Sure, you love visiting Southern California beach towns--basking in the Carlsbad sun, swimming on the shores of San Clemente, and drinking that perfectly done coffee on the pier—but one of the most commonly overlooked things to do in Orange County is interacting and watching marine life. With the clear blue coastal shores of Southern California, don’t forget to plan a trip to visit one of Orange County’s marine life centers and sights next time you are in town! Here are our suggestions for family friendly marine life sightings in and around Orange County.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
20612 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
A non-profit center for marine animals in need,
focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of mammals on the coast in need of medical care. Through research and programs, PMMC exists not only to help animals in need, but also to increase awareness of marine mammals and their habitats.
PMMC offers a location for field trips, volunteer work, and free admission from 10am-4pm daily. Since PMMC serves mostly as a hospital and rehabilitation center, there's no knowing what sorts of marine mammals you'll see when you visit - abandoned baby sea lions, or huge elephant seals recovering from an injury - it's always a surprise and always interesting!
The Ocean Institute
24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Dana Point, CA 92629
The Ocean Institute of Dana Point
is located right by the Dana Point Harbor and makes interaction with marine life a means to an abundant educational experience. The Ocean Institute specializes in sparking imagination and learning in children and adults alike, and offers immersive experiences for the whole family! Plan your trip around their famous Festival of Whales, where you can Dolphin and Whale-watch the day away! Try their Tiny Tots: Parent and Me program—a six-week exploration and play program for little ones and their parent(s). For Mother’s Day, visit the Ocean Institute for a Mother’s Day boat ride—where she’ll cruise with you and the family along the ocean and interact with local sea creatures and munch on pastries and coffee. On Earth Day, visit the Ocean Institute to celebrate with ongoing workshops and activities! These programs, and many more, are available at this one-of-a-kind, inspiring ocean oasis, and a must-visit on our list!
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA, 90802
If you are looking to stay a little more North, towards the Belmont Shore Long Beach area, consider spending a day at the
Aquarium of the Pacific
. Southern California's largest aquarium, the Aquarium of the Pacific displays over 11,000 sea creatures in more than 50 exhibits, brilliantly showcasing the diversity of the Pacific Ocean.
With interactive games like build-your-own fish, as well as a fun array of new exhibits and family friendly events like Aquatots: Colors of the Ocean (an interactive colorful exploration of marine life for children), the Aquarium of the Pacific has endless options for the whole family and promises a meaningful and imaginative experience. Check the Aquarium of the Pacific website for special seasonal ticket prices to find the best time of year to visit!
La Jolla Beach
San Diego, CA
Stop by any sandy shore of
and get that up-close and personal interaction with harbor seals you’ll never forget. On the coasts of this small San Diego town, tourists and locals alike can be seen strolling the sea shores and taking photos of the miraculous harbor seals coated in grey, silver, brown, and black fur. Be sure to bring your camera and a good hat to protect you from the sun, and then enjoy the view with the whole family!
If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, why not book a snorkel or sea scooter tour with
La Jolla Watersports
? You can swim with leopard sharks or tour the La Jolla caves where you'll see garibaldi, shovel nosed guitar fish, and other unique Pacific Ocean inhabitants!
Little Corona at Corona Del Mar State Beach
3100 Ocean Blvd.
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Off of PCH and Poppy Avenue,
rests in the heart of Corona Del Mar State Beach, and offers family friendly tide pools for the whole family. This Corona Del Mar gem is protected by reefs surrounding--making it the perfect place to safely play and explore. Visit during low tides to discover hidden ocean critters and marine plants like coral, starfish, and sea urchins. If you are looking to explore some of California’s marine life on a budget, the tide pools of Little Corona might just be for you!
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
2301 University Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660
The Upper Newport By Nature Preserve
occupies a large body of land and made up of the bluffs surrounding the Newport Beach Bay. You won't see dolphins or sea lions here, but you will see birds, birds, birds! If you are a fan of bird watching, Upper Newport Bay is the perfect location for you!
This reservation hosts thousands of birds every year and 6 rare or endangered species and is sensitive to sustainably restoring habitats for wetlands wildlife.
You can plan a day to visit Upper Newport Bay to hike, have a picnic, bird-watch, or visit the Interpretive Center, where wildlife is explained in imaginative ways. Want to get an even closer look at the local wildlife? Rent a kayak and keep your eyes out for fish, frogs, and even the occasional sting ray or bat ray! Also be sure to look out for special events, like Family Science Sunday and other family offerings at this mecca of intentional preservation.
Ready to explore the coast?
Contact us to start planning your trip to Southern California at 800-408-1822!
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