San Francisco is a city with loads to do. One of the highlights is Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime Museum. Here there is a collection of historic ships that celebrate the relationship between San Francisco and its maritime heritage. The Pier is part of the National Park Service in California and is well worth a visit. You can buy a weekly pass and visit at leisure or take a guided tour. The rangers provide a brilliant commentary and bring the ships to life with a plethora of stories and anecdotes. Hyde Street Pier was the ferry terminal prior to the building of the Golden Gate Bridge and was the main link between the city and Marin County.
The Hyde Street Pier
Hyde Street provides good value as there is a visitor centre with a lighthouse and ship wrecks. There are also activities such as learning to tie marine knots, learning how a block and tackle works when loading or unloading a ship and also learning to be a real stevedore.
There is also a fleet of ships to see, including:
1895 Schooner C. A. Thayer
1890 Steam Ferryboat Eureka
1907 Steam Tug Hercules
1914 Paddlewheel Tug Eppleton Hall
Shrimp Junk, Grace Quan
1886 square-rigger Balclutha
1890 (circa) San Francisco Bay Ark
1891 scow schooner Alma
The Ship Visit
We looked over all the ships that were open on the day we visited. This included the Clipper Balcutha and the ferryboat Eureka. The clipper was not an accompanied visit but we learned something about the ship from various displays.
The highlight was the Eureka, as we tail ended a tour of US school kids who were learning the ways of being a seaman (or seawoman) from a ranger fully dressed in the costume of an 19th century sailor.
It was great as they had a great knowledge and were equipped with all the terminology. This brought it to life for all the kids and they were all rivetted. The ferryboat also had a selection of the vehicles it would have carried in the day including cars, trucks, vans, coal lorries and military vehicles.
The Eureka is definitely worth a visit on its own. If you can join a guided tour you’ll learn SO much!
About 3-4 minute’s walk away, at the foot of Polk Street, is the Maritime Museum itself. This art décor building is home to a large number of exhibits relating to San Francisco maritime history and art. The building itself, called the Bathhouse, is very impressive. Built in 1939, it resembles an ocean liner.
We loved our visit to Hyde Street Pier and the Bathhouse Maritime Museum. We learned a lot about the maritime history within San Francisco Bay, and of course the ferry that crossed the Bay before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. The old vehicles on the Eureka ferry were fascinating too. A fun, educational visit.