ANO NUEVO STATE RESERVE
Fifty-five miles south of San Francisco and the Golden Gate, a low, rocky, windswept point juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The Spanish maritime explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed by the point on January 3, 1603. His diarist and chaplain of the expedition, Father Antonio de la Ascension, named it Punta de Ano Nuevo (New Year's Point) for the day on which they sighted it in 1603.
Today, the point remains much as Vizcaino saw it from his passing ship. Lonely, undeveloped, wild. Elephant seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals come ashore to rest, mate, and give birth in the sand dunes or on the beaches and offshore islands. It is a unique and unforgettable natural spectacle that hundreds of thousands of people come to witness each year.
Ano Nuevo State Reserve is the site of the largest mainland breeding colony in the world for the northern elephant seal, and the interpretive program has attracted increasing interest every winter for the past 19 years. People who hope to see the seals during the winter breeding season are urged to get their reservations early. The males battle for mates on the beaches and the females give birth to their pups on the dunes.
During the breeding season, December through March, daily access to the reserve is available via guided walks only. Most of the adult seals are gone by early March, leaving behind the weaned pups who remain through April. The elephant seals return to Ano Nuevo's beaches during the spring and summer months to molt and can be observed during this time through a permit system.
This 4,000 acre Reserve is a major gathering area for northern elephant seals, which may be seen year-round. The males battle for mates on the beaches. The females give birth to their young on the dunes. During the breeding season, December 15 through March 31, daily access to the Reserve is available only via guided walks. Advance reservations are recommended for walks.
A Visitor Center features natural history exhibits and a bookstore offering educational items such as books, postcards and posters. Restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available near the Visitor Center only. Food and beverages are not sold at the reserve.