Skip to Content

2024 OC Summer Camps with Outdoor Themes

2024 OC Summer Camps with Outdoor Themes

2024 Orange County summer camps offerings will be much more varied than in the past few years. In fact, I came up with a list of 23 summer camp possibilities! Camp providers in Orange County offer a number of OC summer camps with outdoor themes for families looking to enroll their kids in options to keep them active and learning outdoors this summer.

Scroll through the list and descriptions below to see which ones fit your family:

  1. Inside the Outdoors Summer Day Camp at Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach
  2. Environmental Nature Center Summer Nature Camp in Newport Beach AND Environmental Nature Center at Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in Modjeska Canyon
  3. Camp Pinniped at Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Canyon
  4. Sea & Sage Audubon Center Summer Nature Camps at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine
  5. Starr Ranch Junior Biologists Summer Camp near Coto de Caza
  6. O.A.K.S. Day Camp at Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim Hills
  7. Earthroots Field School Summer Camps at Big Oak Canyon in Trabuco Canyon
  8. Ocean Institute Summer Camps in Dana Point
  9. Camp Discovery at the Cube in Santa Ana
  10. Camp James at Newport Dunes in Newport Beach
  11. Camp Coastal Wild at Crystal Cove State Park in between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach
  12. Camp Newport in Newport Beach
  13. YMCA Summer Day Camps and even overnight sleepaway camps (multiple locations)
  14. Junior Gardeners Summer Camp at Sherman Library & Gardens in Newport Beach
  15. Adventure & Discovery Camps in the City of Aliso Viejo
  16. KG Beach Camps at Dana Point Harbor in Dana Point
  17. Rancho Mission Viejo Reserve Summer Day Camp
  18. Bolsa Chica Conservancy Summer Curiosity Club
  19. Art & Wilderness Institute Adventure Weeks
  20. The Ecology Center Grow-Eat-Make
  21. Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center Adventure Camps
  22. El Jardin Summer Camp
  23. Goods and Goats Market Summer Farm Camp
  24. Links to various sailing and watersports camps

Most camps are for school-age children from ages 6 to 18 (with most the most options falling into the 6-10 year old range). I’ve updated my list of summer nature camps for kids with themes like science, animals, the ocean, engineering, birding, and even water sports. Please go ahead and email me if you know of camps I might have missed.

If you value OUTDOOR SUMMER CAMPS, please make sure you sign up for this special time outdoors. Your kids will make memories for a lifetime and the organizers will continue to offer the camps as long as there is a demand.

Prices range from $180 per week to $600 per week. Pay attention to the daily hours or total hours per week, because some camps might cost more, but only be 4 hours long — while others cost less and cover 5 hours or 8 hours per day. Do the math to figure out the hourly cost when you are comparing programs based on dollars.

Orange County Outdoor Summer Camps

#1 – Inside the Outdoors* , part of the Orange County Department of Education, offering an in-person classic Summer Day Camp experience each week in July at Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach. 2024 Camp Themes: Call of the Wild, Camp California, Fantastic Campers and Where to Find Them, and Camp Critters.

Experience unique activities that incorporate science, fun, learning, and being outdoors​.  Summer Day Camp is geared toward campers age 6 to 12 years old, with leadership and camp opportunities for campers age 13-17. 

Each week of summer camp will have themed daily activities that are science/nature based that also include a daily nature journal prompt and a take-home craft.  

*Disclosure: I used to work managing their social media & content strategy from September 2017 through May 2023 during the school year.

#2 – Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach – Camps are split into different age groups. Little Naturalists Camp is for preschoolers age 4. Nature Adventure Camp is for ages 5-8 and campers ages 9-13 get Science Explorer Camp. This year’s themes are: Legends & Lore, Nature Detectives, California Adventures, Amazing Animals, Planet Protectors, Nature Creativity, Science Superstars, and Plant Power.

The Environmental Nature Center also has a relatively new campus in Modjeska Canyon at the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary. They are offering Wilderness Adventure Camp from that location, as well! It’s only for kids ages 5-8 years old with similar camp themes as above.

#3 – Camp Pinniped is returning Summer 2025 since the center is undergoing renovations during 2024. Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Canyon. Camps are in July and August. Camp Pinniped for 8 to 12 year olds is held at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on Laguna Canyon Road for M-Th and then Fridays are at an off-site location. “Campers learn how our animal care team rehabilitates our seal and sea lion patients through a series of mock activities including weighing fish, preparing fish smoothies, cleaning pens and learning the art of marine mammal rescue.”

The program for 15-17 year olds is a Marine Mammal Rehabilitation and Research Lab that runs only in the month of June on M-F from 8am-2pm.

#4- Sea and Sage Audubon Summer Nature Day Camps at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary (Registration opened February 1st.) – These camps sell out quickly! These very popular camps are for the 7-8 year olds in Fledgling Bird Camp (introduces youngsters to familiar backyard birds and birds of freshwater marshes), 9-10 year olds in Marsh Bird Camp (covers all aspects of marsh bird life), and 11-12 year olds in Coastal Bird Camp (focuses on shorebirds of freshwater and saltwater marshes).  Older campers (13-16 year olds) will be able to take Advanced Bird Camp which “explores more advanced topics, specific bird families, and habitats.” Check the dates to make sure they work with your schedule. 2024 Registration Flyer.

