Tips for visiting the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and the touring historic ships docked at Hyde Street Pier.
Hundreds of vessels dock along the San Francisco Bay, but if you’re walking along the waterfront, the impressive sail boats, tug boats and ferries docked at Hyde Street Pier will likely catch your eye. These ships are part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, and with entrance you can go aboard and explore them. The vessels in the little fleet were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Going aboard and exploring these ships is a fun way to learn more about the history of San Francisco and shipping along the west coast around the turn of the century.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park also includes a Visitor Center, the Maritime Museum, and the Maritime Research Center.
Visiting San Francisco? We’ve lived in the Bay Area for the last two years and love exploring locally. Check out some of our favorites hikes while you’re in the city!
How to get there
The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park is located close to other popular tourist attractions in San Francisco; it’s situated just north of Ghirardelli Square, and west of Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s easy to get here on foot from either of those locations.
If you’re traveling by car, there are a few free parking spots in the small Maritime Museum Parking area. It’s located directly across from the Aquatic Park. There is also free four hour parking on Van Ness Ave, just north of North Point Street. If you start venturing west closer to Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll likely end up in a lot that costs well over $20.
Several bus lines have a stop near the museum. Just get directions via public transit using Google Maps.
The ships on the Hyde Street Pier are open 9:30am to 5:00pm daily, with the last entry at 4:30pm.
Entrance to the Hyde Street Pier ships is by person since you’re walking in. It’s $15 per person, and children 15 and under are free.
The America the Beautiful National Park pass will also get you (and I believe 3 other people) entry into the park. At $80, the National Park pass is a great deal! It also works for Muir Woods National Monument located about 25 minutes north of San Francisco in Marin County.
There are several free days– you can check the schedule here.
Progams at the Park
Since the San Francisco Maritime Museum and Hyde Street Pier are part of the national park system, it offers a junior ranger program. My son has fun doing the booklets for these, and of course loves earning a badge at the end. It’s a great way for everyone to learn more about the place we’re visiting.
There are other ranger programs and guided waterfront walking tours which you can learn more about here.
The Vessels at Hyde Street Pier
The Hyde Street Pier is home to six turn-fo-the-century boats, ranging from an impressive rigged sailing ship to
Balclutha, square-rigger (1886)
The beautiful 300 foot Balclutha has three masts, with the tallest reaching 145 ft. This ship was used to transport goods around Cape Horn in South Africa 17 times.
C.A. Thayer, schooner (1895)
The CA Thayer is a great example of a ship commonly used during the time to transport lumber down the west coast. This ship’s typical route was between a wood mill in Washington to San Francisco. However, this ship occasionally made longer journeys, including stops in Mexico, Hawaii and Fiji. This ship was later used for the salt-salmon and codfish trade. Her final journey in 1950 made this ship the last commercial sailing vessel still operating on the West Coast.
Eureka, steam ferryboat (1890)
This wooden-hulled, sidewheel paddle steamboat could transport 2300 people.
Alma, scow schooner (1891)
With its flat-bottomed hull, this scow schooner was built to transport goods over the shallow waters of the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta
Hercules, steam tug (1907)
The Hercules is a steam-powered tug boat built of riveted steel. It was built for ocean towing, and towed ships, barges, log rafts, and large structures used in the Pearl Harbor dock and the Panama Canal.
Eppleton Hall, paddlewheel tug (1941)
This steam-powered tug was built in England. It was made to tow coal-carrying ocean vessels on the River Tyne.
Things to do near the San Francisco Maritime Museum
This portion of the Bay’s waterfront is heavily trafficked by tourists. You’ll find several tourist hotspots within a short walking distance, including Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.
Check out Umbrella Alley in Fisherman’s Wharf for some new murals highlighting some of the City’s most popular street artists, including @fnnch’s honey bears, @kate_tova’s bejewled hearts, and @amillionair’s beautiful California wildflower bouquet.
If you’re up for a swim and don’t mind cold water, the Aquatic Park right in front of the San Francisco Maritime Museum is free for open water swimming.