The Pilgrim Boat & Ocean Institute in Dana Point

Unfortunately, The Pilgrim Boat was damaged in 2020, and it may not be able to be recovered. The Ocean Institue is still a great spot to explore though.

One of Dana Point’s claims to fame is the Tall Ships Festival that happens every year, and that brings in some large old boats to the harbor. If you didn’t get a chance to see them during that weekend, the Pilgrim Boat sits in the harbor right next to the Ocean Institute, and you can tour both the institute and boat for the same price on most Sundays. Here is all the information so you can check out this fun historic spot.


  • $10 for adults (As of 2017)
  • Pilgrim is only open on Sundays, but the Ocean Institute is open daily
  • Location: 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629

Getting There

The Ocean Institute is located on the north side of the harbor near Baby Beach, a popular family beach without any real waves. There is a parking lot right next to the institute that you can park in, but that can be busy during the summer.

The Ocean Institute

This is an excellent spot for families as there are a half dozen or so exhibits that kids can see and interact with. During the day, they even have demonstrations that include feedings and dissections.

There are four main buildings that you can visit, but note that this is not a traditional aquarium with all of the fish you would see at something like the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

The main attraction was the touch pool that had sea slugs and starfish you could touch. It was fun to feel the different types of starfish and see the differences.

In one of the other buildings, they had a larger tank that housed some stingrays and small sharks. You could pet these animals as well, assuming they swam up and let you touch them.

It was a lot of fun to explore this small area, and the best part was that access to the Pilgrim Boat came with the fee we paid.

The Pilgrim

When our tour was ready to start, we made our way back to the entrance and met up with the tour guide who took us over to visit the Pilgrim.

The tour was about 30 minutes, and we walked all around the boat itself, including walking below to see the deck and learning about how the crew lived.

I didn’t know much about this era, so it was fascinating to hear more, especially since the tour was only 30 minutes and didn’t go on and on.

If you go on a Sunday, do make sure you take a tour of the boat. Times change each week, so the best way to figure out when the tours are is to go in on a Sunday when they open and ask.

If you are in the area and looking for a hike, check out the Dana Point sea caves hike, which leaves from behind the institute and which you can learn more about here.

Let me know what you think about this spot if you go in the comments and find more places in Dana Point to explore here.

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