san francisco maritime national historic park balclutha
San Francisco
SF Maritime NHP

Ships and the sea are very much a part of the history of San Francisco. SF Maritime National Historical Park along the waterfront has a visitor center, historic ships at Hyde Street Pier, sandy beach and grass at Aquatic Park.

Tip: Hyde Street Pier is open weekends only.

Visitor Center -
In the visitor center, check out ships models of schooners, whaling boats, schooners, ferries, tugs and clippers ships, the sparkling Fresnel lens from Farallon Island lighthouse, and wreck of a full-size fishing boat that washed up on the rocks, plus a map of shipwrecks outside the Golden Gate.
"A Walk Along the Waterfront" re-creates scenes of the San Francisco waterfront - from the first Native Americans in tule boats, to fur traders, Gold Rush ships (including artifacts from a buied ship), fisherman in Italian feluccas, and great steamships of the early 20th century.
Hyde Street Pier - Explore historic ships:
Balclutha - A 1886 big square-rigged sailing vessel that sailed around Cape Horn. Kids can take a turn the helm, go down to see captain's quarters and cargo hold.
C.A. Thayer - A sailing schooner that carried lumber from Pacific Northwest, and was later a fishing vessel for salmon and codfish.
Hercules - A 1907 ocean-going tug that towed sailing vessels out through the Golden Gate to the open sea and hauled log rafts to the lumber mills.
Felucca - From the pier, you can see a replica of 1850's brightly painted Italian fishing boats, the felucca Nuovo Mondo.
On the pier, there is a steam "donkey" engine, used to load and unload cargoes, and stern wheel from Petaluma riverboat that chugged up the Delta.
Kids can go inside an 1890's houseboat (very homey, with lace curtains and a small organ) and practice tying knots (double half hitch, rolling hitch, bowline etc.)
Aquatic Park -
The Aquatic Park has a sand beach and calm water. It's the perfect place for kids to dig in the sand, or wade (but the water's always cold, even in summer). There's a small green park too, with park benches where parents can sit back and relax, while the kids run around.