Explore Your National Marine Sanctuary System at Your Fingertips

By Juliette Lee

August 2020

You can now explore our Nation’s underwater parks from your very own smartphone. The ParkPassport mobile app now includes NOAA’s national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.

Graphic with mountains a tree and a blue star with two red stripes

On the ParkPassport mobile app, you can dive into the National Marine Sanctuary System, which consists of underwater parks that encompass more than 620,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters. These marine protected areas include 14 national marine sanctuaries and Papahānaumokuākea and Rose Atoll marine national monuments.

In collaboration with the National Park Trust, Blue Star Families, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, NOAA is providing an easier way to explore the ocean and Great Lakes during this time when getting outside can be intimidating. NOAA encourages you to make connections to your national marine sanctuaries even when you are unable to take a trip to our nation’s public waters. “The ParkPassport app puts the discovery of our national marine sanctuaries and monuments at your fingertips, making it easier to connect with our blue parks," said Allison Alexander, Vice President of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

National marine sanctuaries are places to responsibly explore and enjoy such as swimming, tidepooling, diving, surfing and kayaking. You can earn badges for these water-based activities and much more! Credits: NOAA

“Our goal is to create an inclusive environment where people of different backgrounds and abilities can develop a sense of place in the great outdoors. By exploring the pristine waters of the National Marine Sanctuary System, these virtual experiences will encourage a thriving future generation of ocean stewards,” said John Armor, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Explore the many features of the ParkPassport App where you can discover nearby federal, state and local parks, and the virtual Map where you can click on individual sanctuaries and find links to sanctuary resources that can assist with trip planning. The digital Passport allows you to collect badges for different parks and outdoor activities and keep track of the parks you have visited. You can even upload and share your photos and invite friends to join and share your outdoor experience.

Screen shots of the park passport app; left: a map with many pins on it; middle: a list of national marine sanctuaries in the app; right: virtual badges for visiting a park;
Create an account, find local, regional, state and national parks, earn badges for parks visited (virtually and/or in-person) and activities completed, and connect with other outdoor enthusiasts and families across the country. Photos: National Park Trust, 2020.

“The ParkPassport App was developed to connect individuals and families to public lands and waters near and far. It is a digital guide that will also help all people engage with the health and educational benefits of the great outdoors.” said Grace Lee, executive director, National Park Trust.

This partnership with the National Park Trust and Blue Star Families aims to ensure that military families can also enjoy our underwater parks and create lasting family memories. Families can find parks and family-friendly activities near and far, and can earn and collect badges for activities completed throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System.

“Not only is spending time outdoors good for kids, it’s good for making memories and for strengthening families,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, chief executive officer of Blue Star Families. “We are excited to include national marine sanctuaries in this tool that will empower military families to celebrate and explore America's underwater parks together.”

Every visitor, even virtually, can be a steward of the marine environment. We have a shared responsibility to care for these places to ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy.

So download the ParkPassport App from the Apple App Store or Google Play, create a free account, and get ready for your visit to America’s ocean parks!

Juliette Lee is a Master of Environmental Management candidate at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment and is a volunteer intern at NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.