San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California
By David Pelfrey, National Park Service
Kids take in the breathtaking view of San Francisco Bay. People of all ages can sail on a three and a half hour tour aboard the Alma and experience California’s history at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. (NPS)
About San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park maintains and exhibits the largest collection of historic ships in the United States, all of which are moored along Hyde Street Pier on the northern waterfront. There are four ships open to visitors in the collection: Balclutha (1887), Eureka (1890), C. A. Thayer (1895) and Hercules (1907). The park also has a visitor center with 20,000-square feet (1,858 square meters) of exhibits relating San Francisco’s vibrant waterfront history and the largest maritime library west of the Mississippi; a research destination in itself. On any given day, shipwrights, riggers and volunteers may be seen displaying once-common skills of the maritime trades as they maintain both ships and small-craft collections. Dominating the park site is the Maritime Museum Building whose Streamline Moderne New Deal-era architecture and murals date to its original Aquatic Park Bathhouse design completed in 1939. The Hilaire Hiler murals preserve an art aesthetic prevalent in Paris between the two World Wars.
Directions to the Park
The park is located within the city limits of San Francisco, in the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood, on the shoreline of San Francisco Bay. The nearest airports are San Francisco International and Oakland International. Visit the park’s website for more details and maps.
The park’s location on San Francisco’s northern waterfront makes public transportation the most economical and efficient means to visit the park.
- Parking autos: There is no designated parking area for the park. There is metered street parking and garages and parking lots that charge various prices.
- Parking bikes: Bike racks are located to the left of the Bathhouse Building entrance (on Beach Street), on Hyde St. Pier and near the Maritime Library and Headquarters Building (Building E, Fort Mason Center).
Lodging, Camping or Anchoring in and Around the Park
Lodging: The Argonaut Hotel is within the historic Haslett Warehouse, constructed in 1907 of exposed brick and Douglas fir beams and affords the visitor a glimpse into the atmosphere of San Francisco’s northern waterfront during the Gilded Age. The hotel is just inside the park’s boundaries and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Anchoring in Aquatic Park Cove: Visitors can obtain anchoring permits for non-motorized and sail/auxillary boats on a first-come, first-served basis.
Camping: There are no facilities for camping or RV hook ups in this urban national park. For those seeking a campground nearby, Kirby Cove Campground is located near the Golden Gate Bridge, about eight miles (12 km) north of downtown San Francisco.
Sailing Tours Aboard the Alma
Reserve your three and a half hour sailing tour today! Book now to secure your spot on the 60-foot (18.2 m), wooden-hulled schooner—Alma—as you explore the Bay and learn more about San Francisco’s history. June through November is sailing season for Alma, built in 1891 to carry bulk cargo. The flat-bottomed hull was designed to navigate the shallow waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and to rest on the bottom at low tide. Check the park's social media pages for up to date information.
Dress in layers and apply sunscreen even if the weather is foggy. The northern waterfront is exposed to the Pacific Ocean’s northwesterly winds and can be several degrees cooler than other districts of San Francisco.
Did You Know?
The South End and Dolphin Rowing and Swimming Clubs that occupy the eastern end of Aquatic Park Beach have been operating at Black Point Cove since the 1890s. The Rowing Clubs, the San Francisco Recreation League and the North Beach Italian turn-of-the century women’s club, Vittoria Colonna, helped lead the political fight to save the last undeveloped cove on San Francisco’s northern waterfront from being commercially developed.
Sailing on the Alma (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park)
- Historic Ships
- New Deal-Era Murals painted by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists
- Maritime Research Center
- San Francisco (11 minutes driving)
- Oakland (25 minutes driving)