This Wednesday afternoon, I decided on a very rare lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Clemente. As I sat there enjoying the ocean view, a giant “pirate ship” appeared from the south, winging its way on brisk winds toward the Dana Point Harbor.

Ahhh! The Tall Ships are inbound once again!

I enjoy seeing the tall ships work their way from northern or southern climes to meet in Dana Point – each is such a graceful reminder of maritime history.

Each September after Labor Day weekend, The Ocean Institute in Dana Point hosts an annual fleet of historic tall ships. This year’s 34th Annual Tall Ships Festival begins on the evening on Friday, Sept. 7th and runs two full days on Saturday and Sunday.

A treat for adults and children alike, crews from the ships engage in (quite realistic) cannon battles and pirate adventures while a giant number of events at the dock and in the Institute include mermaid encounters, ship tours and much more.

Quick Overview of Festival Events

The Festival kicks off on Friday, Sept. 7th with Sail ’n Ales, an evening event from 6 – 9 p.m. with craft beer tasting from six (6) different California breweries, live music, mermaids and prime viewing for the annual Parade of Sail, which allows party goers to board any one of the historic tall ships as they sail together along the coast.

On Saturday & Sunday, Sept 8th & 9th, demonstrations, tours and even squid dissection in the Sea Lab occur every 15 minutes.

Check out the Mermaid Breakfast, 9:00 a.m. to10:30 a.m., as mermaid friends make quite a display of swimming underwater and join kids for crafts and pancakes. This event alone is a giant sellout, so be sure to check for tickets quickly.

The Festival itself runs 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day, with Tall Ships tours, pirate adventures, mermaid encounters, unique vendors, a Sierra Nevada Beer Garden, and more.

Then, from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., come aboard the Spirit of Dana Point and the armada of ships as they set sail to engage in cannon battles. Join a crew as they harness the power of the wind to maneuver and position themselves to gain the advantage.

Certainly one of the more unique events along our own coastline, learn more about the Festival and explore various ticket packages at