Look at the image below. These are the 11 historic ships that you would see and explore if you visit the Maritime Museum of San Diego in California.

1. Star of India

The oldest active merchant sailing Ship in the world began her life November 14, 1863. Her first voyages took her to India as she helped supply England with much needed jute (since cotton was unavailable from the United States due to the ongoing Civil War). Several years later, with her ownership changed, she began to transport emigrants to New Zealand as part of England’s bid to maintain her superiority over the world’s oceans. As you stroll across her decks, you will uncover her story and discover all of the different lives she has lived.

Check out panorama or 360 degree image below. Use your mouse to scroll on the image.

Star of India gallery:

2. H.M.S. Surprise

A magnificent replica of an 18th century Royal Navy frigate, the HMS Surprise is unmatched in her authenticity and attention to detail. As you make your way through her gun deck or stand at her helm, a window opens into another era and you can catch a glimpse of life in our ancestors’ time. Built from the plans of HMS Rose, she spent her first thirty years as a sail training tall ship on the East Coast. Eventually, she began a new phase of her life. Purchased by 20th Century Fox, she underwent extensive modifications and became the HMS Surprise. Today, she is part of the museum’s fleet of historically significant vessels.

Check out panorama or 360 degree image below. Use your mouse to scroll on the image.

3. Steam Ferry Berkeley

As you board this steam ferryboat, she will impress you with her touches of Victorian elegance. Be sure to take in the beautiful art glass windows on the upper deck. She was the first steel-hulled, double-ended, propeller-driven ferryboat to operate on San Francisco Bay. One of her most well-known efforts was to help evacuate the burning city of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

4. USS Dolphin

As you descend the ladder into this unique submarine, you are transported into the world of cutting edge naval research in the second half of the twentieth century. Her deep diving’ capability and extreme adaptability have given her the honor of holding many maritime “firsts”. In 1968 (the year she was launched), she set an operating submarine depth record that still holds today. She also sent the first submarine to aircraft two-way laser communication, holds the record forte deepest launch of a torpedo, sent and received the first under- water email, and the list goes on. Decommissioned in 2007, she gives us a window into an exclusive and restricted domain.

Here is a walk-through video inside the USS Dolphin submarine:

5. PCP 916 Swift Boat

The US Navy’s Patrol Craft Fast, affectionately called Swift Boats for their speed and agility, were the ideal vessel to “go fast into harm’s way” as they patrolled the coast of South Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970’s. They were so successful that they completely stopped enemy infiltration by sea. Inspect her, as she still stands ready for any job required of her and serves as another element of our Pacific maritime history to honor and remember.

6. Medea

Step through her bulwarks and onto the deck of this elegant 1904 steam yacht and walk into the wealthy world of the early 1900s. She began her life as a gentleman’s hunting yacht, served in both World Wars, spent time in Sweden, was brought to British Columbia (restoration site), sailed from B. C. to San Diego, and was presented to the Maritime Museum, where she makes her home today. Still active, she steams around our harbor a few times a year, for special occasions.

7. Californian

A replica of an 1848 Revenue Cutter, the Californian is also the State of California’s official tall ship. Designed for speed, with 7,000 square feet of canvas, she is armed with four six-pound deck guns. The Revenue Cutters of the Gold Rush era patrolled the California coast, looking for smugglers, tax and duty evaders, as well as responding to disasters at sea.

8. B-39 Submarine

Descend into the world of the Soviet Navy submariner on this diesel-electric powered Soviet attack submarine. The Cold War is raging and your job is to keep track of any foe that moves in your sector of the ocean. This vessel is your home for months at a time. B-39 submarine was part of the Soviet Navy’s “Project 641″ and had the NATO designation of a ‘Foxtrot” class submarine. She patrolled the oceans of the world with her 78 man crew and often spent time at depths as deep as 985 feet. Chances are that her job, during the Cold War, included stalking several of the vessels she shares San Diego Bay with today.

Here is a walk-through video inside the submarine:

9. America

The America is the first vessel that won the famous America’s Cup. Set sail on a classic sailing vessel whose bow slices cleanly through the ocean swells. You’ll enjoy one of the smoothest boat rides you’ll ever experience! A classically designed, spacious, grand lady, this huge schooner will take you on an unparalleled adventure. Book a whale watching trip or private charter with Next Level Sailing today.

10. San Salvador

The year is 1542 and the galleon, San Salvador, under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, became the first-recorded European vessel to arrive at the port we now call San Diego. Step back in time and step aboard the new San Salvador, a highly accurate representation of that historic vessel and widely considered to be the founding ship of San Diego and the State of California.

11. Pilot

The oldest wooden pilot boat in the country spends her days at the Maritime Museum taking school children on ecology field trips and visitors on historic cruises on San Diego Bay. Occasionally, she still ferries harbor pilots to and from historic ships entering and leaving San Diego Bay (having served San Diego for 82 years as a primary pilot boat).

Museum experience rating: 8.5/10

Address & Phone.

At Star of India Wharf
1492 North Harbor Drive
San Diego, CA 92101-3309
619-234-9153 Ext 101 (for general information)


Open daily* – 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (*some ships/museum do close for special events/maintenance)
Fall hours starting after Labor Day weekend – 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Festival of Sail (Labor Day weekend) Friday – Sunday 9:00a.m. to 7:00p.m., Monday 9:00a.m. to 5:00p.m.

Admission fee.

Adults – $18.00
Senior (62+), Active Military(w/ID), Students (13-17 yrs) – $13.00
Children (3-12 yrs) – $8.00
Children (2 and under) – Free

See also: My other travel adventures in the USA.

See also: List of National Parks.

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