Visit a floating museum and see what life was like aboard an ocean liner, a riverboat, aircraft carriers, a submarine, and one of the world's oldest active ship.
History doesn't stop at land's edge, so why should our museums? The West Coast teems with ships and boats rich in high-seas history.
USS Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The sunken battleship is a tribute to the 1,177 crewmen and 1,211 other Americans who lost their lives on December 7, 1941. www.nps.gov/usar.
Balclutha San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. This 1886 square-rigger brought salmon from Alaska and lumber from Seattle and even appeared in Mutiny on the Bounty. www.nps.gov/safr.
USS Blueback Portland. Tour the cold war-era submarine seen in the film The Hunt for Red October. Book a Submarine Sleepover and experience the sub as its crew once did. www.omsi.edu.
Delta King Sacramento. Today a hotel and restaurant, this stately riverboat made a daily 10-hour voyage from Sacramento to San Francisco during the 1930s. Guests enjoyed Prohibition-era drinking, live jazz, gambling, and fine dining. www.deltaking.com.
USS Hornet Alameda, Calif. This World War II aircraft carrier helped with two Apollo space missions. www.uss-hornet.org.
SS Jeremiah O'Brien San Francisco. In 1994, this sturdy World War II Liberty ship sailed to Normandy for the 50th anniversary of D-day. www.ssjeremiahobrien.org.
Lightship Columbia Astoria, Ore. The last floating lighthouse to be operated on the West Coast is now retired and stationed at the Columbia River Maritime Museum. www.crmm.org.
Lady Washington Aberdeen, Wash. This 175-ton tall ship, recently a star in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl, calls on various West Coast ports. www.historicalseaport.org.
USS Midway San Diego. The longest-serving aircraft carrier in U.S. naval history opens for tours in early June. www.midway.org.
USS Pampanito San Francisco. One of the last surviving submarines from America's World War II fleet. www.maritime.org.
USS Potomac Oakland. Board FDR's "Floating White House" for a history cruise on San Francisco Bay. From secret wartime meetings to drug smugglers to Elvis Presley, tales abound on the Potomac. www.usspotomac.org.
Queen Mary Long Beach, Calif. Larger than the Titanic, this venerable ocean liner boasts 365 staterooms, 16 ballrooms, some 2,000 portholes, and a jail. www.queenmary.com.
Star of India Maritime Museum of San Diego. Born in 1863, she's the world's oldest active ship. www.sdmaritime.org.
Wawona Seattle. Now a valuable relic, this ship launched in 1897 is one of the largest three-masted schooners ever built in North America. www.nwseaport.org.
Photography by Kenny Williams
This article was first published in May 2004 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.