Wherever there are ships, mariners invariably follow. From tugboats to container ships and naval ships to fishing boats, Puget Sound and ships are inseparable. Maritime museums are an inexpensive (many offers free admission) and an enjoyable way to discover some of Puget Sound’s rich history. During out travels the past couple of years, Arlene and I have had the opportunity to visit many maritime history museums.
They offer more than history:
- Hands-on activities and exploration.
- Witness restoration and new boat construction.
- Step into the control room of a nuclear attack submarine.
Maritime History Museums
The following are just a few of Puget Sound’s excellent maritime museums:
W.T. Preston Sternwheeler
The 163-foot W.T. Preston is a museum of Puget Sound’s snagboat history. She was the last working sternwheeler on the Sound and only one of the two snagboats remaining in the contiguous United States. Built in 1929, powered by steam and a paddlewheel 18 feet wide and 17 feet in diameter, she was used to clear and maintain the navigable waterways from the Canadian border to Olympia. The Snagboat Heritage Center in Anacortes and W.T. Preston were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Nearest moorage: Cap Sante Boat Haven
Coast Guard Museum/Northwest
Coast Guard Museum Northwest several exhibits that include nautical items, ship models, Coast Guard memorabilia and more than 15,000 photos dating from the mid-1800’s. Extensive periodicals and research materials are also available. Also displayed is part of “Old Ironsides,” USS Constitution, items from the German trawler Externsteine captured by Eastwind off Greenland in WWII, and the ship’s bell from steam tug Roosevelt, Admiral Peary’s ship during his quest for the North Pole.
Or spend time observing several exquisitely crafted large models of Coast Guard cutters and the largest public collection of Coast Guard patches.
Nearest moorage: Bell Harbor Marina, Pier 66, Seattle
USS Turner Joy
USS Turner Joy Museum Ship
The USS Turner Joy, the famed Navy destroyer from the Vietnam War, is now moored, maintained and administered by the Bremerton Historic Ships Association. The museum ship and memorial honors the men and women of our modern US Navy and recognizes the accomplishments of those who help build and maintain the Navy’s ships. An active and educational facility, USS Turner Joy is a unique and lasting legacy of Puget Sound’s maritime heritage.
Nearest moorage: Bremerton Marina
Puget Sound Naval Museum
Housed in the historic Bremerton Naval Shipyard Building 50, the museum, focuses on the history of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where naval ships and submarines of the United States Fleet are overhauled and maintained. The maritime history museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting the naval heritage of the Pacific Northwest. Visitors can explore the naval history of the region and experience life as a sailor through exhibits about the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the USS John C. Stennis, Special Operations Submarines, and much more.
Foss Waterway Seaport
This venue is operated by the non-profit organization Foss Waterway Seaport. Located at the foot of Tacoma’s downtown core along the Thea Foss Waterway, the museum offers visitors a view of Tacoma’s maritime past, present, and future. Guests of the Museum can see maritime artifacts and small historic watercraft, watch boat restoration and new boat construction, participate in hands-on activities for all ages, enjoy lectures about local maritime history, and take part in one of our many special events and visiting exhibits.
Nearest moorage: Foss Water Seaport
Naval Undersea Museum
The Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport combines marine science, naval history, and undersea technology to create an exciting and motivating experience. You are invited to visit the ocean world and dive into the science of the undersea without getting wet.
Visitors can view a simulation of a control room of the nuclear fast-attack submarine Greenling, including equipment such as periscopes, ship control panel, and ballast control panel. Artifacts on display include major U.S. torpedoes, a Confederate mine from the Civil War, and tubes from a ballistic missile submarine USS Tecumseh.
Nearest moorage: Keyport Marina
Harbor History Museum
At Harbor History Museum you will find top-rate exhibitions, larger than life experiences, and lots of opportunities for hands-on exploration of our region’s rich history. From saving the 65-foot purse seiner Shenandoah to restoring the one-room Midway Schoolhouse, to teaching students the history of the Gig Harbor Peninsula through the museum’s classroom visits.
Nearest moorage: Arabella’s Landing