For 36 years, the Mendocino Coast has celebrated the northern migration of gray whales in March with an activity-filled Whale Festival (rain or shine). This year’s festival in Fort Bragg will be happening the weekend of March 17 and 18.
Chowder and Beer at Masonic Hall
Craving chowder? The chowder contest at Masonic Hall is the place to be, featuring local restaurants showcasing their best recipes and vying for best chowder of the year. During the chowder contest, renowned local North Coast Brewing Company will sell craft beers for $5 a pop, with a 3-oz sample pour thrown in. Following chowder and beer, visitors will hit the streets of Fort Bragg to sample award winning Mendocino County wines and hors d’oeuvres at participating businesses.
Whale Walk and Run
If you’re an early bird with lots of energy, a Whale Walk and Run at 8:00 a.m. Saturday is the place to work off some calories before imbibing in chowder and beer. Speaking of beer, The Fort Bragg Beer Fest is happening at Eagles Hall again this year, where you can quaff the best pilsners, stouts, and ales from regional microbreweries.
Noyo Center’s “Whale Trail” offers Fun and Educational Exhibits
The Noyo Center for Marine Science has created “The Whale Trail” which will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17. Whale Trail exhibits at The Crow’s Nest Interpretive Center on the South Coastal Trail include a 73-foot Blue Whale bones display, and docents will be on hand to answer questions.
Marine Technology, “Oceans of Plastic” and 26-Foot Orca Skeleton
The Whale Trail continues with exhibits at the Noyo Center offices, where visitors can check out a marine technology exhibit that includes a 3-D scanner/printer, an underwater 360-degree camera, and virtual reality googles. Visit Mendocino on Franklin Street features an “Oceans of Plastic” art exhibit showing how the issue of plastics in our oceans affects whales and other marine mammals. Don’t miss the CV Starr Community Center’s 26-foot orca skeleton exhibit. A docent will be on hand to tell the story of the life of the whale and how the bones were rescued from a local beach and assembled into the skeleton on display.
The Coastal Trail, MacKerricher State Park and Point Cabrillo
Great places to whale watch include the Coastal Trail in Fort Bragg, MacKerricher State Park, where you may be lucky enough to spot whales breaching, spouting, or “spy-hopping” (poking their heads above water to look around), the Point Cabrillo Light Station. and from a boat in Noyo Harbor. MacKerricher offers a wheelchair accessible boardwalk leading to the headlands at Laguna Point with stunning views of the coastline. Trained docents lead public whale walks on Saturday and Sunday, March 17 and 18 starting at 11:00 a.m. Binoculars and a spotting scope will be provided to help visitors study whales and other fascinating marine and bird wildlife. On Saturday, March 17, a family educational event from noon to 3:00 p.m. will feature arts, crafts, games, and the opportunity to learn about gray whales at interactive learning stations. A free hot dog lunch is included. On Sunday, families are invited help paint and preserve a life sized whale skeleton at the MacKerricher Visitor Center from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Every year a fresh coat of paint is applied to the gray whale skeleton to help protect it from the elements. Participants are advised to bring a paint brush and wear painting clothes (rain cancels this event). For details call (707) 961-0471.
Point Cabrillo is another great spot for sighting whales and experiencing local history. During Whale Festival weekend, docents will enlighten visitors about whales, the shipwreck of The Frolic, and conduct lens tours. In Noyo Harbor whale watching boats will be conducting tours for a close up view of the mammals and other sea life.
Visitors to the coast earlier in the month can enjoy the Mendocino Whale Festival on March 3 and 4 and the Little River Whale Festival on March 10 and 11. On Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m., the Noyo Center for Marine Science, the Mendocino County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and Working Films will present Shore Stories, six short films followed by a discussion of the impact of offshore drilling on the California coast at North Coast Brewing Company on Main Street in Fort Bragg.
Information and updates for all three Whale Festival weekends is available at Mendowhale.com and on the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce MendoWhale Facebook page.