It’s time for whales!!

The best of the best of the Mendocino Whale Festival

Grey Whale Breaching

In one of our very first blog posts, we briefly mentioned catching glimpses of whales from the Point Cabrillo Light Station. Well, the season for whales, whales, and more whales has arrived! The glorious greys have been gliding by on their way south to Baja California since early December, and come March they will have started their migration back up the coast to their summer feeding grounds in the northern seas.

For the past couple of decades, the greater Mendocino community has been celebrating this annual parade put on by our water-loving neighbors with a full season of Whale Festival events. And visitors love it! We can’t tell you how many times we’ve talked with someone that makes it a tradition to come out every year for at least one of the many whale-centered experiences. Solo travelers, family, friends – there’s something for everyone during this season of festivities.

Mendocino village kicks things off the first weekend of the March festival this year with a special whale and wildlife themed exhibit at the Art Center, docent-led whale walks out on the rugged Headlands, and whale bones at the Ford House visitor center. The main highlight of the weekend though is the food and wine that flow basically all day on Saturday, March 2nd. Starting at 11:00am, the convivial Chowder Tasting & Competition draws large crowds every year. Restaurants and chefs from all around town come together at Crown Hall to celebrate the whale migration with a tasty showcase of chowders as beautifully varied as the community itself. Your friendly Brewery Gulch Inn family has been joining in the fun too for the past couple of years with a giant pot of our own clam chowder… we may or may not have had the longest line of happy tasters every year! Then from 1:00-4:00, over a dozen Mendocino county wineries set up tasting tables in different shops and businesses throughout town for a jovial afternoon wine tour that allows participants to go at their own pace, meandering the historic streets of the village as they enjoy the festive atmosphere that permeates the whole community. Several of our own here at the inn claim this particular event as one of their favorites of the whole year!

Little River takes over the following weekend. They promise a vintage swing concert on Friday the 8th. Then on Saturday the 9th, there will be a big Sandcastle Building Contest at Big River Beach, a docent-led whale-watching walk along the bluffs of Spring Ranch, tours of the historic Spring Ranch barns, and (weather permitting) group stargazing at the Van Damme State Beach. All weekend, there will be geocaching adventures, educational sessions at Van Damme State Park, and whale-themed art exhibits at two local inns. The newest offering being served up at the Little River Whale Festival comes on Sunday the 10th, and it sounds like a ton of fun – they’re having a Bloody Mary and Bacon Competition! It’s like the folks down in Little River are saying, “Oh yeah, Mendocino? We see your Chowder Competition and raise!”

The third and final weekend of the Whale Festival season on the Mendocino Coast takes place a few miles up Highway One in Fort Bragg. On Saturday, March 16th, the Fort Bragg whale festivities echo the events of two weeks before, with their own Chowder Competition and Wine Tasting caper through downtown. They, however, add in a delightful fun run for all ages and athletic abilities that winds along the gloriously scenic Coast Trail. Plus, the Noyo Center for Marine Science has two locations in Fort Bragg, and they are really getting into the spirit of the festival with an exhibit of blue whale bones that Saturday and Sunday at the Crow’s Nest on the Coastal Trail as well as a guided whale walks and an interesting talk on how whales communicate. Perhaps the most unique activity to be had during the Fort Bragg Whale Festival though is helping with the annual painting of the grey whale skeleton at MacKerricher State Park on Sunday!

Now, we here at the Brewery Gulch Inn have already started marking our calendars for our favorite events and activities during these three weekends of our Whale Festival season. We still have to coordinate with a few friends to see who can go to what, but we’re definitely joining in with this community–wide celebration of our glorious grey whales. And if you have any questions about planning out your own perfect Mendocino Whale Festival itinerary, please do let us know!

Oh, if you go to nothing else, make sure to come say hi at the Chowder Competition on March 2nd. We look forward to seeing you all there as we serve out our awesome clam chowder!!!

Written by Laura Hockett