The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary includes San Simeon and covers 350 miles of California coastline from San Francisco to Cambria. It is the largest of the 13 national marine sanctuaries in the U.S. under the jurisdiction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Coastal Discovery Center
Visit the Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay located at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach. The Coastal Discovery Center is a joint venture between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and California State Parks. Located on beautiful San Simeon Bay, the Coastal Discovery Center celebrates the connection between land and sea. The Center offers interactive exhibits and education programs which highlight the cultural and natural history of Old San Simeon, California State Parks and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Call the Discovery Center for hours of operation at (805) 927-6575.
The Compass Monument
The compass monument was designed by Leslie Stone Associates of Sausalito, CA and requisitioned in 2000 to add a greater Sanctuary presence to the southern region. At that time there was concern from the community that visitors were unaware that they were in the largest marine sanctuary in the continental United States.
The sculpture is a rendition of a compass rose used on charts and maps—pointing to true north, as opposed to magnetic north—and is about 5 feet in diameter and stands 2 feet high. The base is concrete, and the center picture depicts a map of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in hand-made colored tiles.
It is located in the front observation area in the Hearst Castle Visitor Center parking area.
Whatever season you choose to visit the Sanctuary, please take time to enjoy this unique and special place.
Northern Elephant Seal pupping and breeding start in January and goes into March at Ano Nuevo near San Francisco and locally at Piedras Blancas near the Lighthouse. Weaned pups remain at these sites until May, but there are usually small groups of these seals on the beach year round.
Strong winds make this the best season for windsurfing and sailing. This is also a great time for wildflower viewing on the coastal bluffs.
Coastal fog cools the summer heat. This is a good time to walk along the beach, check out the tidepools, or bird watch. Ocean kayaking is becoming a popular activity in the Sanctuary.
Gray whales start their migration southward in October. Viewing from shore or a whale watching boat can be exciting family activities. Clear waters also make for good diving trips.