring. This 10,000 mile round-trip migration is one of the longest of any mammal and we get to see often 5 or more gray whales on just one whale watching cruise right in our Orange County coastal waters. California Gray Whales are where the Orange County whale watching industry began. Many years ago Orange County whale watching only happened in the winter & spring months to see the Gray Whales pass by. Now, we can see whales year-round due to Humpbacks being here almost all year and Blue Whales feeding in the summer.
Dolphin and sea lions are viewed all year long on whale watching cruises in Orange County. Common Dolphin, Pacific White-sided Dolphin, Bottlenose and Risso’s Dolphin are the main four species of toothed whales we can spot. Though others have been seen like, False Killer Whales, Pilot Whales, Sperm Whales and Harbor Porpoise. Newport Landing, located in Orange County, has some of the best whale watching in the world.
Blue Whale - Blue Whales average 100 feet in length and 100 tons, this is the size of a Boeing 737 Jet. The largest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale, swims and feeds right off Newport Beach coast. These whales feed off Orange County on small crustaceans, krill, by a method of straining the water they take into their huge mouths. Orange County whale watchers can view these giants during the summer months. About 50 tons of water can fit in a Blue Whales mouth, using their baleen plates, modified teeth that look like a push broom; the whale pushes the water through the plates catching the krill. A Blue Whale needs to eat 8,000 pounds of krill per day!
Grey Whale - California Gray Whales travel from the cold arctic waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas, where they feed in the summer, all the way down to Baja Mexico, where they give birth and breed during the winter. Starting from December until Mid-May, Orange County whale watchers can see Gray Whales during their migration and might even see some newborn gray whale calves with their moms. These baleen whales have one of the longest migrations of any mammal, round trip it can be twelve thousand miles long. Female Gray whales can get to 45 feet and weight 30 tons, males are slightly smaller. Gray Whales feed on amphipods and tube worms that they sieve out of the mud from the sea floor off the coastline of Orange County. The lack of a dorsal fin and barnacle growth covering their faces, Gray Whales are easily identified.
Fin Whale - The second largest animal on Earth, the Finback Whale can reach over 80 feet and weigh sixty tons. This baleen whale can be spotted off Orange County year- round while whale watching but viewings are most abundant in the summer and fall months. Finbacks can eat up to 3 tons of small fish and krill a day. Finback Whales have over 300 fringed baleen plates, which hang from the upper jaw and are made of keratin; these plates can be 3 feet in length and about a foot in width. They have a unique way of rounding up these fish; their lower jaw is asymmetrically colored. The left side is dark gray and the right is white, scientists believe they show the white side of their jaw to scare fish into a tight ball making them easier to gulp up.
Killer (Orca) Whale - Orcas are the most famous whale in the world. These black and white dolphin are rarely seen while whale watching off Orange County but whale watchers have higher chances in January although they can be viewed year round. Killer Whales are the third smartest mammal on Earth and are extremely social in their pods. They are also referred to as Killer Whales due to their attacks on other whales and marine mammals. Not all Orcas eat mammals, others eat fish or squid; killer whales are toothed whales so they are able to catch their food with sharp teeth and strong jaws. Some Orcas can reach lengths of 30 feet and weigh 16,000 pounds. The gestation period for this dolphin is 17 months, and a calf can nurse for up to 12 months.
Sperm Whale - Sperm Whales are a uniquely specialized toothed whale getting their name for the Spermaceti organ located in the forehead. They prefer the warmer waters of the tropics and sub tropics but have been seen off Orange County on whale watching cruises. Sperm Whales are one of the deepest diving whales; the reason for these deep dives is to find their favorite food, the giant squid. They can reach depths of 2,000 to 10,000 feet lasting almost two hours; of course this is not every dive.
Humpback Whale - Humpback Whales are beloved by all Orange County whale watchers because of their powerful and breath-taking displays. Their rorquals are quite round and not stream-lined like their cousins, typically getting to 40 to 50 feet and 25 to 30 tons. Humpbacks are an acrobatic whale often seen breeching and tail slapping on whale watching cruises off OC. Humpback Whales can be individually identified by the underside of their flukes which have unique black and white patterns like a fingerprint; in fact many research facilities have Humpback Whale catalogs documenting each whale they’ve seen. They are also one of the most vocal whales, only the males of this species will sing intricate songs that can last 20 minutes and repeating for hours at a time.
