Northern California: Whale-watch and festival-hop in Mendocino

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

The best time to go whale-watching in Egypt would have been about 37 million years ago. Smithsonian magazine recently profiled the amazing whale boneyard at Wadi Hitan where fossils reveal an important evolutionary tidbit: the whales had little legs and feet.

In California, it’s whale-watching season right now -- for Pacific gray whales, without feet. It’s also a time when Mendocino and nearby towns host festivals to mark the whales’ northbound journey from Mexico to Alaska.

For landlubbers, Point Cabrillo Light Station in Mendocino sits atop headlands that overhang the ocean. It’s  one of the best places to take in the action. Whale-spotting docents will be on hand March 3-4 and 17-18 with binoculars to help visitors track the grays.

And then there’s all those festivals. The Mendocino Whale Festival from March 3 to 4 includes a wine-tasting with local varietals ($30 per person), a chowder sampling event, art shows and marine life exhibits, and “An Evening of Wood and Steel” concert ($20 in advance, $25 at the door).


The Little River Whale Festival from March 10 to 11 features a Taste of Little River, where chefs prepare specialties and pair them with local wines, as well as sea cave kayak tours and hikes.

The Fort Bragg Whale Festival from March 17 to 18 includes a whale run and walk, chowder tasting ($10 per person), wine-tasting ($20 per person), microbrew beer tasting ($30 per person) and live music each night. Ricochet Ridge Ranch offers a chance to see whales while horseback riding along coastal trails. And there’s always the more typical whale-watching tours too -- by boat. 

Contact: Mendocino Coast Whale Festivals

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