Celebrating Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

By Alison Thompson, guest author

Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary celebrates its anniversary today! Designated on July 22, 1994, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, located in Washington State, adjacent to Olympic National Park, currently protects 3,188 square miles of marine waters off the Olympic Peninsula coastline and over 150 documented shipwrecks. The sanctuary is home to one of our nation’s most pristine and viable environments, serving as habitat for over 29 species of marine mammals and protects some of the most productive habitats for fish in the world. With four Native American tribes utilizing the sanctuary and assisting in its management, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary also provides visitors with a rich cultural experience and history. It’s no wonder Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is able to provide the public with so many opportunities for recreation, education, research, and volunteer opportunities to preserve and celebrate the area’s ecological integrity and maritime heritage. Here are some travel tips and activities to look into for your next visit to Olympic Coast:

Visit the Olympic Coast Discovery Center
Your first stop on your trip to Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary should be the Olympic Coast Discovery Center along the Port Angeles waterfront. The center is a great place to learn about the sanctuary and all the marine life it supports along the Olympic Coast.

Photo by: Matt McIntosh/NOAA

Visit Olympic National Park
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is unique in that it shares 65 miles of coastline with Olympic National Park. Take a hike through Hoh Rain Forest in the morning and make it down to the coast for some tidepool exploring during an incredible coastal sunset. If you have some time to camp, enjoy the day down at the sanctuary visitor center and spend your evening surrounded by trees at the campfire at one of the National Park’s campsites. For more information regarding Olympic National Park and activities in the area visit: nationalparks.org.

Photo by: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA

Explore the tidepools
Stop by the Olympic Coast Discovery Center at the sanctuary and find out when low tide is so you can get a closer look at marine life in the tidepools, exposed portions of the rocky intertidal zone that house a variety of marine organisms. Every day during low tide, visitors can see sea anemones, fish, starfish, crabs, and octopi in tidepools! Remember that these tidepool critters rely on visitors to use proper tidepool etiquette to ensure their habitat stays healthy.

Photo by: Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Go see wildlife
Home to over 29 marine mammals and 100 different species of seabirds, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary is the optimal wildlife viewing destination. Orcas, California gray whales, humpback whales, Risso’s dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lions, northern fur seals, northern elephant seals, and sea otters are frequent visitors to the sanctuary. Seasonal migrations bring a variety of species to the sanctuary at various times of the year–so there is always something to see! You can also see elk, deer, and other forest wildlife in Olympic National Park which borders the sanctuary! Don’t forget to practice good ocean etiquette!


Sportfish or kayak
The waters off the Olympic Coast are some of the most productive fishing waters in the world. With salmon, halibut, albacore tuna, and ling cod available from Westport, Neah Bay, Sekiu, and La Push, booking a sports fishing charter is an excellent way to spend a day on the water. If you prefer to river fish, adventure into Olympic National Park to fish one of the most extensive runs of trout and wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest. With 4,000 miles of rivers and streams, Olympic National Park boasts ample fishing opportunities for anglers. Or, get out on the water and rent kayaks to explore our ocean’s treasures from the surface. Whale watch from a respectable distance (check out NOAA’s Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines) in your kayak or follow along with the coast for amazing views of the rugged Olympic Peninsula coastline. Before departing on your kayaking or fishing adventure, check with the visitor’s center for weather reports and ocean conditions. For specific rules and regulations regarding sports fishing in the State of Washington, visit: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/saltwater.

For more information visit: olympiccoast.noaa.gov and nps.gov/olym


Photo by: Karlyn Langjahr/NOAA