Minke Whale - Minke Whales are the smallest baleen whale seen off the Orange County coastline. They are up to 30 feet in length and weigh up to 10 tons. These torpedo shaped baleen whales are easily recognized. They have almost no spout and very little back is shown when they surface. Year-round whale watching in Orange County encounters Minke whales frequently which may be due to them being one of the most common baleen whales. Minke Whales can swim up to speeds of 25 mph but cruise at a slower speed of 10 mph or less. Minkes are nicknamed the "Stinky Minke" due to the smell they emit when they exhale.
Common Dolphin - Common Dolphin are the smallest dolphin we see whale watching off Orange County. Commons can be 200 pounds and grow to 6.5 feet. They are a toothed whale and are experts at catching anchovies and sardines, working together to corral a school of fish. All dolphin use echolocation to hunt and “see” in dim light; echolocation is the emission of sounds through the melon on the forehead. These sounds then bounce off objects and return back to the dolphin showing the shape and density of what’s in front of them.
Bottlenose Dolphin - Bottlenose Dolphin are quite large weighing in at over 1,000 pounds and 12 feet in length. Whale watching Orange County customers are always appreciative when they see these well liked dolphin in the wild. Bottlenose Dolphin are just as playful in the open ocean as in captivity and much happier. Bottlenose can be found in all oceans and some groups would rather live in harbors, rivers, and along the shore lines. Fish are their favorite food source typically eating 15 pounds of fish a day. Extremely smart and loyal to each other, Bottlenose Dolphin have been known to create bonds with juveniles of other species.
Risso's Dolphin - Whale watching in Orange County, visitors may also see Risso's Dolphin, which have brown or gray bodies covered in white scars, from squid attacks, and tall dorsal fins. They weigh anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pounds and are 8 to 12 feet in length, with blunt noses and upturned mouths. Risso's are able to dive for over 30 minutes to depths of over 1,000 feet, this is due to their main food source, squid which live in deeper waters. These dolphin have only four teeth that specialize in grabbing onto their primary food source squid.
Pacific White Sided Dolphin - Male Pacific White-side Dolphins weigh up to 400 pounds and females weigh up to 300 pounds, and the males get up to 8 feet in length while the females are smaller, at about 6 feet in length. Pacific White-sides coloration is unique with beautiful black to white and all the grays in between along their body. These dolphin are distinguished by a blunt snout and hooked dorsal fin that make them stand out from the other species of dolphin. Whale watching in Orange County, whale watchers can view these colorful dolphin in the wild.
Brown Pelican (California) - The Brown Pelican is one of the smallest of the 8 species of pelican, with a wing span of about 6 feet. Once on the endangered list it has rebounded to healthy population levels in recent years. Brown Pelicans take part in feeding frenzies that often have dolphins and other birds. The feeding frenzies have large schools of fish that are corralled to the surface by dolphins forming a giant bait ball. The once on the surface dolphin, many other sea birds, and brown pelicans enjoy the feast. Brown Pelicans feed by diving into the water at high speeds so high in fact that they can go blind from hitting the water when diving for fish. Most brown pelicans live long lives and fish for up to 30 years without going blind.
Shearwaters - Black-Vented Shearwaters will come to Orange County by the thousands to along the coastline to winter. Shearwaters can dive up to 60 feet in search of fish their main food source. Shearwaters fly close to the waves and then snatching food from the water's surface or sometimes diving below the surface. They make for a very neat viewing on a Orange County whale watching cruise.
Double-Breasted Cormorant - A commonly seen cormorant we see often in the waters off Orange County, the Double-Breasted Cormorant. Cormorants are all black in color with only their face and beak a yellow color. Double-Breasted Cormorants are often found standing on rocks or docks, wings spread in effort to dry themselves. If their wings are too wet they flying abilities are greatly reduced which means less food for them to eat. They are heavy boned birds that excel in swimming and diving. Cormorants have been known to dive over 100 feet to find food. Like many of the other marine birds, Cormorants main food source is small fish.