#5 – Starr Ranch Junior Biologists Summer Camp for kids ages 8 to 16 to “join the Starr Ranch scientific team to experience how biologists study wild animals and their habitats.” There is an email address listed to contact for more information.

#6 – O.A.K.S. Day Camp at Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim– “Campers will have the opportunity to experience themed art, nature, Native American traditions, games, and more. Participants must bring their own snacks and lunch.” Online registration link for “Day Camp” for 5-11 year olds is on the information page. Camps are listed as “Day Camp” under the Oak Canyon Nature Center. Day camps have themes like: Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs, Harry Potter, Mad Scientist, Pirate, Star Wars, Super Hero, Super Sleuth and Wild Western.

The city also offers “Wilderness Survival Camp” for 12-15 year olds. “Campers learn how to build shelters, hone their archery skills, and learn basic first aid in these weeks of survival fun!” The Wilderness Survival Camps have themes with Wilderness Survival as the focus in these different environments: Desert Terrain, Jungle Terrain, Mountain Terrain, and Wetlands Terrain.

Registration is already open on the City recreation site, the registration link will take you to 2024. Go ahead and click the online registration links on their page and it will bring you to the right place.

#7 – Earthroots Field School is open for registration as of April 3, 2024:

  • Fairy Quest – 1-day camp (5-10 year olds)
  • Forest Kindergarten Camp – 4-day camp (3-6 year olds with parent/caregiver)
  • Ancestral Skills – 4-day camp (8-14 year olds)
  • Summer Forest Theatre – 1-day camp (5-14 year olds)
  • Dancing in Nature on June 15th (Ages 12 & up)
  • Women & Wild Plants on June 9th (Tea Walk) or June 22nd (Herbs & Greens) – Ages 16 & up

All the info on the Earthroots Field School website! Scholarships are available for BIPOC individuals and families in need. The scholarship application deadline for summer camps is April 15th.” 

#8 – Ocean Institute has incredible camps for ages 5-17 which include time on boats and lots of marine science and research. Also options for high school students to be involved in the Counselors-in-Training Program. Registration discount for Ocean Institute members. General Public Registration begins March 18, 2024. Themes and camp names are based on ages: Sea Squirts (ages 5-6), Neptune’s Mysteries (ages 6-7), Buccaneer Adventures (ages 7-8), Ocean Discovery (ages 8-9), Shipwreck Hunters (ages 9-11), Coastal Explorers (ages 11-13), and Marine Science Internship Academy (ages 14-17). As of April 3, 2024 — there are still spaces available in all programs.

Ocean Institute crab

#9 – Camp Discovery at the Cube is offering science-themed summer camps for kids in two age groups:

  • K-2 (Dinos: Digging Into the Past and Robo Rangers) – as of April 3, 2024 two of the sessions are SOLD OUT with one session having availability (7/29/24 – 8/2/24)
  • Grades 3-5 (Deep Blue Discovery and Bot Builders OC)

Members pay slightly less for summer camps.

#10 – Camp James at Newport Dunes for children ages 4-13 runs from 9am-4pm. The website describes it as: “a traditional style day camp offered in a natural, outdoor environment. Our goal is to expose children to a wide variety of activities as well as provide abundant opportunities for campers to increase their skill development each year they return for another summer session.” Here is a list of all the activities at Camp James. They are American Camp Association (ACA) Accredited. There is also a 10% sibling discount.

#11 – (No dates for 2024 yet! This info is from 2023 and I will update when new info comes out.) Camp Coastal Wild at Crystal Cove State ParkCamp is only one week at the start of summer (June 19th to June 23rd for 2023) where Crystal Cove State Park Naturalists and Lifeguards run a one week unique summer camp that blends the backcountry and the coastal areas of the park. Children ages 7-11 spend 2+ hours engaged in nature activities including: hikes, bird walks, and/or tidepool exploration. After lunch, campers enjoy 2 hours of coastal activities with Park Lifeguards (could include: volleyball, boogie boards, water play.) 

#12 – Camp Newport offers a summer day camp at Marina Park and the Community Youth Center camp where campers walk to Corona Del Mar Beach. It’s for campers entering grades 1-7. 2024 registration is open. For the CYC camp — six out of the ten weeks are FULL as of April 3, 2024 with the seventh going fast! All of the Marina Park camps are FULL.

#13 – YMCA of Orange County has all sorts of camps. The Day Camp has its own information page. There are also sleepaway camps called Camp E.L.K. (Wrightwood) and Camp Oakes (Big Bear) with lots of outdoor activities in our local mountains. Financial assistance available for Y camps.

#14 – Sherman Library and Gardens offers a Junior Gardeners Summer Camp for kids ages 7-10 years old for two weeks in summer. This summer’s themes are: Summer Sense-ations and Habitat Detectives. There is a small discount for Garden members. The description says: “Sherman Library & Gardens Summer Camp is an outdoor camp. The group will use the Library Courtyard as a base but explore the whole garden during the week.” Registration is open.

