The head of a shark

Photo: Scot Anderson

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

Map showing the location of Greater Farallones national Marine Sanctuary

Location: Off the northern and central California coast

Size: 3,295 square miles

Designated: 1981 (expanded in 2015)

Habitat: Estuaries, continental shelf, islands, deep sea, open ocean, kelp forests, sandy and rocky shores

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A seal yawns while lying on the beach
A humpback whale pokes its head above the water. A seabird flies in the background
rocks on a beach with seaside cliffs in the background
A puffin swims away with it's head turned to the side

Photos (left to right): Sara Heintzelman/NOAA; Douglas Croft/Monterey Bay Marine Life Studies, under NMSF Permit #20519; Matt McIntosh/NOAA; USGS

The California Current sweeps down the West Coast of North America from Alaska to Mexico. The cold waters carried by this current are loaded with nutrients—and these nutrients are what make Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary such an incredible place.

Reaching from south of San Francisco north to the scenic Redwood Coast, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects the wildlife and habitats of one of the most diverse and bountiful marine environments in the world. It provides breeding and feeding grounds for at least 25 endangered and threatened species, 37 marine mammal species, over a quarter-million seabirds, and one of the most significant white shark populations on the planet. Here, you’ll see blue and humpback whales, seals and sea lions, dolphins, and seabirds like tufted puffins and pigeon guillemots.

The diversity of habitats in Greater Farallones means that visitors will never be at a loss for something to do. Join a day cruise for whale watching and world-class birding at the largest seabird rookery in the contiguous United States. Enjoy kayaking in a lagoon, go surfing and boogie boarding, or stroll along beaches to experience unusual geological formations and flocks of shorebirds. Explore a tide pool to discover intriguing forms of marine life amid the pounding surf!