Guide to Observing the Ocean's Gentle Giants Near Oxnard
It's an experience like no other. Whether you're planning a family day, outing with friends or a solo adventure, a whale-watching excursion in Oxnard is a great way to observe these majestic creatures.
In the Santa Barbara Channel, there are 27 species sighted, including gray, blue, humpback, minke, sperm, and pilot whales. According to the National Park Service, there are also orcas, Dall's porpoises and bottlenose dolphins.
Here's a handy guide to help you plan the best whale-watching experience in Oxnard.
*This post is current as of 12/1/21; dates, times and prices are subject to change.
From mid-to-late-December through mid-March are the most common sightings of gray whales. You'll see blue and humpback whales during the summer, and it's common to see dolphins throughout the year.
There are plenty of options to see whales off the coast of Oxnard. Here's a rundown of the best tours.
Experience Whale and Wildlife cruises during Summer and Winter and trips to the Channel Islands with Island Packers.
Summer Whale Watching is from mid-June to mid-September. Trips are usually 5-6 hours long and return to the harbor around 3:30 pm. There is no island landing, but you'll get to see the Channel Islands from the boat.
Winter Whale Watching is from December to mid-April. The cruises are 3.5 hours and you'll explore Santa Barbara Channel, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands National Park. You'll also get to see Anacapa Island, the famous Arch Rock and the lighthouse on top of the island. There is no island landing.
Cost - An Adult ticket is $42, Senior (55+) is $38 and tickets for children (3-12 years old) are $30.
Take a tour during the annual Gray Whale migration from December 26 - April 30. Weekday trips start at 9 am and on weekends at 9 am and 1 pm.
The Channel Islands is one of the few places globally to observe several species all on one trip. You'll get to see Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Southern California. The waters surrounding the park and sanctuary are rich in nutrients and feed for many species of whales. It's also common to see whales breaching, which is always a crowd favorite.
Food and beverages are available for purchase.
Cost - $60 per person. You'll need a reservation for everyone in your family, including babies, toddlers and children.
Experience the Grey Whale migration as the whales make their way back to Alaska to the Sea of Cortez. On this tour, you'll visit the Anacapa Arch & cruise the coastline of Anacapa Island.
Tours depart from Channel Islands Harbor at 8:30 am and 12:30 pm. Tours are approximately three hours on the Sunfish, a 54-foot boat with outdoor deck space for whale viewing.
Cost - $45 for Adults (16 years and older.) $55 for Children (Ages 9-15) and Seniors (55+.) Free for infants two and under.
Start your whale watching adventure with a 60 or 90-minute tour which travels about a mile offshore. Tours run during light rain but may get canceled if it becomes too windy. You'll get a "whale check" that allows you to come back another time if conditions become unsafe.
Cost - $69 per person for a 60-minute tour. $89 for a 90-minute tour. All ages are welcome. Private tours are also available, starting at $725.
Whales and dolphins can be seen from a boat or the shore at Channel Islands National Park. The park visitor center has a tower with telescopes for whale watching.
Tip: The best time of day to watch whales is in the early morning before it gets too windy.
To book a tour to Channel Islands National Park, check out our park guide.
1. Wear the right gear. Bring a jacket and dress in layers since tours can take place in the early morning. Wear comfortable flat shoes.
2. Check the forecast. Check the weather and marine forecast on the day of your trip. Ask about the cancellation policy for extreme weather.
3. Don't miss the boat because you're late. Give yourself plenty of time to find parking, get your ticket and board the boat.
4. Here's what to bring:
We hope you found this guide to whale watching in Oxnard helpful. We'd love to see your pics! Find us on Instagram at @visitoxnardca and tag #VisitOxnard to share your pictures of whales and other wildlife.
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