Puffins on a rocky cliffside

Photo: Mary Sue Brancato

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Location: Washington's outer coast

Size: 3,188 square miles

Designated: 1994

Habitat: Tide pools, kelp forests, open ocean, rocky reefs, deep sea

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Photos (left to right): Photo: NOAA; Howard Cunningham; Gary L. Friedrichsen/NOAA

Sea stars clinging to rocky shorelines. Orcas swimming swiftly through the waves. Towering kelp swaying in the currents. Deep-sea corals sprouting from the seafloor. These are just a few examples of the diversity of life found in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary—which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

This Pacific Northwest sanctuary includes the waters off the rugged and undeveloped Olympic Peninsula coastline, bordering the coastal area of Olympic National Park much of the way. Olympic Coast protects a productive upwelling zone home to rich marine mammal and seabird faunas, major fisheries, diverse populations of kelp and algae, and thriving invertebrate communities.

Visitors to the sanctuary can spot orcas, gray whales, sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions from land, as well as bald eagles, tufted puffins, and common murres. It’s the perfect place to take a hike along wilderness beaches and to experience one of the most wild areas in the lower 48 states. The Olympic Coast Discovery Center in Port Angeles, Washington, offers visitors aneasily-accessible glimpse into the sanctuary.

The Olympic Coast occupies a maritime cultural landscape that has supported humans from time immemorial. The sanctuary works closely with the Quinault Indian Nation and the Hoh, Quileute, and Makah tribes to protect this vital region for generations to come.