My daughter was a baby when she embarked on her first whale watching adventure along the coast. And while her vocabulary was still limited, even she realized how majestic a moment it was to see her very first whale fluke. The 47th Annual Dana Point Festival of Whales is going on right now, and if you happen to be in Southern California over the next two weeks, this is a gray whale migration you do not want to miss.
Gray Whale Annual Winter Migration
Every year, gray whales make the 10,000 + mile round trip migration between their winter mating and calving lagoons in Mexico to their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic seas (Journey North). The gray whales’ migration route is situated along the Pacific Coast which makes for pristine observation of these magnificent creatures.
Dana Point Festival Whales
Each year, the County of Orange, OC Parks, and Dana Point Harbor offer families the opportunity to learn more about gray whales and their migratory behavior during the Festival of Whales. This engaging, educational event includes whale watching, sand sculpting, live music, the Dinghy Dash, Art in the Park, hands-on activities, and more.
The Dana Point Festival of Whales runs over two weekends and includes activities both on land in the harbor and out at sea in the waters of Dana Point. Here is an overview of events going on during each day of the festival.
- March 3, 2018: Guests can watch the kick-off parade beginning at 10 am. The parade is best viewed from the side of Pacific Coast Highway between Selva Road and Street of the Golden Lantern. The Ocean Institute will also explore the history of sailing along the California shore with interactive talks about Richard Henry Dana Jr., a whaling exhibition, tours of the historic tall ship, the Brig Pilgrim, and more. There is a special discounted admission of $5 during this first festival weekend.
- March 4, 2018: In addition to the opening weekend events above, guests can enjoy Ocean Awareness Day from 11 am to 4 pm at Baby Beach. Activities include interactive displays, demonstrations, and more.
- March 10, 2018: Festival-goers can take part in Westwind Sailing’s Cardboard Classic Dinghy Dash & Expo at Baby Beach on Saturday, March 10 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., when teams of all ages will create cardboard dinghies and compete in a friendly race. At the Ocean Institute, families can explore a hands-on journey into the world of whales by following their migration from Baja, along the coast of California and up into Alaska.
- March 11. 2018: The second weekend of Festival of Whales concludes with a barbeque and live music at Baby Beach. The Whale of a Concert BBQ runs from 12 pm to 5 pm and includes a Spirits Garden and bands performing atop a floating stage.
Additional activities throughout the festival include a classic car display, a Rubber Ducky Derby, the Diamond Dig, sand sculpting, the Annual Whale of a Clam Chowder Cook Off and more. For the complete schedule of activities going on during Festival of Whales, visit FestivalOfWhales.com/Events.
Whale watching excursions depart every hour on the hour from 8 am to 4 pm from Dana Wharf during the festival. These tours offer views of the whales as they migrate along the coast of Dana Point. During this peak time in the season, 40-50 whales pass by Dana Point each day with the Dana Point Headland’s cliffs near the harbor as a landmark. Dana Point offers pristine whale watching.
Festival of Whales Parking
Parking is available at lots throughout the harbor. Each lot is serviced by free shuttles which run from 10 am to 4 pm each day of the festival. The Ocean Institute is also providing their Water Taxi for $5 per person between Deana Wharf and Ocean Institute from 12 pm to 5 pm each day of the festival.
The 47th Annual Dana Point Festival of Whales takes place March 3-4, and March 10-11, 2018 from 10 am to 4 pm. For additional information visit FestivalOfWhales.com and DanaPointHarbor.com.
Images: Dana Wharf