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2019 OC summer camps providers in Orange County offer a number of outdoor camp themes for families looking to enroll their kids in options to keep them active and learning outdoors this summer. Most camps are for school-age children from ages 6 to 18. Please enjoy my list of summer nature camps for kids listed 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.
OC Summer Camps with Outdoor Themes
#1 – Inside the Outdoors* (featured sponsor), part of the Orange County Department of Education, offers programs with themes like: Biggest, Brightest, Best Week Ever + Outdoor Superstars + Get Your Scientist On! + Water Week + Scales, Feathers and Fur. Locations vary between Rancho Soñado in Silverado Canyon, Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach, and Irvine Regional Park.
#2 – Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach – Camps are split into different age groups. Little Naturalists Camp is for preschoolers ages 3-5. Summer Nature Camp is for grades K-3 and camp for grades 4-6 is called Science Explorers Camp. Order of the Raven is a camp leadership program only available for 7th and 8th graders through an application process. Summer Nature Camp themes: Nature Creativity, Oceans & Wetlands, -ologies in Science, Awesome Animals, Legends & Myths, Mad Science, We [heart] California, and Planet Protectors.
#3 – Environmental Nature Center Science Explorers Camp are MON-THURS for 4th-8th graders at the Back Bay Science Center where “9-13 year old campers . . . explore a different themes through hands-on activities like collecting field data, canoeing, conducting research, creative projects, and touching live marine animals!” Science Explorers Camp themes: Ocean Defenders, Tidepools Uncovered, Estuary Extravaganza, Science Career Experience, Shark Week, Coastal Engineering Tournament, The Art of Science, and Marine Mammals.
#4 – Camp Pinniped at Pacific Marine Mammal Center is for 8 to 13 year olds. It’s 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.” 14-17 year olds can apply for Junior Camp Counselor volunteer positions.
#5 – Sea and Sage Audubon Summer Day Camps at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary – Warning – these camps sell out quickly! These are very popular camps for the 7-8 year old Fledglings and 9-12 year old Marsh Bird Camp. Campers must complete beginner camps to advance to intermediate camps.
#6 – Starr Ranch Junior Biologists Summer Camp for kids ages 8 to 13 researching wild animals and their habitats.
#7 – O.A.K.S. Day Camp at Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim– “Each session will focus on a special nature topic and will include trail walks, art, nature, games, and Native American traditions.” Online registration is available if you login to the recreation catalog and filter for OAK Canyon Nature Center. Camps are listed as “O.A.K.S. Summer Day Camp” and “Wilderness Survival Camp” for 12-14 year olds. Day camps have themes like: Diggin’ Up Dinosaurs, Fin-tastic Shark Week, Mad Science, Pirate Scavenger Hunt, Harry Potter’s Wizarding Adventure, Playing in Paradise, Radical Reptiles, Super Sleuths, and Star Wars Week.
#8 – Ocean Institute has incredible camps for ages 5-17 which include time on boats and lots of marine science and research. View the website and download their 2019 Summer Camp Brochure for complete details.
#9 – Camp Discovery from Discovery Cube OC & Santa Ana Zoo who partner up for outdoors science summer camps at the Santa Ana Zoo. There’s Junior Wildlife Adventure for K-2nd grade and Monkey Business for 3rd-5th graders. This year, they’ve also added a Marsh Madness camp for 3rd-5th graders at San Joaquin Marsh in Irvine (same location as #5 Audubon Camps).
#10 – Camp James at Newport Dunes “is 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.” Open houses scheduled for March, April, and May so you can visit and find out what they are all about.
#11 – Summer Native Skills Camp by Mark Hay/Coast Live Oak School for 7-14 year olds switches between Irvine Regional Park and Santiago Oaks Regional Park.
#12 – Camp Coastal WILD at Crystal Cove State Park is only one week at the start of summer from June 24th to 28th from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 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 will spend 2+ hours engaged in nature activities including: hikes, bird walks, and tidepool exploration. After lunch, campers will enjoy 2 hours of coastal activities with park lifeguards (could include: volleyball, boogie boards, kayaks.) Call 949-497-7647 for registration information.
#13 – Camp Newport offers a summer day camp at Marina Park.
#14 – YMCA of Orange County has a sleepaway camp called Camp E.L.K. with lots of outdoor activities in our local mountains.
#15 – For sailing and watersports, we have OC summer camps in Dana Point Harbor and Newport Harbor. Try Westwind 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. Children must be able to pass a swim test to participate in these programs.
- Take the Bus! OCTA Summer Youth Bus Pass* (30 day passes valid consecutive days from June 1 to August 31 for kids 18 and under)
- Surf Camp
- Junior Lifeguards
- Build a Fort Camps for Laguna Hills residents
- Adventure Playground 2019 in Yorba Linda at Hurless Barton Park
*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 and 2018-2019 school years. Also, as of this year, my husband is an employee of OCTA (but I’ve always had that bus pass info posted!). 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.