Just an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles, Newport Beach is the enchanting backdrop for an extraordinary rendezvous with whales and dolphins. Located in the Balboa Pavilion at Newport Landing, Davey’s Locker offers incredible year-round whale watching and dolphin cruises, inviting visitors to witness these magnificent sea creatures in their natural habitat.
From mid-December to mid-April, Newport Beach becomes the stage for the gray whale migration from the cold waters of Alaska to their breeding grounds in the warm waters of Mexico. You might also spot finback and humpback whales, and even killer whales. The summer months are supposedly even more rewarding for spotting whales in this region.
Eager to explore this marine spectacle, I decided to book a cruise during my visit to Newport Beach for the new year. Choosing Davey’s Locker Whale & Dolphin Watching Cruise, we embarked on a 2-hour adventure that promised a glimpse into the fascinating world of these oceanic wonders. I thought it would be fun and exciting… and I was oh-so-right!
To preemptively tackle any potential seasickness, I opted to take some generic Dramamine before the trip. Spoiler alert: A wise move!
As fate would have it, our journey didn’t grace us with the presence of whales, but what we did encounter was an unexpected thrill ride! Our ship, the Newport Legacy, was greeted with super choppy waters – and it felt like an E-Ticket ride at Disneyland! We sat up front at the bow, and the boat was moving up and down like a roller coaster atop a giant wave machine. Truthfully, it was great fun, with the crowd of people on the boat yelling “Whoaaaa” and “Wheeeee” every time a new wave arrived to pitch us up and down. It was worth the price of admission alone!
Okay, so no whales this time! However, destiny had another marine marvel in store for us. We were fortunate to see dolphins – loads of them! In fact, according to our spirited, female Captain Danni – we were one of the only boats that day to catch the pod of more than 200 dolphins speeding through the ocean.
Our ship had to go out 6 miles from the port – and Captain Danni kept referring to us as “chasing dolphins.” Apparently, these adorable sea creatures travel super-fast, maybe 40 miles an hour or more – and they were quite far ahead of us, so our boat sped along trying to catch up to them. It was worth the extra time it took, since when we did catch up – it was amazing to see them all. Many of the dolphins swam right next to the boat; we could see pairs or trios of dolphins gracefully leaping up out of the ocean and back into it.
Many were mothers with their babies right next to them, helped along by the boat’s wake. There were dolphins in front of us, behind us and next to the ship on both sides, starboard and port.
Captain Danni explained that the wake created by boats aids dolphins in moving swiftly through the water with minimal effort. The dolphins ride in the boat’s wake, covering longer distances without expending extra energy.
This behavior, beyond its energy efficiency, attests to the remarkable adaptability of dolphins in leveraging their environment to their advantage.
We also saw playful barking sea lions sitting on a buoy as we headed out into the ocean and again as we cruised back towards the dock.
Our ship, the Newport Legacy, was designed specifically for viewing marine life. It holds up to 144 passengers and is 72 feet in length with a large upstairs sundeck, wrap-around outside seating, snack bar with food and beverages, and indoor seating with large windows. Their staff includes the captain and crew who have backgrounds in marine biology and offer all kinds of fascinating information about ocean creatures, environment, and ecosystems.
Having catered to visitors for over 30 years, Davey’s Locker offers not only these cruises but also more luxurious options with smaller ships, intimate groups, and speedier catamaran yachts. Additionally, they provide rentals for deep-sea fishing and various other boat trips, ensuring a diverse range of maritime experiences for all.
The Davey’s Locker website even lists the numbers of whales and dolphins they spot each day. In just the past 3 days since the writing of this article, in their 44 trips, whale and dolphin sightings from Davey’s Locker included: 9 Gray Whales; 7 Fin Whales; 3,100 Common Dolphin; 27 Bottlenose Dolphin; and 100 Risso’s Dolphin. On the 9th of January 2024: 1,500 Common Dolphin were sighted as well as 10 Orca Whales!
If it sounds impressive, just imagine what it will be like to be on one of Davey’s Locker ships, seeing them in person! There are numerous cruises available every day at different times, which can be booked by phone or through their website. So, isn’t it time for your Newport Beach nautical adventure – with whales, dolphins, and sea thrills galore!
Davey’s Locker, 400 Main Street, Newport Beach, CA 92661
Phone: (949) 673-1434