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Ocean Institute, Dana Point

#3 of 7 in Wildlife in Dana Point
Nightlife · Night Tour
The Ocean Institute is an ocean education organization located in Dana Point, California. Founded as the Orange County Marine Institute in 1977, it offers ocean science and maritime history programs for K–12 students and their teachers. Over 100,000 students and 8,000 teachers from Orange County and the surrounding counties participate yearly in immersion-style programs in the Institute's oceanfront labs and abroad.
The Institute is open to the general public on weekdays, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.; visitors can see marine animals and ocean-themed exhibits. Biologist and cartoonist Stephen Hillenburg conceived the idea for the animated television show for the children’s cable network, Nickelodeon, titled SpongeBob SquarePants while teaching at the Ocean Institute.

Moored at the Institute is its 70-foot marine science research vessel, the R/V Sea Explorer, used for student programs and to take visitors on trips to see marine wildlife, including whale watching on weekends. The Institute also partners with the Lazy-W Ranch, a camp located in the Cleveland National Forest where students study the ecosystem and California history. It provides outreach programs via a mobile laboratory provided by the "Ocean in Motion" van and distance learning via video conference.
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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
157 reviews
  • We took the 12:30pm tour on a Wednesday which wound up having a group of about 14 people. The staff was friendly, well educated and informed. We visited the live exhibits in their labs which showed...  more »
  • Small but informative - ship tour a must. Friendly staff and great location for ocean "learning" experience  more »
  • We came to visit the tide pools but since it was high tide we had to find a different activity. Lucky for us the Ocean Institute was open! The kids enjoyed seeing the ocean creatures and exploring the Pilgrim.
  • Perfect place to go. We did a homeschool field trip here! There were so many things for the kids to explore and touch!

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