The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a complex made up of several different maritime museums that include a fleet of historic ships, a Visitor’s Centre, a Maritime Museum, a Research Centre, and more. The complex covers 50 acres and is located within the Fisherman’s Wharf section of San Francisco. You can easily spend an entire day visiting the different museums and taking tours of the fleet of ships docked along the piers.

    The Maritime Museum is located inside a bathhouse and was built in 1939 in the Streamline Moderne style with beautiful nautical themed murals painted on its walls. Don’t forget to take a tour of the fleet of historic ships that includes different schooners, tug boats, ferry boats, and more. Visit the Maritime Research Centre for historical maritime information. 

    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park - one of the highlights of 10 Best Museums in San Francisco and 10 Best Parks in San Francisco (Read all about San Francisco here)

    Highlights of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Inside the Visitor’s Centre is the waterfront exhibit that tells the stories of voyage, discovery, and cultural diversity. Your journey begins with the voices of the Yelamu natives as they prepare their canoes for a day of fishing on the San Francisco Bay. The storey continues as you make your way through the walk. The exhibit took a year of design and research and 3 years to build. The museum offers a unique visitor experience by eliminating the walls and cases that most museums have.

    The Maritime Research Centre may not seem as flashy as giant ships with amazing stories, but the history inside the building is quite impressive. It’s the largest museum and research collection in the National Park Service. You can find photographs, naval architecture, marine engineering drawings, ephemera, audio recordings, small crafts, pieces of folk and fine art, film and video, charts and maps, and more.

    History of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park originally opened in 1951 under the name San Francisco Museum. The name changed in 1978 to what it is known as today. The reason for the change came as the National Park Service acquired the fleet of historic ships. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park became authorised in 1988.

    While the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park came to be in 1951, many aspects of the park predate that. The Visitor’s Centre is housed in the waterfront warehouse 1908 building, gaining historic landmark status in 1974. The Maritime Museum rests in a boathouse built in 1939 and the Maritime Research Centre building was also built in 1939. There have been some additions and upgrades to the Historical Park over the years, but the biggest change has been with the increasing numbers of educational programmes.

    Good to know about the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Before you leave for the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, check out the website for some beneficial information, including directions and the best places to park.  Also, check out what else is around the area in case you want to make plans for when you’re finished with your nautical tours. After your visit, consider going back online to hear some of the audio recordings of the sailors telling their stories at length.

    As soon as you arrive at the park, make your way to the Visitor’s Centre, a place for both fun and information.  You can have park rangers help you plan your visit, view a First Order Fresnel lighthouse lens, and visit the Waterfront exhibit.

    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Location: 499 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

    Phone: +1 415-447-5000

    Start planning your trip

    Why book with

    Keep exploring


    United States of America

    COVID-19 Travel Alert

    Attractions and experiences recommended in our guides may be affected. Please check local guidance before you travel.