As a travel destination, few places on the planet can compete with the diversity of the National Marine Sanctuary System, which protects America’s most iconic natural and cultural marine resources. Fortunately, the vast majority of all national marine sanctuary waters are open to recreational fishing, diving, surfing, swimming, kayaking and many more compatible recreational activities!
We are celebrating these special ocean places by hosting a system-wide series of National "Get into Your Sanctuary" Day events over the weekend of June 27-28th, 2015. Scroll down to check out the activities that await when you visit a sanctuary near you!
We are also promoting this effort on our social media channels throughout the month of June, and we'd like YOU to be part of it! So please join us in sharing your stories about the types of things you enjoy when you #VisitSanctuaries!
Explore your Sanctuary
Find out how to visit your local sanctuary
- "Marine Mammals of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary" campfire talk at Carpinteria State Beach, Saturday, June 27th
- Join Channel Islands Naturalist Corps on whale watch tours and island hikes all weekend!
- Social media photo contest! The best photos posted to the Channel Islands Twitter or Facebook pages will be given passes through Island Packers outfitters
Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries
- National Marine Sanctuaries Celebration - Sunday, June 28th, 11am - 3pm at the Gualala Arts Center
- Join staff on a Early Bird Nature Walk and then stay to celebrate the expanded sanctuaries! Visitors will have a chance to:
- Talk to shipwreck and marine life experts
- Play seabird “survival” games
- Hear from local and national leaders
- Learn about sanctuary programs
- Create ocean art
- Enjoy live music and tribal dances
- Take part in raffles for kayaking and seabird-watching trips
- Dive trip to Gray's Reef departing out of St. Mary's, Georgia and sponsored by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Contact Diver's Den Georgia for more information and to see if any last minute spots open up!
- Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will be a featured organization honoring a strong local ocean advocate at a legendary community establishment, Leopold’s Ice Cream shop on Sunday, June 28th from 12-4pm in Savannah. Stop by the booth to learn more about ocean conservation and stewardship!
Do a virtual visit to the sanctuary by exploring the traveling exhibit now on display in the Aquarium at Moody Gardens! Sanctuary staff will be on hand at Moody Gardens on Saturday, June 27th from 10am - 2pm to share information about the Flower Garden Banks and welcome guests to enjoy our whale shark photo booth, complete with fun sanctuary photo props!
A "Get into Your Sanctuary" day of special activities at the Waikiki Aquarium, Saturday, June 27th, 10am - 2pm, including:
- Ocean Crafts! Make your own whale puppet and learn the traditional art of Gyotaku (fish printing)
- Discover local fish species and shipwreck artifacts, and learn how you can help stop marine debris
- Volunteer appreciation kayaking excursion in San Simeon Bay on Saturday, June 27th
- Activities at San Simeon Pier with Sanctuary docents on Saturday, June 27th. Visitors can:
- Learn about plankton and underwater sounds
- Take the Ocean Pledge
- Tour the Sanctuary Photo Exhibit
- "Relax & Seek Sanctuary" - Yoga on Del Monte Beach in Monterey on Sunday, June 28th at 9am in front of MB Kayaks.
- Facebook photo contest with prizes throughout June!
Get into Your Sanctuary: Aunu'u -- Saturday, June 27th, 9am-12pm. Special activities include:
- American Samoa Sanctuary Classic - Photo-Fishing Contest
- Eco-Tour Packages - Discover Aunu'u!
- Sanctuary Fun - Games, Activities and Contests for all ages at the Sunia Ocean Center
- Register by June 23rd and contact the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center for more information
Come to Kalaloch Lodge (located about 90 miles southwest of Port Angeles, WA) on Saturday, June 27th, for a day of "Healthy Ocean, Healthy You!" activities, including:
- Yoga on the beach (Kalaloch Lodge 9:30am)
- Guided beach ecology walk (Kalaloch Lodge 11:30am)
- Southern Resident Killer Whales presentation by NOAA Fisheries Marine Species Branch Chief and orca expert ,Lynne Barre (Kalaloch Lodge 3:00pm)
- Information about Olympic Culinary Loop sustainable dining experiences at Kalaloch Lodge and other Olympic Peninsula destinations
Learn about whales from sanctuary docents on a whale watch tour! Contact one of the area's tour operators for tickets.
- Take a stroll down the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Trail, and step back in time on board the tall ship, U.S. Brig Niagara, visiting Alpena for two days only! The vessel will be open for tours Friday, June 26th, 1pm-6pm, and on Saturday, June 27th, 10am-6pm.
- Regularly-scheduled glass bottom boat tours aboard the Lady Michigan all day Saturday, June 27th and Sunday, June 28th! Tours are at 10am, 1pm, and 4pm, with a sunset cruise to Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse and the Monohansett shipwreck on Saturday at 7pm
- Register for the upcoming Annual Thunder Bay Cardboard Boat Regatta!
Visitor Centers: Gateways to Your National Marine Sanctuaries!
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
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
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!