Six hours north of San Francisco on Highway 101, and just 20 miles south of the Oregon border, you’ll find an unusual underwater aquarium called Ocean World (and the answer to yesterday’s post!). I was especially interested to visit the aquarium on our last road trip to the Pacific Northwest because I can remember it distinctly from my childhood when the floating barge-aquarium was docked farther north and was called “Undersea Gardens.”
Today, Ocean World offers guided tours of its half-million gallon aquarium, which begins with an educational stop at the touch-and-feel tide pool and ends with an entertaining seal and sea lion performance. In between, guides lead visitors to the lower level of the barge to share their knowledge and answer questions about the residents in each of its three aquatic environments, which are illuminated solely by natural daylight from above.
In the Rocky Bottom Environment, you’ll see giant sea stars, wolf eels, and more than twenty species of local rockfish—which you might not be able to spot without your guide’s help.
In the Sandy Bottom Environment, we enjoyed watching leopard sharks swim by, and watched for silver and rainbow surfperch.
Finally, the Open Ocean Environment delighted the kids each time an enormous sturgeon or bat ray glided past our windows.
While the highlight for us was definitely the short, but fun seal and sea lion show at the end, the kids (and many of the visiting tourists) were also thrilled by the opportunity to pet real sharks—in this case small, non-threatening sharks kept in a large tub indoors. While watching people of all ages thrill at sticking their hands in at will to stroke the sharks in their small home seemed contrary to the respectful tone set by the earlier parts of the tour, I did enjoy the rest of our visit to Ocean World and think it would make an educational and enjoyable stop for any family road-tripping along the north coast of California.
Ocean World is open 7 days a week year round, except for Christmas Day. Tours are 45 to 50 minutes long (just right for those with a toddler along) and begin each 15 to 20 minutes, as long as daylight allows. For more information, visit the Ocean World website (www.oceanworldonline.com).
Other nearby sights to see: Crescent City is a perfect stopover for road trips through northern California’s spectacular redwoods and along its scenic coastline. Plan a drive down the Avenue of Giants, visit the Trees of Mystery, take in two local lighthouses, and be sure to make a sandcastle on one of the beaches as you pass through!
For more tips and ideas for your family’s West Coast road trip, check out the Destinations Page and Family-Friendly Hotel Reviews covering San Diego to Vancouver, B.C. – and don’t miss many more tips on the Road Trips page and in both Travels with Baby guidebooks.
“March of the Animals” continues next week with more family-friendly animal encounters as the month that came in like a lion, we hope, goes out “like a lamb.” Click here to see earlier posts from the month from Spain, Costa Rica, New York, and more.