San Diego Maritime Museum


Location: Downtown San Diego (North Embarcadero)

Open Daily: 9AM – 8PM (9PM during Summer)

Cost: $16 ($8 for Kids ages 3-12 and $13 for Students, Military, and Seniors 62+). Parking Costs Extra.

Features: Oldest Active Ship in the World; National Historic Landmarks; U.S. & Soviet Submarines; Nine Maritime Exhibitions, Ships used in the Movies Amistad & Master and Commander; Sailing Adventures.

maritime-museum-entranceSan Diego Maritime Museum Highlights: You will be hard-pressed to find any other maritime museum that offers access to a better variety of historic ships.

What to Expect

  • Consider setting aside up to three hours to enjoy the Museum.
  • All of the exhibitions are on the historic ships. You will not find a building. Instead, look for information tents set-up in front of the historic boats to buy your tickets.

Historic Ships – The Museum is home to six historic ships and both an American and Soviet Submarine. You can climb aboard four of the ships and both Cold War era submarines to enjoy their exhibits. Two additional ships are used to take visitors on periodic sailing adventures.

The main attraction is the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. She has sailed around the world many times since 1863.

Another major attraction is the Berkeley, an 1898 steam ferryboat, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It spent most of its active life in the San Francisco Bay Area and helped to evacuate victims and bring in supplies after the major 1906 San Francisco earthquake. This is now the home for many of the permanent maritime exhibits.

If you saw Russell Crowe captain the HMS Surprise against the much larger French warship during the Napoleonic Wars in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, you will want to visit the HMS Surprise, which is on permanent display at the San Diego Maritime Museum. It still includes props used during filming of the movie.

The Medea is a 1904 Steam Yacht. It served in the French Navy during World War I and the British Navy during World War II. This is a smaller boat with a beautiful interior made of oak giving it a stately feel and an exterior made of teak.

The 145 foot Californian is a replica of a ship from 1847, which includes nine sails and four six-pound deck guns. You may recall the boat from Steven Spielberg’s movie Amistad. She is definitely a beauty to look at when at full sail and can be taken out for three-hour tours. (See admissions information below about riding the Californian.) You can only board the Californian on special occasions.

Another popular attraction is the American submarine, the USS Dolphin. It was the last of the Navy’s diesel-electric submarines and held the deepest dive record for 40 years and continues to hold the record for the deepest firing of a torpedo.

Read more about the historic ships at the Maritime Museum, as well as the Cold War Soviet

Permanent Exhibitions – The five galleries of permanent exhibitions highlight the advances in maritime technology as well as display the rich history of ships ported in San Diego. You will learn about sailing in the early days on schedules that were determined by the whims of mother nature, which then gave way to the use of steam engines that allowed ships to depart and arrive on a set schedule. You will see a gallery on navigational tools used by sailors to chart the seas. The last two exhibitions will tell the story of how San Diego used to be the tuna capital of the world and then became the largest naval port on the Pacific Ocean.

Temporary Exhibitions – There are usually a couple temporary exhibitions at any one time held on one of the Historic Ships. They feature both items from the Maritime Museum’s collections and those of visiting exhibitions.


Sleepover on the World’s Oldest Active Ship – This is a big attraction for kids. Make their visit memorable with a one night pretend voyage as they help man the ship.

Food – There are a number of food options along the harbor front, including Anthony’s Fish Grotto next door and a Ruth Chris Steak House across the street.

Information on Visiting the San Diego Maritime Museum

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking will range from $2 – $10 (See more parking information below.)
  • Entrance Fee is $16; ($8 for Kids ages 3-12).
  • $13 for Students, Seniors 62 and over and Active Military with I.D.
  • For a few more dollars, you can take a half-hour ride on a Historic 1914 Harbor Pilot Boat. The Discovery Package if offered daily but can be subject to availability.
  • You can also buy tickets that include a 4-hour ride on the State of California’s Official Tall Ship, the Californian. It is a 145 foot replica of an 1847 sailboat. You can check the sailing schedule and purchase Adventure Package tickets online.
  • Memberships are available. They provide a good deal for larger groups since they include guest passes.
  • You can also save money if you buy your tickets online.

Directions from Google Maps to 1492 North Harbor Drive in San Diego, CA 92101. (About a quarter mile walk north of the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum and accessible from a beautiful walkway along San Diego Harbor.)

Parking – There is Metered Street Parking near the Museum that runs about $1.25 per hour with a limit of 2 – 3 hours. Nearby parking lots generally charge a parking rate of $10 for 10 hours. It is easier to park in the lots and spend a good part of the day (if not the entire day) enjoying the waterfront attractions, restaurants, going for a walk, and enjoying the views.

maritime-museum-star-indiaTraffic – Getting in and out of downtown using highways I-5, SR-163, and SR-94 is relatively easy. Downtown San Diego is not a major employment center and thus there is very little rush hour traffic. Watch for slower traffic on the I-5 where it does a tight S-curve through downtown San Diego near the SR-163 interchange. When heading southbound on SR-163, stay to the left side unless you want to get on the I-5. (You will encounter a slight delay getting on the I-5 from SR-163.) You will also encounter a slight delay on SR-163 going into downtown when there is an event at Petco Park. The San Diego Padres games usually start at 7:05PM. Even though traffic backs up a little on SR-163, it continues to move along. When leaving downtown, remember that:

  • 1st Avenue will get you to the I-5 North,
  • 11th Avenue will get you to SR-163 and the I-5 North,
  • E & J Streets will get you to the I-5 South, and
  • G Street will get you to SR-94.

The traffic lights on these streets are synchronized and will generally move you along without delay. (Learn how to get the latest highway traffic updates.)

Once you are downtown, you will find most of the streets are one-way, on an alternating basis. (You can see them if you zoom in on Google Maps.) Broadway and Market Streets are both two-way streets running east-west. You will find that at several intersections you are not allowed to make a left turn off of Broadway or Market. Thus, if you need to make a left turn, it is often better to use a one-way street rather than Broadway and Market Streets. The streets closest to the San Diego Bay attractions (including the Maritime Museum) are also two-way.

All of the streets downtown move along quite well. The only exceptions are 4th and 5th Avenues through the Gaslamp Quarter in the evenings and around Petco Park before and after events. One other exception is crossing train tracks that run along Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center. You can cross over the train tracks at Market, Front, 1st, and 5th. Sometimes, freight trains block the latter few crossover streets. If you see them sitting still, it means they are checking their brakes, so it could take a while. Don’t wait. Move farther north towards Market Street to cross over the tracks.

Transit – Both the Blue and Orange Trolley Lines move through Downtown San Diego and get you within four blocks of most attractions, including the Maritime Museum (Santa Fe Depot and America Plaza Stations). The AMTRAK and Coaster Station is also within a few blocks of the Museum. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map and information for the online Transit Planner.) Walking around Downtown San Diego is easy since it is flat with the exception of the northeast corner near Cortez Hill.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Museums*, As Seen In Movies, Embarcadero North / Columbia, Maritime Attractions, Military Museums & Presence, San Diego Bay Boating, Souvenirs |

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