We carried out a two-part investigation that revealed habitat differences in marine invertebrate invasions. First, we compared invasion levels of hard vs soft substrata in Elkhorn Slough, an estuary in Central California, by comparing abundance and richness of native vs exotic species in quantitative samples from each habitat type. Our results revealed that the hard substrata were much more heavily invaded than the soft substrata. Nearly all the hard substrata in Elkhorn Slough, as in most estuaries along the Pacific coast of North America, are artificial (jetties, rip-rap, docks). Some exotic species may by chance be better adapted to this novel habitat type than are natives. Two major vectors responsible for marine introductions, oyster culturing and ship-hull fouling, are also more likely to transport species associated with hard vs soft substrata. Secondly, we compared estuarine and open coast invasion rates. We examined species richness in Elkhorn Slough and adjacent rocky intertidal habitats along the Central California coast. The absolute number of exotic species in the estuary was an order of magnitude higher than along the open coast (58 vs 8 species), as was the percentage of the invertebrate fauna that was exotic (11% vs 1%). Estuaries on this coast are geologically young, heavily altered by humans, and subject to numerous transport vectors bringing invasive propagules: all these factors may explain why they are strikingly more invaded than the open coast. The finding that the more species rich habitat – the open coast – is less invaded is in contrast to many terrestrial examples, where native and exotic species richness appear to be positively correlated at a broad geographic scale.