San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Photo Credits: NPS.


Not long after the Spanish arrived in San Francisco in 1776, ships began coming to the Bay Area, at first for seal and otter furs, whaling and the cowhide trade. Then in 1849, the maritime presence in San Francisco grew exponentially with the arrival of more than 750 ships that year alone in response to the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada foothills. As California’s population grew, ships played ever more crucial roles, bringing lumber and farming equipment, and leaving with grain bound for sale in Europe. When railroads arrived and the grain trade slowed, maritime traffic also slowed, but not for long. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, and World Wars I and II brought San Francisco’s ports and shipyards back to life.

Still, with each passing year, more and more of the San Francisco Bay’s historic vessels became obsolete and began to disappear. As a result, Congress established the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in 1988 to protect, preserve and celebrate the Pacific Coast’s rich maritime history. Located on the San Francisco Bay just west of Fisherman’s Wharf, from the Hyde Street Pier to the Municipal Pier and beyond, the Park includes many historic steam and sailing vessels, extensive exhibits, collections, and archives, and more. Please see the menu to the right for additional information.