of San Diego
1492 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA (map)
Phone: (619) 234-9153
More info: Website
Maritime Museum Highlights
Reflecting San Diego’s heritage as a seafaring and trading harbor, the Maritime Museum of San Diego holds the mantle of hosting one of the oldest and most prominent collections of finely restored and carefully preserved historic ships in the United States.
Opened in 1948, the Maritime Museum is committed to ship preservation and maintenance, while offering visitors a look at sailing technologies and lifestyles of past eras.
Among these historical specimens of aquatic-based commerce, transportation, and warfare are:
- The Museum’s centerpiece and the world’s oldest active sailing vessel (dating back to 1863), the Star of India, which long ago hauled freight and immigrants between England, India, and New Zealand. A permanent exhibit aboard the Star is dedicated to teaching the craft and operation of sailing vessels.
- Two steam engine craft: the Berkeley, a Victorian-style ship that ferried passengers across San Francisco Bay for much of the 20th Century, and the Medea, a former World War I French Navy gunboat later turned charter yacht. Special exhibits on the Berkeley focus on the engineering marvel of steam-powered ship movement.
- The Californian, a schooner built in 1984 as a replica of an 1847 federal maritime law enforcement vessel, holds the distinction of being California’s official tall ship. It disembarks every afternoon and carries visitors on a 4-hour voyage through local waters via a separately-ticketed program called Adventure Sail.
- The Pilot, which holds direct ties to San Diego history, as it served as the chief pilot boat for the harbor for nearly 80 years.
- The HMS Surprise, a replica of a 24-gun 17th Century British Royal Navy frigate called the Rose, which was a featured player in the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
- Finally, as a counterpoint to the unaffiliated USS Midway Museum down the road, starring one of the largest and longest-serving aircraft carriers in American naval history, the Maritime Museum features two submarines from opposing sides of the Cold War. The B-39, a Foxtrot-class Soviet-made diesel attack submarine commissioned in the 1970s to patrol the Pacific Ocean (which probably stalked some vessels coming to or from San Diego) sits alongside the USS Dolphin, one of the deepest-reaching submersibles in the world. Tours aboard these vessels highlight the difficult realities of sharing such a cramped, confined space with fellow crewmates for months at a time.
Located downtown along the Embarcadero near the Broadway Pier dock of the San Diego Ferry, the museum is open daily, including holidays, from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. during winter and 9 p.m. during warmer seasons.
A full visit to the Maritime Museum of San Diego should run anywhere from 3-4 hours, but you can hurry through it in less time by only focusing on a few ships and simply observing the others from the pier. Metered parking is available outside, but is limited to only two hours, meaning you’ll have to use a paid lot or take the nearby trolley if you’re planning on a complete tour. For more information on Museum admission, specific exhibits, or directions, go to www.sdmaritime.
Museums, Landmarks & Historic Places:
San Diego Bay Area