Año Nuevo State Park (cont'd)

The seals gather here twice annually, between December and March to birth and breed, and throughout the spring and summer to molt. Viewing at Point Año Nuevo, part of a reserve, is restricted to guided tours during the winter breeding months. The jungle-like cacophony of baby seal calls, mists of flipper-flung sand and adult males’ drumming territorial challenges is not to be missed. Tours last 2.5 hours and spots are limited, so call ahead or purchase a ticket online ($7) before your visit. Año Nuevo Island, across the channel, is closed to the public.

And that’s just the beginning. Six exposed faults run through Año Nuevo, making it one of the best fault-viewing areas in the U.S. Bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes and foxes can be seen slinking about, occasionally coming down to the beach to feed on seal carcasses. Black-tailed deer graze the marine terrace grasslands while American kestrels and red-tailed hawks sail over the towering Monterey pines. Seagulls, turnstones, sandpipers, and—in the winter months—long-billed curlews ply the beaches. Beach grass, morning glory and beach strawberry cover the dunes.

Gray whales are regularly seen spouting offshore in pods as they migrate along this protected stretch of coastline (the Año Nuevo and Greyhound Rock State Marine Conservation Areas extend several miles offshore). Humpback whales and blue whales also make occasional appearances. Endangered Steller sea lions (the largest of pinnipeds after the elephant seal and the walrus), California sea lions and harbor seals hang out on Año Nuevo Island. Due to all this delicious and available seal and sea lion flesh, the area, especially the island, attracts a less visible inhabitant, the great white shark. Or, to be more accurate, lots and lots of great white sharks.

Fun this spectacular isn’t free. There is a $10 entrance fee at the gate.

L. Clark Tate

Return to Año Nuevo State Park.