Marin is very proudly home to the Marine Mammal Center, located in the Marin Headlands right by Baker Beach. This facility is not to be confused with an aquarium, like Monterey Bay or Steinhart. It is like an aquatic vet hospital, with a focus on seals and sea lions. It’s one of the best of its kind in the world.
What this means to a visitor is that you can’t get close up to the animals. They are sick or injured, often on their way to being rehabilitated so that they can be released back into the ocean. There are two viewing areas up above the holding pools/enclosures, where observers are allowed to stand quietly. The closest enclosures are about 15 feet from there. Plus, each small enclosure is surrounded by heavy coated chain-link fences which obscure the view even more.
So, it’s important to keep in mind that this is more of an educational outing than a visit to a zoo. There are good visual exhibits, and life-sized statues of seals, sea lions and elephant seals. The size of this one is truly impressive at 15 feet in length!
There are docent-led tours on Mondays, Fridays and weekends. There is a charge for them, but they’re free if you join the museum that day. Same goes for the audio (headset) tours they rent – free on the day you join. I vote for doing one or the other, rather than just exploring on your own. You’ll get a lot more out of your visit. Click here to go the their page for information on discounts available for tours booked online or coupons to print and take with you.
There’s also a really nice gift shop with lots of memorabilia, books and cards to pick up.
Where: 2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkite, Sausalito (map)
Hours: Daily 10:00 – 5:00 except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Cost: Admission is FREE!