Woods Hole, MA, has a history of ocean science.

It’s the early 1900s, and humans have only recently started studying life below the surface of the ocean. The Marine Biological Laboratory, an international center for research in marine biology and environmental science, and the National Marine Fisheries Service had already made their foray into the world of oceanographic and environmental science.

It only made sense that in 1930 the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) opened its doors, creating not only a building but a community with experts from different fields coming together to study the ocean.

And the WHOI’s legacy lives on as one of the most important research centers – and science attractions – in the United States.



The idea for the WHOI was born out of discussions between the director of the Marine Biological Laboratory and the president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board in the early 1920s. The result was the creation of a committee to review the United States’ role in the oceanographic research.

The committee recommended that an oceanographic institute be built on the East Coast, resulting in the construction of the WHOI in 1930. During this decade, the institute was used primarily as a seasonal research center.

In the 1940s, however, the institution became a wealth of knowledge for the U.S. on issues of national defense. The WHOI fought for its country the best ways it could: researching the effects of organism accumulation on navy submarines or the effects of saltwater and water temperature on the transmission of underwater sounds, among other Navy-sponsored programs.

During the post-war lull, it became clear the demand for oceanographic researching was growing, and the WHOI continued to grow its knowledge base in the biological and environmental sciences. In the early 1950s, the WHOI began to receive support from a government-funded science foundation, changing the course.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the oceanic institute has been focused on scientific research, technical innovation, and education, which includes undergraduate summer research programs, postdoctoral fellowships, and an oceanography program in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Things to Do at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Today

Today, the institute serves as a hub for research and education, a place where minds come to ask questions about the ocean – and try to answer them. The center employs more than 1,000 staff from research to administration.

As one of the best science attractions in the region – and perhaps the country – the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution offers visitors a variety of things to do. WHOI offers a number of educational programs geared for the public.

The WHOI’s Ocean Science Discovery Center offers visitors a tactile approach to marine biology and conservation. Visitor center exhibits include videos detailing deep-sea life forms, a day in the life of a sub, and the discovery of the Titanic.

Visitors can even step inside the submarine Alvin to get a taste of what oceanographic research entails. The Discovery Center is open from mid-April until the end of December each year.

During summer months, they run a weekly “Know your Ocean” lecture series with talks from scientists and students about the ocean’s importance, tours of the WHOI facilities, and a biweekly Splash Lab where kids get a chance to test the technology used at the institution.


Woods Hole on Cape Cod

While vacationing on Cape Cod, be sure to visit charming and important Woods Hole, a small village with a reputation for big scientific discoveries.

Spend an afternoon wandering the streets of this quaint seaside town before visiting the East Coast’s world-renowned marine research facility. We have vacation rental properties all along the Cape, with properties right nearby Woods Hole.

Choose from beachfront condominiums, forested homes, and cozy cottages for your vacation on Cape Cod. From history to science to beautiful, sandy beaches, the Cape has lots of things to do and see – the perfect place for a family vacation.