We present a comprehensive overview of sensor technology exploiting optical whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonances. After a short introduction we begin by detailing the fundamental principles and theory of WGMs in optical microcavities and the transduction mechanisms frequently employed for sensing purposes. Key recent theoretical contributions to the modeling and analysis of WGM systems are highlighted. Subsequently we review the state of the art of WGM sensors by outlining efforts made to date to improve current detection limits. Proposals in this vein are numerous and range, for example, from plasmonic enhancements and active cavities to hybrid optomechanical sensors, which are already working in the shot noise limited regime. In parallel to furthering WGM sensitivity, efforts to improve the time resolution are beginning to emerge. We therefore summarize the techniques being pursued in this vein. Ultimately WGM sensors aim for real-world applications, such as measurements of force and temperature, or alternatively gas and biosensing. Each such application is thus reviewed in turn, and important achievements are discussed. Finally, we adopt a more forward-looking perspective and discuss the outlook of WGM sensors within both a physical and biological context and consider how they may yet push the detection envelope further.