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Spotlight: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Spotlight: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Take a three-hour tour on the Alma to experience the past and take in the views

San Fran Bay Alma sails in the San Francisco Bay and honors California's maritime heritage (NPS)

What You Will Find

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 maintains a Visitor Center with 20,000-square feet 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 the building’s original Aquatic Park Bathhouse design completed in 1939. The Hilaire Hiler murals preserve an art aesthetic prevalent in Paris between the two World Wars.

Getting There

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 airports. Visit the park’s site 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 to park.
  • 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 & Headquarters Building (Building E, Fort Mason Center).

Stay Here

There are no facilities for camping or RV hook ups in this urban National Park. Accommodations are available, however, just inside the park’s boundaries at the Argonaut Hotel, situated in the historic Haslett Warehouse. The Argonaut occupies a building 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.

For those seeking outdoor accommodations, a short drive over the Golden Gate Bridge you will find the Kirby Cove Campground, which is located eight miles north of downtown San Francisco.

Make Sure You

Reserve your three-hour sailing tour today! Visit Recreation.gov to secure your spot on the 60-foot, 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.

Don’t Forget

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.