Windows to Sanctuaries:
The Partners Who Tell Our Stories

by Elizabeth Weinberg

You don't have to be an experienced diver or an avid kayaker to get to know your National Marine Sanctuary System. National marine sanctuaries partner with aquariums, science museums, parks, and more to bring even the most remote of marine protected areas right to your fingertips. Here are some exhibits you can't miss!

The Mariners' Museum and Park

The Mariners' Museum and Park is home to the USS Monitor Center. At this incredible museum, you can see more than 200 tons of artifacts recovered from Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, watch restoration in action, and learn about the historic USS Monitor.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Located on the shores of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Monterey Bay Aquarium provides visitors with a seafloor-to-surface experience of the neighboring sanctuary. Visit the aquarium's kelp forest exhibit to get a fish's-eye view of life in the sanctuary, or check out the 90-foot-long exhibit highlighting five different Monterey Bay habitats. Don't forget to visit the decks for a chance to spot sanctuary wildlife!

Oakland Museum of California

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is located off the shores of Northern California, and the swift currents around its deep, rocky reef make it difficult to dive in the sanctuary. Fortunately, the Oakland Museum of California's Natural Science Gallery has an entire wing—including interactive stations and an immersive video room—focused on the rich and unique Cordell Bank ecosystem.

California Academy of Sciences

Need more time in your California national marine sanctuaries? Visit the California Academy of Sciences to encounter stunning views of California's underwater ecosystems. The Northern California Coast exhibit boasts a 100,000-gallon tank replicating the habitats of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and the Discovery Tidepool can help young visitors get a hands-on understanding of the sanctuaries' natural worlds.

Waikīkī Aquarium

Designated to protect an exceptional array of natural and cultural resources within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is remote, and closed to visitors without research or special use permits. But visitors to Honolulu can get to know the monument's amazing ocean ecosystems at the Waikīkī Aquarium. The oldest public aquarium in the United States, the Waikīkī Aquarium hosts an exhibit featuring the special and rare marine life of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Tennessee Aquarium

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is situated 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, but you can stay dry and visit it at the Tennessee Aquarium. The aquarium's 618,000-gallon saltwater exhibit, the Secret Reef, gives visitors an up-close and personal view of the huge boulder coral formations that form the reef structure at East and West Flower Garden Banks.

Texas State Aquarium

Can't get enough of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary? The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi has had a Flower Garden Banks exhibit since 1990—before the sanctuary was even designated! This 40,000-gallon exhibit showcases the sanctuary's coral reef and fishes like blue tang, cownose rays, and queen angelfish, and includes daily Diver in the Water presentations.

Tybee Island Marine Science Center

Take a virtual visit to Georgia's Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. Year-round programs for island visitors and groups provide information about local conservation efforts and the importance of coastal Georgia's natural resources.

New England Aquarium

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is renowned as one of the world's premiere whale watching destinations. Whale aren't the only ocean creatures that call the sanctuary home, though, and you can discover the sanctuary's marine life at Boston's New England Aquarium. Six Gulf of Maine exhibits cover more than half of the aquarium's third floor, giving visitors an exceptional opportunity to view the ecosystems in and around Stellwagen Bank. Look closely to find lobsters hiding in the aquarium's rocky reef, and spot giant sea stars and crabs lurking among the boulders.

Learn more about the gateways to your National Marine Sanctuary System at