Recreation Activities

Planning an adventure or dreaming of your next vacation? Look no further than your national marine sanctuaries! These jewels of the ocean and Great Lakes hold possibilities for everyone. Discover the ocean and Great Lakes, and yourself, in national marine sanctuaries.

Recreation Activities

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  • Surf iconsurf
  • Fishing iconfish
  • Paddling iconpaddle
  • Wildlife iconwatch wildlife
  • Snorkeling iconsnorkel
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Diver swimming by a reef
Wendy Cover/NOAA

American Samoa

Travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience can enjoy snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and cultural excursions. National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa is home to one of the largest known coral heads in the world.

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Diver analyzing reef with an electronic device
Joe Hoyt/NOAA

Cordell Bank

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary is a lush feeding ground for many marine mammals and seabirds. Humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, albatrosses, shearwaters, and countless other animals flourish here.

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Visitors looking from the front of a boat
Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Channel Islands

The waters that swirl around the five islands within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary host more than 27 species of whales and dolphins. A day kayaking among the numerous sea caves or diving in the kelp forests can satisfy a traveler’s thirst for exploration.

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Blue angel fish in a cave
Greg McFall/NOAA

Florida keys

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary’s mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs make this a prime fishing and snorkeling destination. Visitors are encouraged to book their trips with Blue Star operators that promote responsible recreation.

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Photo of a stingray from the bottom
Emma Hickerson/NOAA

Flower Garden Banks

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a true treasure of the Gulf of Mexico and a diver’s paradise—a Caribbean oasis in an unexpected place. Every August, corals in this national marine sanctuary put on a fantastic spawning display.

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Fishing from boat
NOAA

Gray's Reef

Rocky outcroppings and ledges provide homes for marine life, including black sea bass, snapper, and loggerhead sea turtles. The sanctuary is also within the only known winter calving grounds of the highly-endangered North Atlantic right whale.

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Sara Heintzelman/NOAA

Greater Farallones

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects the wildlife and habitats of one of the most diverse and bountiful marine ecosystems in the world. Outdoor enthusiasts can view blue and humpback whales, white sharks, and a quarter-million seabirds.

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A whale jumping out of the water
J. Moore/NOAA, Permit #15240

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary protects one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats and the only place in the U.S. where humpback whales reproduce.

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To many, the ocean and Great Lakes are our planet’s greatest playground – and national marine sanctuaries protect some of the best, most iconic places to play. In these ocean parks, you can dive in technicolor coral reefs, explore historic shipwrecks, paddle around lush kelp forests, watch a humpback whale’s majestic breach, explore a shoreside tide pool, and more. There’s no end to the adventure in national marine sanctuaries!

Sea otter eating a crab
Jenni Peters

Monterey Bay

From the pristine beaches and jewel-like tide pools to the lush kelp forests, this “Serengeti of the Sea” offers some of the best wildlife viewing and diving in the world, and plenty of offshore boating opportunities.

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A shipwreck
Jenni Peters

Monitor

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary protects the wreck of the Civil War vessel USS Monitor. Today, the USS Monitor lies 240 feet below the ocean surface and provides habitat structure to a variety of corals and sponges, as well as sea turtles, sharks, and manta rays.

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Surfer surfing with a big wave behind him
Darryl Wood

Olympic Coast

Visitors will find that the spectacular, sparsely populated, and undeveloped shoreline of Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary makes it one of the most dramatic natural wonders in the United States.

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People watching the aquarium
Andy Collins/NOAA

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. It was created to protect and perpetuate ecosystem health and diversity and the Native Hawaiian cultural significance of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Immerse yourself in the interactive natural and cultural exhibits at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center.

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Ari Friedlaender/DUKE

Stellwagen bank

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is one of the premiere whale watching destinations in the world. Fishing, bird-watching, and diving are also within easy reach for visitors. Ports along the New England coastline offer charter boats bound for Stellwagen Bank.

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Rowing boat under a bridge
NOAA

Thunder Bay

Nicknamed “Shipwreck Alley,” the national marine sanctuary in Lake Huron protects one of America’s best-preserved collections of shipwrecks. There are opportunities for paddlers, snorkelers, divers, or passengers on glass-bottom boat tours to view the wrecks.

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