California Whale Watching Festivals

Celebrate the Annual Gray Whale Migration

Whale watching festivals are a fun way to enjoy the annual gray whale migration along the California coast. Many coastal communities offer special events during gray whale watching season, from fall through spring. They celebrate with food, wine, music, parades and street fairs. They hold whale watching walks and informational programs. You'll find a listing of California whale watching festivals below, ordered from north to south.

Of course, you don't have to wait for a festival to go whale watching in California. You can watch the great beasts swim by from numerous headlands and promontories along the coast, and whale watching cruises are offered at just about every harbor.

In some areas, excursions are even offered year round, and visitors can see a variety of whale species, including humpback whales, blue whales, orcas (killer whales) and others.

Photo © Ryan Harvey /

Northern California

  • Mendocino Whale and Wine Festival
    March This festival features food and wine, whale watching walks and family activities. A free trolley is usually be available, and there are events at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, three miles north of Mendocino. View the whales from the Mendocino Headlands or from a charter boat.
  • Fort Bragg Whale Festival
    March This festival features regional beers and ales, a 5K and 10K walk and run on the headlands, a classic car show, arts and crafts fair, chowder tasting, and art exhibits. There are also events at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse. View the whales on guided walks at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and MacKerricher State Park, or board a charter out of Noyo Harbor.
  • Redwood Coast Whale & Jazz Festival
    March This festival combines live jazz, fine dining and whale watching. Entertainment and dining are be available in various locations around Gualala. Whale watching activities take place at Point Arena Lighthouse and at Gualala Point Regional Park in Gualala Bay.

Central California

  • Whale Fest Monterey
    January The Monterey area features whale watching year round, hence three whale watching festivals. The winter festival celebrates the gray whale migration. The festivals feature food, activities and whale watching charters.
  • Santa Barbara Whale Festival
    March This festival features food, arts and crafts, diving demonstrations, a children's carnival, rubber duck race and other activities. Whale watching tours and information stations are available.
  • Channel Islands Harbor Celebration of the Whales
    December This festival offers whale watching excursions to the Channel Islands National Park, leaving daily from Oxnard.

Southern California

  • Dana Point Festival of Whales
    March This festival goes all out to celebrate the whales. It features a parade, street fair, music, an art show and sale, kids carnival and a rubber whale race. Activities include history walking tours, sailing and rowing lessons, kayaking demonstrations, and a campfire program. Whale watching excursions and educational programs are offered.
  • Big Bay Whale Days
    January This San Diego Whale Watching Festival takes place along the Embarcadero. There are plenty of activities for the kids, plus music and exhibits. Special discounts and promotions are offered for businesses along the waterfront, admissions to the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and for whale watching cruises.

More California Whale Watching Information

California Whale Watching Cruises | Whale Watching from Land | California Whale Facts

Gray Whale Pictures | More Gray Whale Pictures | Blue Whale Pictures

More Blue Whale Pictures | Humpback Whale Pictures | More Humpback Whale Pictures

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