If you’re in the mood for a nature lover, there is a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you won’t want to miss.
Visit between December and March
During the mating season from December to March, there are docent-led nature walks at Ano Nuevo State Park, where you can learn all about the habits and habitats of one of nature’s largest creatures, the elephant seal.
The main attraction is always the large northern elephant seals that can weigh 2½ tons each, but other visible species include sea lions, otters, and common seals.
It’s fun to watch the big bulls fight for dominance on the beach and strut to attract the group of waiting ladies. At the end of the party, many of the females, pregnant from the previous year, give birth in the sand. Then he goes to the ocean until the party call next year.
Hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, the elephant seal population dropped to about 100 animals. Protected by the governments of the United States and Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century, the population has recovered to about 150,000.
The first sightings of elephant seals on New Years began in the 1950s. The first cubs were born on the continent in the 1970s, and by the mid-1990s the number of local births was in the thousands.
This is successful conservation in action!
In March, and after the main group left for unknown places, the calves and several hundred elephant seals remain to rest and recover along the beach and molt, not as lively as mating, but still worth watching. .
Be careful, on warm sunny days, there is nothing like the scent of a molting elephant seal.
Right off the mainland is the New Year Island. The arid, windswept island is home to the remains of a 19th-century lighthouse. The historic keeper’s house shown above was built in 1872 and now provides shelter for a variety of cormorants and sea lions.
Get ready for a mini-workout
You will walk approximately 3 miles during a New Years tour. Wear comfortable clothing, especially shoes, because your guided hike will take you through varied terrain, including sand dunes, and you know what it’s like to trudge in sand.
Also, wear the appropriate headgear because tours take place rain or shine, and umbrellas are not allowed.
NOTE: There is a boardwalk accessible via van for those who need mobility assistance. Ask for details when purchasing tour tickets.
For more information on how to visit the fascinating elephant seals, visit the park’s website.
There is also a worthwhile Marine Education Center located within the park boundaries with interesting exhibits of animals, plants, and geology, along with information on the colorful history of the area.
If you go
Ano Nuevo State Park is located on California Route 1, approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and about 60 miles south of San Francisco.
Treat yourself and your family to a visit to the magnificent elephant seals. We recommend it. The scenic drive down the iconic Highway 1 is the icing on the cake.