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Programs and Field Trips
Directions and area information can be found here

Program Options

Bringing a family or group to the Coastal Discovery Center for a self-guided or guided program is a great introduction to Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and CA State Parks. Visitors can explore the natural and cultural history of this special part of the Central Coast, learn about local conservation efforts and their own role in protecting this amazing place for generations to come.

Reservations are required for guided programs only. Fees vary by program (information below). To reserve space, or get updates on program offerings, call (805) 927-2145.

Self–Guided Programs

  No reservations required
*Children must be accompanied by an adult

Junior Ranger Adventure Program
Children ages four to 12 can become a Junior Ranger by completing the activities in an Adventure Guide at Hearst San Simeon State Park. Have an adventure while learning about the native peoples who once lived here, and the amazing wildlife inhabiting land and sea! Find answers by exploring the park, hiking, watching elephant seals, visiting the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay or staying at San Simeon Campground. Ask for docent guides at the Coastal Discovery Center who will help you earn a Junior Ranger badge.

San Simeon Pier
Take a stroll along the 800 foot-long pier and get a close look at San Simeon Bay. Interpretive signs teach you about the history of San Simeon Bay and the marine birds and mammals that live there. Binoculars and Wildlife of San Simeon Bay guides can be checked out at the Center before your walk. You never know what interesting wildlife will appear!

Guided Programs – Public

  "Discovery Saturday" Programs (Offerings listed below)
Program hours: Call (805) 927-6575 for Saturday hours.
Meet at the Coastal Discovery Center at W.R Hearst State Beach across from Hearst Castle, west of Hwy 1
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED! To reserve space, or get updates on program offerings, call (805) 927-6575
*Children must be accompanied by an adult

Plankton Citizen Science
The most amazing creatures in the ocean are sometimes the smallest. Join us to collect oceanographic data from San Simeon Cove, including live plankton. You'll be astonished at the plant and animal communities living in a drop of seawater. Participants use a video-monitor and the information they find contributes towards valuable data collected by CA Department of Public Health's Biotoxin Monitoring Program.

Exploring Old San Simeon
The History of San Simeon Bay is rich in cultural heritage, from the time the native peoples inhabited the area almost 10,000 years ago to the current ownership by the Hearst family and CA State Parks. Travel through time as we explore the diverse history and uses of San Simeon Cove. Presentation will include a short walk to the end of San Simeon pier and back.

Coastal Discovery Day EventBeach Exploration
Learn about the mysteries of San Simeon Cove by beachcombing with marine biologists. Find out what causes high and low tides and investigate the animals and algae cast up on the beach. During low tide, we will explore invertebrate communities that live between the tides. Buckets and gloves will be supplied for those who want to help clean up the beach on our way back!

Marine Mammals of the Central Coast
Learn how to identify local marine mammals, what you should do if you see a sick or injured seal, sea lion or sea otter, and what you can do to keep these animals healthy. Join us for lively presentation with real fur pelts, skulls and bones, followed by a walk to the pier to look for sea otters, harbor seals and other marine mammals that visit our bay!

Guided Programs – School Groups

  Kids on beachSchool programs (K-12) are hands-on, with a field exploration approach and are offered by appointment.
To make a reservation or request a detailed curriculum, call 805-927-2145.
Reservations are required and must be made at least one month before your visit.

Topics include:
  • Pier Oceanography – Find out how we measure ocean health by collecting and analyzing water samples
  • Plankton lab - Collect and analyze plankton from San Simeon Bay
  • Beach Exploration – What causes tides and what do beach "finds" teach us?
  • Marine Mammals of the Central Coast – Learn about identification tips and conservation efforts
  • Watersheds – Learn what a watershed is and how we can we keep them healthy
  • History of Old San Simeon – Discover how San Simeon Bay was used over the last 2,000 years
  • Marine debris – What causes it and what we can do about it? Followed by beach clean up and trash analysis

Distance Learning Programs

  Can’t join us in person? Schedule a LIVE virtual interaction on sanctuary topics with associated lessons for your students!
Reviewed: September 08, 2023
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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