Find a Sanctuary Near You
Choose a national marine sanctuary below to discover the many recreational activities that await you.
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
The Channel Islands boast a number of outdoor activities to choose from. Kayaking to any of the five islands, whether it is for a day trip or a couple nights of camping, shows the surrounding marine life in the area and a spectacular view of the Santa Ynez Mountains on the mainland. If kayaking isn't for you, boat or plane excursions also bring visitors to the islands year round. Kelp forests live in pristine waters, offering fabulous snorkel and dive opportunities to available to beginners and experts alike. Other activities include fishing, boating, swimming, hiking, and whale and bird watching.
Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary
There are many different locations where visitors can explore Cordell Bank NMS. Learn about the underwater species found throughout Cordell Bank on a wildlife-watching boat tour, at the UC Davis' Bodega Marine Laboratory or at the Aquarium of the Bay. Other available activities include fishing, diving, crabbing, sailing and boating. Guided naturalist tours leave from Bodega Harbor, allowing visitors to get an up-close view of the sanctuary and learn about the extreme biological productivity that takes place in the waters of Cordell Bank.
Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
Close to San Francisco and easily accessible through several national, state and local parks, there are opportunities for everyone in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Visitors can kayak, sail, surf, boardsail and even go abalone diving. Snorkelers and divers can explore the diverse underwater ecosystem found just off the shore. If there isn't enough time to actually visit the islands, the many local visitor centers offer rich experiences with touch tanks and abundant information about the sanctuary.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Monterey Bay is home to miles of undeveloped beaches, an underwater canyon, our nation's largest kelp forest and many more natural habitats. Visitors can take a boat trip to watch the marine wildlife, including whales, sea otters, seal, sea lions and birds. The water's secrets can also be discovered by kayaking, diving, snorkeling, sailing or boating. Closer to the shore, visitors can surf, fish or go tidepooling. Other options include bird-watching at Elkhorn Slough, hiking, visiting breeding colonies of Northern elephant seals and exploring visitor centers and aquariums.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Visitors to this sanctuary can spend the afternoon beachcombing or watching marine wildlife, including sea otters, whales, sea lions and birds. Overnight camping is available at Olympic National Park and Washington State Parks coastal sites. Charter fishing for salmon, rockfish and bottomfish is available, as is recreational diving, snorkeling and kayaking. More kinds of kelp are found at this sanctuary than anywhere else in the world. Visitors can also backpack the wilderness coast, hike on the Makah Indian Reservation or go tidepooling.
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
One of the largest near shore live bottom reefs of the southeastern United States, Gray's Reef is a popular location for sport fishing and diving. There are also opportunities to experience Gray's Reef at one of the local museums, visitor centers or aquariums, such as the Skidaway Aquarium in Savannah, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta or the Sapelo Visitors Center in Meridian.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is known for its fantastic diving opportunities, with almost 900,000 divers and snorkelers visiting every year. The waters boast a wide variety of marine life as well as a popular shipwreck trail. But visitors can also take advantage of many other activities. Fishing, sailing, kayaking, wildlife watching and various eco-tours are available year-round due to the warm climate.
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Diving is the main attraction at this national marine sanctuary, where reaching the beautiful coral reefs takes a 7-8 hour boat trip. The long trip is worth it when divers are able to see more than 200 species of marine life, including graceful manta rays and leatherback turtles. Line fishing is also a popular sanctuary activity (remember, no spear fishing allowed!). Visitors unable to take the boat trip can experience Flower Garden Banks at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, TX or the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, TN.
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries' only true tropical coral reef, Fagatele Bay is home to a complex ecosystem that offers visitors unparalleled recreational activities. Accessible by a 1-2 hour boat trip or by foot, visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming and picnicking on the beaches. Divers and snorkelers can enjoy the many tropical fish that inhabit the area, as well as algae, coral and maybe even an endangered sperm whale or green sea turtle.
Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
The Hawaiian Islands are famous for the thousands of whales that migrate here in order to breed, calve and nurse their young, and visitors to the sanctuary have unparalleled opportunities for whale watching. In addition, over 25% of all Hawaii's reef animals are found nowhere else on earth, providing a diverse habitat for divers, snorkelers and swimmers. Visitors also have the opportunity to surf amazing waves or spend an afternoon fishing for that night's dinner.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Visitors can get a taste of what Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument has to offer by going to the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Tourists can enjoy its unique wildlife and maritime heritage. Some areas of the monument also allow recreational fishing and diving. The monument's coral reefs are the foundation of an ecosystem that hosts more than 7,000 species, at least one quarter of which are found nowhere else on Earth.
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary
Although less on-water recreational activities are available at this sanctuary due to rough and unpredictable weather, there are many ways to enjoy the rich history of the USS Monitor on land. One of the most impressive offerings of the sanctuary is The Mariners' Museum, one of the largest international museums in the world. The museum displays numerous Monitor artifacts, including its anchor and revolutionary engine, and provides visitors the next best thing to being underwater with the sunken vessel. Diving is available on the wreck itself only to very experienced divers.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
Visitors to this sanctuary can take advantage of the many boat excursions from various local areas to partake in watching marine wildlife, particularly whales. Stellwagen Bank is one of the top-ten whale watching sites in the world. Other recreational possibilities include fishing excursions or visiting the New England Aquarium or National Marine Fisheries Service Aquarium. Additionally, dive trips to the bank by commercial operations are available for experienced divers.
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Visitors to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary can experience everything from fantastic diving to kayaking and boating. Divers at Thunder Bay can explore numerous shipwrecks and discover a vast collection of maritime stories, from wooden schooners to early steel-hulled steamers. Sanctuary visitors who prefer to stay above water can sail, boat, kayak or canoe. Dry land options include fishing, bird watching and learning about Great Lakes maritime history by visiting local museums or lighthouses.