Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium

Center Info

1252 McKay Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501

Visitor Center Brochure

Parking: $5 per vehicle when kiosk is attended
$4 per trailered vehicle
Buses: $25/per bus.

Visitor Center Hours
10am-5pm (Mar-Oct)
10am-4pm (Nov-Feb)
Limited capacity, social distancing.
Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's Day

Phone Numbers:
(510) 544-3187
Toll Free: 888-EBPARKS (888-327-2757), option 3, extension 4520

Naturalist Programs
(510) 544-3187
Naturalist Program Info

For Educators
Plan a field trip to this park

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Crab Cove Visitor Center Aquarium Photo

About The Visitor Center and Aquarium

Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium at Crown Memorial State Beach in Alameda celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019. Since the Old Wharf Classroom opened in 1968, we have been connecting people with the marine and shoreline life, as well as Alameda history. Crab Cove Visitor Center officially opened on July 4, 1980. You can see bay creatures in the 800-gallon aquarium system, use interactive stations for varying age groups to view microscopic animals, build a crab from the inside out, or get a lug worm's view of the mudflats. You'll see amazing depictions of the underwater world of San Francisco Bay. At the Visitor Center you can also plunge into San Francisco Bay without getting wet, or travel back in time to Alameda's colorful past.

These entertaining educational opportunities all have a serious purpose--to increase public understanding of the environmental importance of San Francisco Bay. There is strong emphasis on the interdependence of marine life and shore life and on the urgency of preserving the marine and estuarine environment.

Dedicated to interpreting relationships between people and the earth's marine environment, this center attracts visitors from all over the Bay Area.

A focal point for this educational effort is the Visitor Center's Old Wharf Classroom. There, in a picturesque setting, youngsters and adults alike can learn about such topics as shoreline wildlife and the food chains that sustain all living creatures.

The waterless plunge takes the form of a display case showing a cross-section of bay, with lifelike models of shoreline and underwater animals. Adjacent rooms contain aquariums and lots of interactive exhibits.

Education continues just outside the center, where the Crab Cove Marine Protected Area, at the foot of McKay Avenue, was designated the first California estuarine marine reserve. Its mud flat and rocky shore area are important wildlife habitats. Collecting or disturbing creatures in this protected area is forbidden, thus preserving a unique shoreline environment for study and education.

Tides change daily, so it is best to consult a tide chart to plan your visit for the appropriate date and time.  You will be able to see most intertidal life at a tide that is 2.5 feet or lower. NOAA tide website (Alameda, CA - Station ID: 9414750)

Naturalist-guided programs for school groups and other organized groups are available Wednesday through Friday by advance reservation. See the Field Trips page for details or call visitor center at (510) 544-3187. Weekend programs provide exciting opportunities for you to learn about Bay ecology and the local area; go to our program guide web page to download our monthly program guide to see a list of upcoming activities.


Park Calendar


KQED Quest, East Bay Regional Park District, and the Encyclopedia of Life Pilot Project: Improving Science Learning through media creation and global partnerships.

The Encyclopedia of Life, KQED-Quest, and the East Bay Regional Park District have partnered to pilot a collaborative program using media to enhance environmental education experiences for youth visiting Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium at the East Bay Regional Park District. Three 5th Grade classes from Arroyo Seco Elementary School in Livermore, CA. visited Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium in the Spring 2010 to participate in the Bay Lab Field Trip Program. Each student was given the task of becoming a Citizen Scientist observing the diverse ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay. In the Aquarium Study and Media Portion of their visit, students were asked to observe four species commonly found in the Bay and draw and record their observations. Additionally, students participated in Seine Netting in the subtidal zone, Quadrant Studies of Mudflats, Mud Investigation, and Salinity Studies.  Following the student's visit to Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium, staff from KQED-Quest and the East Bay Regional Park District used the student's recorded observations and drawings to create short media pieces featuring their observations.


Up until the late 1930s, the area now occupied by the visitor center was part of a thriving resort community featuring bathing spas and an amusement park. Later, during and just after World War II, it was the site of the U.S. Maritime Service Officers School, a training base for Merchant Marine commanders. What is now the visitor center building was the base infirmary.

Our "Memory Lane" self-guided trail leads you from the time when only California Indians lived in the area through the Victorian era and military history.  The tour is available on your mobile device or pick up a brochure in the visitor center.

ADA accessibility iconAccessibility

The following facilities are accessible to wheelchair users: Neptune reservable picnic area, Crolls Garden reservable picnic area, Rocky Shoreline Tide Ramp, Crab Cove Visitor Center, and the bathhouse.

Wheelchair accessible parking, and paved trails are also available. Accessible restrooms and drinking fountains are temporarily unavailable.

Beach wheelchairs, intended to provide a means for wheelchair users to travel across the beach, are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. They require an assistant to push and are not intended to enter the water. To arrange for use of a chair, call the Crab Cove Visitors Center at (510) 544-3187, or the Crown Beach park office at (888) 327-2757, option 3, ext. 4522. Arrangements will be made to bring the chair out to the beach. It takes approximately 15 minutes to prepare the chair. Staff will give a brief orientation to the chair and arrange a time for the chair to be returned

To Reach The Visitor Center

From Cities to the North, take I-80 West to I-880 South and take the Broadway exit. Turn right at the light onto 5th Street. Stay on 5th Street following the signs to Alameda. Go through the Webster Street Tunnel (Tube) to Alameda. See in Alameda below.

From Cities to the South, take I-880 North. Exit at Broadway in Oakland. Turn right on Broadway, right on 7th Street, and right on Webster. Go through the Webster Street Tunnel (Tube) to Alameda. See in Alameda below.

From Walnut Creek, take Highway 24 West to I-980, towards downtown Oakland. Exit at 12th/11th Streets. Continue on Brush Street to 5th Street. Turn left on 5th Street and stay in the left lanes, following the signs to Alameda. Go through the Webster Street Tunnel (Tube) to Alameda. See in Alameda below.

In Alameda, continue on Webster Street across town. Turn right on Central Ave., go one block, and turn left onto McKay Ave. Crab Cove is at the end of McKay on the left.


The Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium is a Certified Green Business. To learn about the program and its requirements, visit:

The California native plant garden surrounding the Crab Cove Visitor Center and Aquarium is an Advanced Certified Wildlife Habitat.  Learn more about the program and how to become certified

Trail Map

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