Pelagic Gulls - Also known as Sea Gulls are quite aggressive and will follow a ship for some several miles with the hope of food. There are several species of gulls that are commonly viewed while whale watching in Orange County including the Herring Gull, California Gull, Western Gull, and Heermann’s Gull. When gulls hunting they will twirl downward while opening their wings just before hitting the water to scoop up fish or other morsels.
Terns - A small speedy bird, terns are commonly viewed on a Orange County whale watching cruise. Terns have a uniquely shaped wing which allows for quick turns making them very agile. Terns have the ability to hover above the water while waiting to ambush a fish from just below the surface. Two types of terns are sighted most frequently off Orange County, the Royal and the California Lesser tern.
Giant Sunfish (Mola mola) - The Common Ocean Sunfish, are one of the most intriguing creatures on Earth. They seem to prefer the warm blue waters of the summer and fall months and are often seen laying on the surface, like a giant silver dollar. Giant sunfish stay on the surface so that birds can pick off parasites from their thick skin. Giant sunfish can be over 14 feet wide and weigh over 6 thousand pounds. They feed on jellyfish and are the heaviest boney fish in existence.
Thresher Shark - Thresher sharks are seen while whale watching in Orange County especially during the spring months when the waters off Orange County team with baitfish mainly anchovies and sardines that is the Thresher's main food source. When viewing Thresher sharks it is often quite exciting with these sharks coming completely out of the water sometimes several times in a row. They grow to large sizes in excess of 1000 pounds and are very long when their tail is included in the length (which doubles their length). They are the only shark known to hunt using its tail; they whip their powerful tail stunning bait fish and making them a easy meal.
Mako Shark - Growing over 1,000 pounds, this species of sharks gets quite large. Juveniles outnumber the adults and average from 50-100 pounds. One of the fastest species of sharks Makos can reaching speeds of 40 mph or more. Often mako sharks are spotted by their fin zipping through the water. One of the most frequently viewed of the sharks that are spotted on whale watching cruises in the OC. They can attack humans but only the full grown adults are considered a threat.
Blue Shark - Although not as commonly seen while on a whale watching cruise, they are viewed from time to time. Often found in larger concentrations than other sharks with 10-50 individuals patrolling in close proximity. Their coloration makes them harder to spot due to blending in with the ocean. They are one of the smallest of the sharks that is viewed whale watching. Blue sharks swim great distances with some traveling 1,000 miles in just a short period of time. Blue sharks prefer the open ocean and are generally found 1 mile or further from shore.
The Great White Shark - The rarest of the sharks viewed while whale watching off Orange County, the spring and early summer months seem to be the most common months to view these apex predators. Adults grow up to 20 feet in length and feed or large fish, sea birds, and mammals such as sea lions. Juveniles from 6-10 feet are most often sighted while whale watching off OC but a few times a year full grown great whites are also viewed.
Flying Fish - Actually don’t fly but rather swim up to 30 mph using their specialized fins to glide long distances with some flying fish reaching a 1/4 mile or more. The summer and fall months see large schools of flying fish arrive in the coastal waters off Orange County. Whale watching cruises often see flying fish later in the afternoon during these months with dozens of flying fish launching themselves out of the water as the whale watching ship cruises through the water off Orange County. Quite a sight!
Whale watching coupons for Orange County visitors. Save 60% with this $16 whale watching cruise special. Newport Landing's Orange County whale watching coupon is a great offer that can be used on any of our whale watching & dolphin cruises. The whale watching cruise coupon is valid for up to 10 persons per coupon and is valid for any of our 2.5 hour whale watching cruises offered year round multiple times daily departing from Newport Beach. View the annual gray whale migration during the winter and spring months and the giant blue whales during the summer and fall months.
|Dates||Cruise 1||Cruise 2||Cruise 3||Cruise 4|
|Nov - Feb (Mon - Fri)||10:00 am||1:00 pm||n/a||n/a|
|Nov - Feb (Sat & Sun)||9:30 am||12:00 pm||2:30 pm||n/a|
|Mar - Oct (Daily)||10:00 am||1:00 pm||3:30 pm||6:00 pm*|
|Adults (Ages 13 - 59)||$32.00||$36.00|
|Juniors (Ages 3 - 12)||$26.00||$30.00|
|Toddlers (Ages 0 - 2)||Free||Free|
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