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Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Santa Barbara, California, United States


Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a beautiful, colorful museum with expensive and interesting displays. Every time we have visited we've been pleasantly surprised by what we've found. Make sure you ask for the kids packet because it will keep your kids busy reading the displays, learning, and answering the questions. I think my 11 year old son gained a lot more from the visit because of it. Kids can choose a prize from the treasure chest if they get the questions right!
The downstairs area has displays about the Santa Barbara area: the Chumash Indians, the Channel Islands (smuggling, Chinese fish camps), Naval history, Spanish explorers, Spanish supply ships, ships that sunk, whales and sea otters, abalone deep sea diving, the Purisima diving bell, sailors' tattoos and their meaning, the construction of Stearns Wharf and the Santa Barbara breakwater. There are some really nice diaromas, such as one with scuba divers exploring a sunken ship. There are plenty of buttons for toddlers to push, such as the ones at the Spanish explorers exhibit. Kids can learn about otter and seal hunting while touching displays of otter fur, cow hide, and sheep's wool. The "Two Years Before the Mast" exhibit about the book is nice for older kids, who usually read the book in 5th grade. Kids can also have a try at the gamefishing simulator, which is really wild and had us laughing like crazy!
There's a ton of things to see: A model oil platform adorns an exhibit about Central Coast oil production. It's fascinating to read about the destroyer ships disaster at Point Honda. Historic diving suits and compressors look spooky and interesting. There are radio-controlled model ships that are amazingly intricate.
There is a whole section for little kids with dress-up outfits, crafts such as making a pirate hat, a boat where they can raise the sails, puppets, and sea-themed toys. The kids section is beautiful, with a mosaic tile mural on the wall, and a kelp forest kids can pretend to swim in.
There is a beautiful fresnel lens from the Point Conception lighthouse. Another attractive large item is the outside of the theater, which looks like the hull of an oceanliner.
Upstairs there are great interactive exhibits. Your child can stand on a surfboard complete with painted wave behind. A beautiful 9-ft wave decorates an exhibit about surfing spots and icons in Santa Barbara. There's even a periscope (like in a submarine) that you can use to look at the harbor and Santa Barbara City College. There's an amphibious seaplane you can steer. Little kids, older kids, and adults have tons to do! We had to drag our kids to this museum, but after, they didn't want to leave.
After visiting the museum, check out the historical photos of sailors and blushing girls in the foyer. Take a wonderful walk along the jetty at the Santa Barbara Harbor while waves splash over the sea wall beside you.

Photo Gallery

The Maritime Museum, at gorgeous Santa Barbara Harbor.

A one-person atmospheric diving suit, used in oil industry projects.

Kids can raise the sail and the basket.

Exhibit about sailors' tattoos and their meanings.

Exhibit about Purisima, the diving bell that is on display in front of the museum.

Sailors' tattoos- the mom one is sweet.

Display on Toot Toot the tug boat.

Fresnel lens from Point Conception Lighthouse.

The museum has some amazing decor, such as the theater in the background that looks like the hull of a oceanliner.

Glass net floats.

The museum is very attractive.

Kids can make a captain's hat or pirate's hat.

Looking up at the periscope, which is upstairs.

Detail on the mosaic tile art in the kids area.

Looking through the periscope!

The fresnel lens is beautiful.

A glistening wave is above you in the surfing section.

Exhibit about the wreck of the Cuba.

Exhibit of a wooden tomol, a Chumash canoe built to make the rough journey to the Channel Islands.

A beautiful diorama of the shore whaling camp at Goleta Beach. California shore whaling took place between 1854 and 1971.

A maritime wheel.

Stand on the surfboard and pose for a photo! Make sure you run your fingers along the tube like a real Pipeline surfer!


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

The museum is located at 113 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara CA 93109, at Santa Barbara Harbor, call (805) 962-8404.
From Highway 101, exit at Castillo St and turn toward the ocean. At the end, turn right on Cabrillo Blvd/Shoreline Dr. Turn left into the harbor. Parking is $2 per hour.
Hours are 10-5. Closed on Wednesdays.
The museum is closed on Jan 1, the first Friday in August (Fiesta), Thanksgiving, and Dec 25.
It costs $8 for adults, $5 for kids aged 6-17/military/seniors/students, and free for kids 1-5 yrs old.
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