The Ocean Institute’s Maritime Festival, also known as the Tall Ships Festival, is a fun filled annual weekend event that pays homage to the rich maritime heritage of Dana Point, California. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Dana Point harbor, this festival offers views of visiting tall ships, cannon battles, Pirate and Mermaid Ball, a beer garden, mermaid swim shows, pirate school, live music, Reenactors and sailor camp, vendors, food trucks, marine exhibits and much more.
Maritime Festival (Tall Ships Festival)
Where: Ocean Institute
Address: 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629
When: September 8 – 10, 2023
Sailor Camp, Band and Beer Garden
Sailor camp will be open Saturday-Sunday and includes traditional tents, cooking equipment, sailors, blacksmiths, pirates, and more.
The sailor camp grassy area will also have a stage with live music from 9am-5pm and a beer garden tent.
Located in the fishing wharf parking lot you’ll find food trucks, beer garden, drinks, music, picnic tables and more.
Shop the fare of local craftsmen, artists, jewelers and local vendors at the Peddler’s Village.
Step aboard a historic tall ship and set sail off the coast of Dana Point. While on board learn about maritime history and experience the thrill of a mock cannon battle at sea. Enjoy blasting cannons, towering rigging, bustling decks, and the magnificence of a canvas full of wind during a Cannon Battle! Work with the crew hauling up sail or simply sit back and enjoy the spectacular demonstration of skill, knowledge, and survival.
Sails ‘N Ales: Craft Beer Kick-off Party
Kick off the Maritime Festival with the Sails N’ Ales event! Enjoy craft beer tasting from different local breweries as well as live music, food, shark exhibit, photo booth, crafts, beer, wine, and a prime viewing location of the visiting tall ships.
Pirate and Mermaid Ball: A Murder Mystery Masquerade
Uncover the mystery of the murder at the Pirate and Mermaid Ball. Dress up in your doublets, mermaid tails, and masquerade masks and enjoy a night featuring a Tacori Treasure Trove where everyone is guaranteed to win, silent auction, sit-down dinner, paddle-raise, and live music. Be prepared to work together to determine who-done-it while feasting, dancing, and raising money for ocean education.
These paid mermaid experiences include a Festival Adventure Pass.
- Mermaid Breakfast: Experience includes breakfast, a dazzling mermaid swim show, story time, and photo opportunity.
- Mermaid Swim Show: Experience includes a mermaid swim show and photo opportunity.
- Mermaid Tea by the Sea: Experience includes a dazzling mermaid swim show, tea, story time and photo opportunity.
Festival Adventure Pass
The festival adventure pass gives you access to three main areas of the festival. The main campus area includes marine life artifacts, history of whaling, scrimshaw activity, local aquaria and marine life, gold panning station, morse code and how to send a telegram, tide pool touch tank, shark touch tank, and a sea monster scavenger hunt. The two other areas include ship tours and lil’ lad’s landing with pirate obstacle course, face painting, crafts, educational activities, festival games, challenges, and opportunities to win prizes.
Ocean Institute will be offering free festival general admission to first responders, active service members, and veterans in honor of September 11.
Parking & Transportation
While there are various locations to park in Dana Point Harbor, the parking near the festival is very limited as some parking is used to host festival activities. Free parking and shuttles are provided at Dana Hills High School. If you have a special event or experience ticket please give yourself 45 minutes – 1 hour to arrive from parking locations.
Shuttles will be dropping off at the round-a-bout outside of the Ocean Institute Main parking lot. Shuttles will pick up every 25-30 minutes.
You can also hop on the DP trolley and ride into the harbor via the North bound stop N8 or South bound stop S14. Both of these stops will drop you at Dana Point Harbor Drive and Golden Lantern, just a 14 minute (.7 mile) walk from the festival. Visit the DP trolley website for scheduling.
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Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.