101 Spotlight: Elephant Seals

Every year, over 7,000 Elephant Seals call the Central Coast home. Most of them spend the entire  winter in San Simeon – in the northern part of the Central Coast, near Hearst Castle – and have become a part of the routine of our county and one of our favorite sights to see. The massive seals spend eight to ten months a year in the open ocean, migrating twice a year in a journey of thousands of miles. They are adept at living in the seas, naturally, and can dive 1,000 to 5,800 feet deep and stay there for fifteen minutes to two hours. That’s over a mile beneath the ocean’s surface!

Photo: (c) @better.at.the.beach

Photo: (c) @better.at.the.beach

When they’re not underwater, these creatures are very fun to watch. Anyone can visit the Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon for up-close views of the interesting creatures. Depending on the time of year that you visit, the seals will be up to different things. Starting in November, they compete for mates and breed. The female seals give birth shortly afterward, usually sometime around Christmas or early January. Elephant seals will also molt and spend quite a bit of time resting; still leaving time for a little bit of fighting with their rivals. Once adults return back to the seas to hunt in March, the young ones will be December through March is the peak season for elephant seals, but there will be some there at any time during the year. Check out the elephant seal cam to get a real-time image of the elephant seals in San Simeon!

Photo: (c) @staceelianna

Photo: (c) @staceelianna

Visiting the elephant seals the next time you’re on the Central Coast is a no-brainer, and the Elephant Seal Rookery is easy to access, convenient, and free! Just 45 minutes away from Paso Robles, and about an hour up the coast from Pismo Beach, the drive itself will be part of the adventure. From Paso, you’ll see rolling vineyards and sunny skies, and the Pismo drive will take you right along the scenic coastline and some of California’s cutest beach towns, like Cambria and Cayucos. The rookery will be on your left when driving on Highway 1.

Photo: (c) @hollehrahmati

Photo: (c) @hollehrahmati

The rookery itself has a wooden platform over the shore, where you can stand at an easy vantage point to watch the seals without bothering them. Along the boardwalk are multiple signs that offer more information about the elephant seals and details about their life and habitat. Visiting is fun for the whole family, but the Elephant Seal Rookery website recommends leaving dogs at home; the seals can become agitated by our furry friends. If you’d like to learn more about these creatures and how to visit the rookery, visit the Friends of the Elephant Seal website or the Big Sur informational page.

Photo: (c) @judey_moodey

Photo: (c) @judey_moodey

We hope to see you soon at the Elephant Seal Rookery during its peak season!

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