San Diego Maritime Museum

Sails at the San Diego Maritime Museum
••• Sails at the San Diego Maritime Museum. Adapted from John Loo/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Along the San Diego waterfront, below the sleek downtown high-rise buildings lies the San Diego Maritime Museum. San Diego's history is tied to the sea, and the museum's collection includes vessels that illustrate seaport activities the world over.

The Maritime Museum appeals to most age groups, but there are stairs and gangways to negotiate and tight spaces in the submarine. The Star of India has a play area where younger children can dress up in costumes and play sailing games. Due to their construction, some parts of the historical vessels are not handicapped-accessible.

Ships at the San Diego Maritime Museum

  • The Berkeley: This 1898 Victorian-style steam ferryboat carried passengers on the San Francisco Bay from 1898 to 1973. It's an elegant, nineteenth-century landmark, the restored main passenger deck's wooden benches illuminated through stained glass windows. The Berkeley's lower decks houses displays and a model shipbuilding workshop.
  • B-39 Submarine: A Soviet Navy diesel-electric submarine commissioned in the early 1970s which served on active duty for more than 20 years.
  • The Californian: The State of California's official tall ship was built in 1984. She is a replica of the 1847 Revenue Cutter the C. W. Lawrence, a vessel that brought law and order to the California coast during the Gold Rush.
  • H. M. S. Surprise: The sailing ship used in the academy award winning film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and "Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides" is a 179-foot-tall, full-rigged ship first launched in 1970.
  • Medea: Built in Scotland in 1904 as a private vessel, Medea's career includes service as a World War I French Navy gunboat, a World War II British Royal Navy barrage balloon vessel and a charter yacht. She is preserved as it looked when first used as a floating hunting lodge.
  • The Pilot: Used to transfer harbor pilots to incoming ships, The Pilot had the longest career of any working boat in the Western Hemisphere, spanning from 1914 to 1996.
  • Star of India: The San Diego Maritime Museum centerpiece is the world's oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India. During her long maritime career, the sturdy iron ship hauled freight from England to India, carried immigrants from England to New Zealand and worked as a salmon-packing ship in the Bering Sea. Determined history lovers rescued the Star of India from the scrap yard in 1923, and in 1976 she was fully restored and put to sea for the first time in 50 years. She is maintained to illustrate her role as an immigrant ship.

    More Activities at the San Diego Maritime Museum

    You can add a 45-minute excursion aboard The Pilot for just $5. You can also get an Adventure Package which includes general admission and a three-hour adventure sail aboard The Californian.

    Special Events at San Diego Maritime Museum

    During the Festival of Sail, a tall ship armada joins the San Diego Maritime Museum historic vessels, and the waterfront comes alive with tall ship parades, mock cannon battle cruises, and dockside entertainment.

    Take in an evening of classical music aboard the Berkeley during their musical concert series.

    Families can enjoy fun sleepover nights on the Star of India, with lots of extra activities.

    What You Need to know the San Diego Maritime Museum

    The San Diego Maritime Museum is open daily 9 a.m.- 9 p.m., some holidays or events may have shorter hours. Find current hours at their website.  There is an admission charge. Check current prices. Allow about three to four hours to see everything. If you have less than an hour, enjoy it from the dock or concentrate on just one ship

    Getting to the San Diego Maritime Museum

    San Diego Maritime Museum
    1492 North Harbor Drive
    San Diego, CA
    (619) 234-9153
    San Diego Maritime Museum website

    The San Diego Maritime Museum is on Harbor Drive near the corner of Ash Street a few blocks west of I-5. Take the "Airport" exit and follow signs that read "Embarcadero-Maritime Museum." Metered parking in front of the San Diego Maritime Museum is limited to two hours if you can find it. You can find several paid parking lots in the area.

    To avoid traffic and parking hassles, take the San Diego Trolley to County Center/Little Italy and walk two blocks to the San Diego Maritime Museum.