There are few holiday experiences more rewarding than a trip to the museum. As a means of exploring other cultures, ideas, and ways of life it’s an experience that simply can’t be beaten and for those of us with a fondness for the ocean and the crafts that explore it, there is no museum quite like a maritime museum.
Here, we’ve scoured the globe to bring you the five museums that we think offer the greatest variety of vessels, model ship collections and attractions. Let’s dive in!
National Maritime Museum – London
Greenwich has been closely associated with the sea for generations, so it’s quite fitting that it would play host to one of the world’s grandest maritime museums. The National Maritime Museum is vast and eclectic enough to appeal to kids of all ages and also features an array of more interactive experiences.
The real USP of the museum, however, is the gigantic model ship collection that sits at its epicentre. There are over 3500 artefacts to be found – dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Add that to four immersive galleries, a gorgeous Parkside terrace overlooking Greenwich Park, and over 1,000 display pieces and you have one of the most incredible days out in London.
Australian National Maritime Museum – Sydney
Situated in the iconic Darling Harbour, this museum is centred around Australia’s historic relationships with the ocean. Exhibits range from those celebrating the surf culture of the country to it’s surprisingly deep naval history.
On a more emotional level, it also features the famous “Welcome Wall,” which features the names of everyone who originally migrated to Australia.
You can also explore what life was like in the navy hundreds of years ago, get up close with an incredibly detailed replica of the Endeavour (famously captained by Lieutenant James Cook) and even the chance to sail Sydney Harbour on an actual 19th-century ship!
Kobe Maritime Museum – Kobe
Whilst it might be the architecture that brings the punters in, with a bold steel framework cast in the shape of a sail, it’s the incredible collection of scale models and interactive exhibits that keep tourists coming back for more.
The international port in Kobe first opened in 1868 and the museum, which was first opened 120 years later, celebrates not only the now-famous port but the ships that have populated it over the years.
Alongside the outdoor exhibition area, which features a range of more modern sea craft, the museum contains a unique collection of model ships; a collection that is amongst the most varied and detailed in all of Japan.
Maritime Museum of San Diego – San Diego
For those who want to get up-close-and-personal with some truly historic ships, the San Diego Maritime Museum features one of the largest collections in the world, with hundreds of ships that can be admired and (in some cases) even boarded.
In addition, there is also a unique interactive light and sound attraction located onboard a genuine Russian submarine and an absorbing journey on the iconic Star of India. A family-friendly museum located in the heart of one of California’s greatest cities, this is a day out you won’t soon forget and for the kids, the “Sailor Days” attractions lets kids and their parents alike play as sailors and learn how to hoist sails and tie knots.
Vancouver Maritime Museum – Vancouver
Canada might not be the first country that comes to mind when discussing maritime history, but there is an extensive goldmine to be found for those willing to delve a little deeper. This museum is based around a fascinating and unique collection of historical artefacts and art dedicated to the exploration of the Canadian Arctic.
Not only does the museum include hundreds of finely detailed model ships but you can actually witness ships being built in person. There is also a discovery centre for the kids (complete with pirate games) and several more hands-on experiences for adults too. And that’s before we even mention the breathtaking building itself!
The most wonderful thing about all five maritime museums above is that they are located in some truly stunning cities.
So, the next time you’re planning a summer holiday and are trying to fit in a little nautical appreciation, you could certainly do a lot worse than any of the fine cities and the fine museums listed here.