Press & Media


Press & Media

About the Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute is nationally known for its award winning, hands-on marine science, environmental education and maritime history programs. Students, families and the general public become tall ship sailors, research scientists, oceanographers, and explorers while immersed in Ocean Institute programs.

Ocean Institute Mission

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.

Brief History of the Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute, founded in 1977 as the Orange County Marine Institute, is a community-based 501 © (3) organization that educates students and public visitors through over 60 marine science and maritime history programs. Located on 2.4 acres in the Dana Point Harbor, adjacent to a Marine Conservation Area, the site is ideal for hands-on learning about the sea.

The Institute grew steadily from inception to the point that the facilities were at 100% capacity. In 1999, the Board of Directors voted to expand, and initiated a capital fundraising campaign for the design and construction of new facilities. Construction of the six building, 33,800 sq. ft. campus began in early 2001. It took 18 months to build at a cost of $16.5 million, all generously donated by numerous friends from throughout the country. The capstone occasion came in October 2002 when the new Ocean Education Center opened for the people of Southern California and beyond.

Educational Facilities

Ocean Education Center – comprised of the Ecology Learning Center, Packard At Sea Learning Center, Folino Center for Technology and Communications, and Surfscience Learning Center; teaching stations include marine life tanks, wet-tables with video-microscopes, a wave tank, a children’s theater, a ROV testing tank, and a sleeping deck with sweeping ocean views.

Student and Teacher Services Building – the administrative center also houses the entry to Headlands and Beyond: A hands on exploration center that is now open to the public on weekdays and weekends! Spot live animals in our kelp forest, operate touchscreen technology to delve into the deep ocean, engage in experiments, and investigate our tide pool play scape.

Maritime Center – a hands-on teaching facility built for exploration of maritime history.

Maddie James Seaside Learning Center – our spectacular “on the water” facility featuring a 300’ Ocean Science Landing with fascinating science and maritime learning stations and vessel moorings.

R/V Sea Explorer – a 65-ft. marine science research vessel with state-of-the-art oceanography equipment where students become oceanographers for a day.

Spirit of Dana Point – a 118-ft. topsail schooner used for living history and at-sea maritime adventures.

Pilgrim – a 130-ft. historic tall ship made famous by Richard Henry Dana in his book Two Years Before The Mast. Students live as sailors in the 1830s during dockside programs that bring history to life.

Lazy-W Ranch – a residential camp in the Cleveland National Forest, where students spend their days and nights experiencing California history or investigating different ecosystems.

Ocean in Motion van – a mobile laboratory for outreach to special needs and underserved students.

Marine Life Conservation Area – a natural intertidal ecosystem of eight acres adjacent to our site.

Chambers Gallery Book and Gift Store – carrying the latest educational materials and ocean-themed items with proceeds benefiting Ocean Institute programs.

Samueli Lecture Hall and Conference Center – a unique setting for events with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. The center is also used for a variety of educational programs.

Current Facts 

Annual Students Served: 60,000
Annual Public Served: 50,000
Total Guests Served: 110,000

Staff: 115 (full and part-time)

Photo / Video Guidelines

Photo and video consent 

By entering, you consent to your voice and photography or video of you, including accompanying children, to be used without compensation in any and all media and marketing materials, and you release Ocean Institute from any liability of usage.

Taking photos or video for editorial purposes

Anyone can take photos and video for their personal use only. Media should contact the Marketing department in advance to arrange to shoot photos and videos that will be used with articles or media that include Ocean Institute.

Taking photos or video for commercial purposes

Taking photos or video for commercial purposes, including for stock images, commercial products and other commercial purposes is prohibited without prior authorization from the Marketing department. If permission is granted, payment of location fee may be involved, depending on the scope of the project.

Location filming/photography

We consider each location request on an individual basis, and fees may be charged for shooting. Requests can be accommodated only if they do not conflict with scheduled events.

National Recognition

  • Dana Point Chamber of Commerce – Business of the Year 2008
  • Orange County Department of Education – Outstanding Contributions in Education Award
  • U. S. Sailing – National Outstanding Community Sailing Program Award
  • 2005 National Science Foundation Award
  • 2003 National Science Foundation Award
  • Inaugural Walter Cronkite Award, National Maritime Historical Society
  • Program of the Year, American Sail Training Association
  • Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation Grant Recipient

Support Groups

  • Ocean Institute Volunteers, 603
  • Board of Directors, 22
  • Sand Dollar Guild, 50
  • Ocean Institute Members, 1,000

Move Your Booty Challenge Kicks Off the Event on August 15; Festival Culminates with Three-Day Global Stream Marathon, September 11 to 13

Media Contact: Marguarite Clark Public Relations

Marguarite Clark, (949) 295-2801,


DANA POINT, Calif. (August 11, 2020) – The Ocean Institute announced it will host its first Virtual Maritime Festival, a multi-layered interactive and educational event, beginning on Saturday, August 15, and culminating with a three-day global stream marathon September 11 to 13.




DANA POINT (November 9, 2018)– The Ocean Institute is excited to announce the inspiring Roz Savage as The Nicholas Endowment Distinguished Speaker Series’ next lecturer. Named “Adventurer of the Year,” by National Geographic in 2010, Savage has rowed over 15,000 miles and spent over 500 days of her life at sea in a 23-foot rowboat.