Visitor Centers and Exhibits

The offshore location of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary limits access to visitors with private boats or those on charter cruises. The sanctuary works with many partners throughout central and southern California to interpret the living and maritime heritage resources that are a part of this iconic place. This is not a comprehensive list of aquariums and museums in Southern California.
An aquarium
Photo: Tom Bonner

We work with the Aquarium of the Pacific to engage the public in ocean conservation and technology through the development of exhibits and different festivals and events. The exhibit, Whales: A Journey with Giants, uses compelling imagery to tell the story of the natural history of blue whales, the history of whaling that almost drove these whales to extinction, and current challenges whales face for their continued survival. This exhibit is projected on the walls of the aquarium's Great Hall around suspended life-size blue whale cow and calf pair models. The Whales: Voices in the Sea exhibit invites the aquarium visitor to listen to a whale sound, replicate it, and compare their spectrogram to each whale species' sound.
Boating center
Photo: Tom Bonner

The Channel Islands Boating Center teaches sailing and aquatic skills to California State University Channel Islands students and Ventura County youth and adults. The exhibits promote responsible visitor use of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary by providing information about ocean etiquette techniques, safety, and awareness of the sanctuary's regulations and marine protected area network. In addition, the exhibits highlight the incredible biodiversity of the Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Channel from microscopic plankton to blue whales by focusing on the unique features of the islands' remote, isolated position at the confluence of the two major ocean currents and prevailing weather patterns that support those conditions. Exhibits also feature some of the more prominent shipwrecks of the Channel Islands and Santa Barbara Channel to bring attention to the natural hazards there.
Channel Island National Park
Photo: Julie Bursek/NOAA

The Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center has several marine and Channel Islands- related educational displays including a rocky tidepool, elephant seal exhibit, and pygmy mammoth exhibit. There is also a theater, bookstore, native plant garden, and Channel Islands Information Center. The sanctuary has an interpretive sign in the breezeway of the visitor center. Visitors can also watch the 25-minute park movie, “A Treasure in the Sea,” shown throughout the day in the auditorium.
Channel Island Sea center
Photo: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

At the Sea Center, visitors of all ages can enjoy interactive exhibits, opportunities to be a scientist for the day, a theater showcasing the wonders of the Santa Barbara Channel, hands-on close encounters with sea creatures, and a live shark touch pool. Children can crawl through a 1,500-gallon tidepool tank to see ocean life from a different perspective. The Sea Center is an engaging, interactive marine education facility that allows visitors to discover the fun in science and the wonders of the natural world. The sanctuary has several exhibits on the wet deck of the Sea Center, including interpretive signage, a sanctuary information kiosk and a 3D model of marine protected areas in the Channel Islands.
Santa Barbara Martitime Museum
Photo: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum preserves and presents the maritime history of California's Central Coast to the public , while providing an ongoing educational platform to study and record human interaction with the marine environment. The sanctuary and the museum have developed interactive exhibits featuring the shipwrecks at the Channel Islands.
Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center
Photo: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

This small visitor center is located on the fourth floor of the Waterfront Center at Santa Barbara Harbor. Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center is a partnership between Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Channel Islands National Park, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, and the city of Santa Barbara. The center has interpretive signs about recreational opportunities and important species and habitats found at the Channel Islands, as well as a floor tile mural depicting the Rainbow Bridge story of the Chumash Native Americans.
Channel Islands Maritime Museum
Julie Bursek, NOAA

The Channel Islands Maritime Museum is located in Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard California and features an extensive and world-class maritime art collection spanning centuries. Ship models trace more than 3,000 years of maritime history, from ancient Egyptian reed boats and tomols used by local Chumash to modern day car carriers. The museum houses the largest collection of antique prisoner-of-war sailing ship models on display in the United States. These models, including eight rare bone models, were made by French prisoners of the British during the Napoleonic Wars. In addition, the museum exhibits the entire life's work of Ed Marple, one of America's foremost ship model builders. Other exhibits on whaling, sailors' arts, navigational instruments, and the history of the Channel Island Harbor and The Port of Hueneme round out the permanent collection. Special topical and featured guest artist exhibitions are presented on an ongoing basis.
Cabrillo High School Aquarium
Photo: Cabrillo High School Aquarium

The aquarium is located on the Campus of Cabrillo High School in the Lompoc Unified School District. High school students are active participants in the daily maintenance, operation, and outreach programs of the aquarium. The sanctuary partners with the aquarium on exhibits, including a national marine sanctuary interactive kiosk display, a kelp forest mural, and other educational programs. The Cabrillo High School Aquarium is organized and maintained by volunteers, most of them students. The aquarium is located in Lompoc, California.