Visitor Centers: Gateways to Your National Marine Sanctuaries!
West Coast | Pacific Islands | Southeast & Gulf of Mexico | East Coast | Great Lakes
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Sanctuary Exploration Center
Location: Santa Cruz, California
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Best for: Families with kids, beachgoers, surfers
Located just steps from the beach, the Sanctuary Exploration Center is a highlight of any visit to Santa Cruz! Take the free trolley from downtown to the lively waterfront area and check out the Exploration Center’s high-tech, interactive exhibits featuring the incredible underwater world of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Coastal Discovery Center
Location: San Simeon, CA
Hours: Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Best for: Hearst Castle visitors, Big Sur explorers, wildlife watchers
Enjoy the beautiful view of San Simeon Bay while you visit the Coastal Discovery Center, a joint venture between Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and California State Parks. Located at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach just across the entrance from Hearst Castle, the center's exhibits, events and educational programs celebrate the connection between land and sea.
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Gulf of the Farallones Visitor Center
Location: San Francisco, CA
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Best for: Family picnics, birders, amateur photographers
Come enjoy a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center! Located in a historic Coast Guard station at the mouth of San Francisco Bay, the center offers visitors a wealth of educational resources about wildlife and conservation, as well as access to a sandy beach and green space that's perfect for a sunny day trip.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Olympic Coast Discovery Center
Location: Port Angeles, Washington
Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Memorial Day through Labor Day
Best for: Adventure seekers, kayakers, nature lovers, history buffs
No trip to Washington state’s beautiful and remote Olympic Coast is complete without stopping by NOAA’s Olympic Coast Discovery Center! Plan your hikes or kayak trips along the coast, discover local marine life, and learn about the sanctuary’s rich history.
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Coming Soon: OCTOS @ UCSB!
Location: University of California, Santa Barbara
The Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science, or OCTOS, is a state-of-the-art science education facility that brings together the resources and innovative programs of the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara and NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Located on the UCSB campus just steps from the ocean, OCTOS will open to the general public and school groups once its suite of high-tech, hands-on interactive exhibits is completed.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Mokupāpapa Discovery Center
Location: Hilo, Hawaii
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Best for: Families with kids, nature lovers, culture seekers
Learn about some of Hawaii’s most remote and spectacular coral reefs at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center in Hilo! The center, which relocated to a new 20,000-square-foot facility in 2014, exposes visitors to the nature, culture and history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Since few will ever get the opportunity to visit these remote locations, the center uses beautiful exhibits and a 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium to “bring the place to the people” and inspire greater appreciation for their fragile ecosystems.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Visitor Center
Location: Kihei, Maui, Hawaii
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Best for: Whale watchers, nature lovers, surfers, paddlers, families with kids
How many visitor centers let you watch humpback whales breaching right from their doorstep? That’s just one of the many reasons to check out the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center, situated on the south shore of Maui with picturesque views of Kaho'olawe, Lana'i and West Maui looking across the waters of the sanctuary. Learn about Hawaii’s diverse marine life and rich culture in a scenic beachfront setting featuring a restored historic Hawaiian Kö'ie'ie fishpond.
National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa
Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center
Location: Pago Pago, American Samoa
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m; weekends (when a cruise ship is in town), 8 a.m – 2 p.m.
Best for: Locals, students, travelers, ecotourists
The Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center provides visitors with a window into the culture, history and natural environment of American Samoa. This state-of-the-art facility is popular among local residents and tourists alike, offering educational programs and high-tech learning tools like "Science on a Sphere," an interactive, fully spherical video screen.
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
USS Monitor Center
Admission: Adults $12; military & seniors $11; students $10; children (ages 6-12) $7; children (5 and under) free; free for museum members
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Best for: History buffs, ship enthusiasts, families with kids
Immerse yourself in history and heritage! Located in The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the USS Monitor Center is an extraordinary exhibit that highlights the iconic Civil War ironclad now protected by NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Interactive displays, a state-of-the-art conservation center, historical artifacts and captivating films that showcase the life of the historic vessel provide visitors with an unforgettable experience.
SOUTHEAST & GULF OF MEXICO
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Location: Key West, Florida
Admission: Free; free parking
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Best for: Families, snorkelers, fishers, divers, junior scientists
The Eco-Discovery Center features more than 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits showcasing the enticing waters of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, two national parks and four national wildlife refuges. Immerse yourself in the Keys with the center’s Living Reef exhibit, a 2,500-gallon reef tank with living corals and tropical fish, or learn about what it’s like to live beneath the waves on Aquarius, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory!
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
Location: Alpena, Michigan
Hours: Summer — Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (open until 7 p.m. in July & August); Winter — Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Best for: Families with kids, history buffs, shipwreck seekers, picnickers
If you’re ever in Alpena, Michigan, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center is hard to miss — and you really shouldn’t miss it! Painted in NOAA’s signature blue and white, the 9,000-square-foot center is a must-visit for maritime history enthusiasts, featuring a wealth of exhibits and artifacts highlighting the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Explore the full-size replica of a Great Lakes schooner and shipwreck inside the museum, then head outside and wander along the waterfront Maritime Heritage Trail!