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Exploring the Ocean around Seattle

Seattle, Washington is a city surrounded by the magnificent waters of the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The ocean provides a fascinating environment for kids to learn about science, geography, and history. Ready to get your feet wet? We’ve got you covered with these free places for your family to learn about the ocean around Seattle.


Seattle beaches offer free access for kids to explore the shoreline, watch the waves, and learn about the plants and animals that live in the intertidal zone. Low tide is a great time to explore. Areas that were covered in water emerge and tide pools abound. These little ecosystems contain unique plant and animal life. Alki Beach in West Seattle and Golden Gardens Park in north Seattle are great places to start. Throughout the summer, the Seattle Aquarium runs a free Beach Naturalist Program to help locals and visitors learn about our beaches at low tide.

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, also known as the Ballard Locks, is a popular destination for families in Seattle. The locks are like water elevators that connect Puget Sound to Lake Washington and Lake Union. Boats from kayaks to ocean tugs enter the locks where the water level is raised or lowered to match their destination. It’s free and fun to watch the boats go through the locks and learn about how they work. Some tour companies also offer the opportunity to ride a boat through the locks. There is also a fish ladder, which helps salmon migrate from the ocean to freshwater streams. During migration season, you can watch the salmon swim up the ladder on their way to the streams where they spawn their young.

Olympic Sculpture Park

Art often imitates life. This is surely the case at Olympic Sculpture Park. This free outdoor art museum offers stunning views of the Puget Sound and features art pieces, some of which were inspired by the surrounding waters. It’s a great park to explore with the whole family, and you can learn more about the sculptures and their inspiration at this free tour site.

Seattle Public Library

Your local library is a great place to learn more about oceans. The Seattle Public Library offers a large collection of books about marine life, oceanography, and conservation. From picture books to fact books to science texts, there are lots of options available for every age. Browse the library catalog, or ask a librarian for help. Also, be on the lookout for ocean-themed story times and events, especially during the summer.

Seattle Aquarium (free with Museum Pass)

The Seattle Aquarium is located on Pier 59 on the waterfront, and it is one of the most popular places in the city for families to learn about the ocean. The aquarium has a variety of exhibits that showcase different marine animals and habitats, including the Window on Washington Waters exhibit, a 120,000-gallon tank full of local marine life. You can visit the Seattle Aquarium for free through Seattle Public Library’s Museum Pass program. Please note: passes are limited, and you must reserve in advance.

Time to get out there and explore! Seattle provides so many free opportunities for kids to learn about the ocean and its inhabitants. Whether you’re interested in visiting a beach, a lock, a library, or a park, there are plenty of options that won’t break the bank. We hope you have fun exploring the ocean with your family!