Programs & Events

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary hosts a number of events and programs throughout the year. Whether you're interested in the latest in ocean filmmaking, underwater robotics, lively shipwreck presentations, or learning more about recreation opportunities at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, there's something for everyone. Visit our calendar to learn more!

Thunder Bay International Film Festival

Every year Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary brings the world of cinema to Alpena! In January, northeast Michigan is treated to some of the most impressive ocean and Great Lakes films from around the world. Film screenings are complemented by social events, educational activities, and opportunities to meet filmmakers.  Learn more about the film festival.

Student Film Competition

People gathered in a small theatre

As part of the Thunder Bay International Film Festival, the sanctuary partners with the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative to host an annual student film competition. Students (9-12 grade) are invited to enter a film on the theme, "Science in the Sanctuary." More information about the competition is available at

MATE Great Lakes - Michigan Regional ROV Competition

Excite students with marine technology! Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary supports the Great Lakes – Michigan regional MATE ROV Competition event at the visitor center in Alpena, Michigan.  Students may move on from any of the 42 regional competitions to the MATE World Championship.

More information about the competition is available at the  MATE ROV Competition website.

Thunder Bay Maritime Festival

a panorama of a crowd gathering near a river

Bring the whole family to this free annual community event hosted by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Since 2001, the sanctuary has encouraged visitors to dive deeper into the maritime world at this celebration of all things nautical. Watch the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta in the river or enter with your own team! Enjoy live music on the main stage, kids activities and crafts, taste some local whitefish, explore the exhibits, and more. Get more information about the Thunder Bay Maritime Festival on the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary website.

Public Programs

children gather around old weathered pieces of wood

Discover fascinating in person and virtual learning opportunities about marine science, technology, and archaeology for all ages. Programs include school tours, group tours, and presentations. Check our calendar for the latest opportunities or book tour through the Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Annual Get Into Your Sanctuary

Get Into Your Sanctuary events are held annually during the first weekend of August across the National Marine Sanctuary System - from sea to shining sea. See Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary's calendar for local event details.

Annual Get Into Your Sanctuary photo contest

A rocky shore of a frozen lake with pine trees in the background

In celebration of national Get Into Your Sanctuary activities, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries holds a photo contest annually from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Click here to see previous winners and find out how to enter.