Point Reyes Headlands Winter Shuttle Bus System
On weekends & holidays, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is closed beyond the South Beach Road junction from 9 am to 5:30 pm during favorable weather conditions. Bus service to the Lighthouse & Chimney Rock is provided from Drakes Beach. More »
2014 Harbor Seal Pupping Season Closures
From March 1 through June 30, the park implements closures of certain Tomales Bay beaches and Drakes Estero to water-based recreation to protect harbor seals during the pupping season. Please avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season. More »
Operational Changes Took Effect on May 1, 2013
The Lighthouse Visitor Center is now only open Fridays through Mondays; closed Tuesdays through Thursdays, including Thanksgiving. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center is open on weekends and holidays when shuttles are operating. More »
Whale Watching at Point Reyes
Engaging in the longest migration of any mammal, the California gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) swims 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) each year, spending about one third of its life migrating from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Alaska, to the warm, shallow lagoons of Baja California. Along the way, these incredible animals can often be seen from the shores of Point Reyes. What drives the gray whale to undertake this incredible annual round trip from Alaska to Baja? Food and reproduction.
Jutting 16 kilometers (10 miles) into the Pacific Ocean, the headlands of the Point Reyes Peninsula offer one of the finest spots to view the gray whale. The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary provides a 32-kilometer (20-mile) wide "highway" along which the whales cruise; sometimes they travel in the close lane (nearer to shore), and sometimes they travel in the far lane (farther out to sea). The areas around Chimney Rock and the Lighthouse offer some of the best whale watching spots in the park.
Here at Point Reyes National Seashore, the peak of the southern migration usually occurs in mid-January and that of the northern migration in mid-March. Late April and early May afford the opportunity to see mothers and calves close to shore.
There is a mystery about these beautiful giants. Like humans, they breathe air, have warm blood and give birth to live young. However, their home is in the depths of the dark ocean where so much is concealed from our probing human eyes. As the gray whales migrate along the Pacific Coast, we may have a brief chance to view them before their return to a world that remains mysterious. Download the Pacific Gray Whales Resource Newsletter for more information about the gray whale. (298 KB PDF - Adobe® Acrobat Reader® required).
Numerous ranger-led programs are offered during the Whale and Elephant Seal Season.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Due to the high volume of traffic out to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas during the gray whale migration, the park will be operating a shuttle bus system from the Drakes Beach parking lot (usually from New Year's to Easter each year on weekends and holidays - weather permitting). Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from South Beach to the Lighthouse and Chimney Rock areas WILL BE CLOSED during shuttle operating hours. For more information call the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 415-464-5100.
Some of the best places to view whales from shore besides Point Reyes National Seashore are listed below:
(drive times and distances are approximate)
North of Point Reyes National Seashore
South of Point Reyes National Seashore
Highway 1 Bluffs
Whale watching by boat
Our Outfitters & Tours page lists the businesses and organizations offering Whale Watching trips out of San Francisco Bay and Bodega Bay.
Did You Know?
Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) began breeding at Point Reyes in 1981 after being absent for over 150 years. The population breeds at terrestrial haul out sites at Point Reyes Headland, one of only eleven mainland breeding areas for northern elephant seals in the world. More...