Whether you are a visitor or a local resident, the annual Whale Festival on the Mendocino Coast, held over three weekends in March, is one of the most delightful and well-attended annual events. The whales migrate south every November and December to breed in warmer waters, and then they return north, passing the Northern California Coast in the Spring. In addition to the thrill of viewing the whales from the shore, a beach, or a boat, there are many other events and activities to enjoy at the Fort Bragg Whale Festival, including a chowder contest, microbrew and wine tastings, a scavenger hunt and arts and crafts for children, and much more for the entire family.
Following the celebrations in Little River and Mendocino during the two previous weekends, the Fort Bragg Whale Festival will take place on March 18-20th, 2016. Tickets are available online for the chowder, wine, and beer tasting events.
Enjoy a chowder and microbrew tasting, after visiting local shops and inns, and whale watch from the Coastal Trail in Fort Bragg, or from your favorite beach. A variety of chowders are featured, ranging from traditional to more innovative. The Chowder Tasting will feature a chowder contest between various local restaurants — you can be there to taste them all and vote for your favorite!
Overview of Fort Bragg Whale Festival Events:
Friday, March 18th, 7:00 p.m. — Book a whale-watching boat tour to encounter the whales up close. Boats leave from Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg. Call the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce for referrals at 707-961-6300.
Saturday, March 19th, starting at 7:30 a.m. — The 32nd Annual Whale Run and Walk, held by Soroptimist International of Fort Bragg, is an event that draws visitors from all over California, as well as from other states. For more information and to register, visit the Soroptimist International web site.
Saturday, March 19th — The Fort Bragg Rotary Club is holding the 20th Annual Beer Festival from noon-4:00 p.m., at the historic Eagles Hall (210 N. Corry St., in Fort Bragg). Come enjoy the live music and a festive BBQ!
March 19-20th — Close Encounters of the Marine Mammal Kind — join us for a slideshow presentation about marine mammals seen along the Mendocino Coast. The slideshow presentation will take place at the Fort Bragg Library (499 E. Laurel Street). For more information, call: (707) 961-0471.
March 19-20th and 26-27th, at MacKerricher State Park (located three miles north of Fort Bragg on Highway 1) — MacKerricher State Park’s 2016 Whale Festival is a popular ‘must-attend’ event, at this free, day-use park. A guided whale program is scheduled at MacKerricher every Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. through March 27. For additional information call (707) 961-0471.
An ideal location for watching migrating whales, MacKerricher Park provides a wheelchair accessible boardwalk, allowing an easy traverse across the headlands to a deck situated on Laguna Point near the whale route. Docents will present public whale talks on the dates below, and will provide binoculars and a spotting scope to help visitors study whales and other fascinating marine and bird wildlife near MacKerricher’s shores. A rare, reconstructed Gray Whale Skeleton is on permanent display near the visitor center and entry kiosk. The skeleton is a composite of two whales that beached on the Mendocino Coast, two years apart. Humpback Whale bones are also on display giving a visual size perspective between the grays and humpbacks.
Schedule of Events at MacKerricher State Park:
Whale Walks — Docents present an informative overview of gray whales. The talk/walk starts at the MacKerricher Visitor Center and then proceeds to the whale skeleton before driving to Laguna Point for whale watching. Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20th, at 11:00 a.m.
Whale Fact Scavenger Hunt and Arts and Crafts for children — at MacKerricher State Park. Start out at the visitor center and then go through the park to find clues. Get answers to questions about gray whales. Then get a prize. Saturday, March 19th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Help us paint the whale skeletons at MacKerricher State Park — The whale skeletons on display need to be painted for protection. Paint and some brushes will be provided. Bring paint brushes and wear old clothes. Rain or fog will cancel painting the whale skeleton. Sunday, March 20th, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Point Cabrillo Lighthouse will have fun-filled activities on Saturday and Sunday, including docent-led tours, whale watching and spectacular lens tours from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..
Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association (PCLK) volunteer docents will highlight Light Station history and local culture with visitor presentations at the Lighthouse and other locations in the State Historic Park. Weather permitting, there will be docent-led whale-watching tours with lots of information on these placent giants, as well as walks to nearby Frolic Cove with the story of the clipper brig Frolic, wrecked off the cove in July 1850 bound from China to San Francisco with a valuable cargo of Chinese merchandise for the Gold Rush miners and their families. The tours are family-friendly.
You may also visit the 240 gallon saltwater aquarium, our Marine Science Exhibit with a view down into the ocean, or the First Assistant Lightkeeper’s House. This period museum shows how lightkeepers and their families lived in the 1930s.
There will also be lens tours which are offered only eight days each year, giving you the exciting opportunity to visit the Lantern Room and the beautifully restored operational 3rd order Fresnel lens. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to participate. For more information, visit the Point Cabrillo web site.
Be sure to include a walk on Fort Bragg’s recently opened Coastal Trail, where you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the breath-taking views of the Pacific Ocean — and you may catch a glimpse of the whales! It’s a perfect activity to enjoy with the whole family. When you need to stop and rest, there are some lovely, handcrafted benches along the tail, created by local artists.
If you’ve been thinking of visiting the Mendocino Coast, be sure to include a Fort Bragg stay in your travel itinerary. We’ll be adding new posts with more details about a few of the Fort Bragg Whale Festival events, the 32nd Annual Whale Run and Walk, and the Coastal Trail in the next week, so keep an eye on this blog for more information!