#15 – Aliso Viejo is offering a Camp AV at the ranch for kids ages 5-12 years old with lots of outdoor activities along with some Adventure & Discovery Camps. They boast over 200 camp options (of course, not all of them are outdoors). Check the summer camp brochure. 10% off your camp fees when you register by May 2nd!

#16KG Beach Camps at Dana Point Harbor – Half day camps for kids ages 4-6 called Mini-Minnows. All day camp Beach Safari Camp (6-9 years old) and H2O Adventure Camp (9-13 years old) all at the harbor with: tidepool walks, beach games, crafts, swimming, whale watching, and more.

#17 – Rancho Mission Viejo Reserve Summer Day Camp – Runs for 3 weeks in June. For 2024, the camp day is designed for 6-11 year olds and runs from 9am-2pm. Themes this year are: Animal Explorers, Archeology Adventures!, and Nature’s Palette.

#18 – Bolsa Chica Conservancy Summer Curiosity Club – This science-based camp 8 sessions during summer 2024. All are designed for campers ages 6-10. The description is for a “fun & creative outdoor camp” with activities like nature walks, outdoor games, drawing & painting, science exploration, and animal appreciation.” Themes are: Wetlands Around the World, Icky Cool Insects, Sea Science, Bird-okemon, Art in Nature, Shark Bite!, Mammal-o-poly, and Wet & Watery Wonders. There are session descriptions and registration on the website.

#19 – Art & Wilderness Institute Kids Adventure Summer Camps – There are almost too many programs to list here — please click over to the website to explore. They also have school year programs. If you are into the idea of stewardship + nature these camps will be a good match for you. They happen in parks all over Orange County – even Schabarum and San Diego. [As an aside, if you are a homeschooling family you will find tons of resources on their website, as well.]

#20 – The Ecology Center Grow-Eat-Make Summer Camps – these camps are for 6-11 year olds is described as an “engaging experience [that] will nurture a life-long appreciation of the outdoors, and help your child explore how people and the environment are connected.” Available 8 separate weeks over summer at The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

#21 – Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center is located on a property reached through Irvine Regional Park. It’s known as a Cub Scout / Boy Scout camp, but in the summer it opens up for summer camps. They offer a Junior Adventure Camp (ages 6-10) and Adventure Camp (ages 11-17). It’s billed as an active camp with rock wall climbing and even swimming. Note: This camp has archery and bb guns targets activities. Here’s their video teaser.

#22 – Summer Spanish El Jardin Camp “Alrededor del Mundo/Around the World” at the Farm & Food Lab in Irvine is for ages 4-12 in a small group. Description of the program: “Travel around the world with El Jardin as we explore the most famous Spanish countries and their unique animals, flowers, foods, music, dance, art, currency, and famous places.” Runs 2 weeks in July.

#23 – Goods and Goats Market Summer Farm Camp – Camp schedule is 9am-2pm. Ages not listed this year, but last year it was for ages 6-12 years old. “Summer campers will immerse themselves into farm life by getting hands-on educational programming that focuses on cultivating the land and caring for our animals.” Theme weeks are:

  • Goat Week
  • Gardening
  • Canning, Cooking and Crafting
  • Water Week

#24 – For sailing and watersports, we have OC summer camps in Dana Point Harbor and Newport Harbor. Try Westwind Sailing or Dana West Youth Sailing in Dana Point Harbor and Newport Sea Base or Orange Coast College’s School of Sailing and Seamanship in Newport Harbor. Pirate Sports Paddle also offers a kids camp in Newport Dunes (offering private group option). Children must be able to pass a swim test to participate in these programs.


  • Take the Bus!  OCTA Youth Ride Free* (Distributed starting March 2022 for kids ages 6-18)
  • Surf Camp
  • Junior Lifeguards
  • Camp Build-a-Fort for Laguna Hills residents (Registration usually opens in early May for residents and mid-May for non-residents)
  • Skate Coastal happens at Volcom Skatepark in Costa Mesa and is taught by “industry-known, career skateboard instructors.” It’s $400 per week, but they’ve supplied me with a “ocplayparks” discount code for 10% off. All levels welcome — ages 4-12.
outdoor summer camps pin

*Disclosure: I should disclose that I personally know many of the organizers of the other camps from my history of writing about outdoors in Orange County.  I contract to do social media for Inside the Outdoors Foundation for the 2017-18, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021, 2021-2022, and 2022-2023 school years. As always, my opinions are all my own and you shouldn’t take my word as an endorsement of any organization. I’m just providing info and you can make your own choices! 

Originally posted in March 2012.


Friday 3rd of March 2017

Ohh, to be a kid again!!!!!


Wednesday 18th of June 2014

My six-year-old is loving Oak Canyon Nature Center's Camp O.A.K.S. day camp. They have week-long sessions throughout the summer with various nature themes to choose from. It is very popular and the sessions tend to fill up quickly so early registration is recommended.

Comments are closed.