The harbor of Santa Barbara is one of my favorite parts of the city to explore. It has a pleasant walk to Point Castillo, Stearns Wharf, and the Maritime Museum. The latter of which is one of the better ocean history based museums I have seen. Here is all the information so you can check out this small but significant museum.
- Cost: $8
- Hours: Daily from 10 AM – 5 PM, closed Wednesday (as of Jan 2017)
- Location: 113 Harbor Way #190, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
- Visit all of my favorite spots in Santa Barabara here
- This information is from my visit in 2017
From Sterns Wharf, you will want to head out on Cabrillo Blvd until you reach Harbor Way. Turning in here will put you right next to the harbor. There is a paid lot or you can often find parking that is free for 90 minutes.
The museum is only one large room with an upstairs walkway and a downstairs. While it doesn’t seem like it would be that cool, it packs a lot of unique exhibits to explore and learn about into the small space.
I paid my entry fee, grabbed a map, and set out to explore the museum. Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.
The JIM Suit
This suit greets you right when you walk in, and it is one of the suits they made to create an atmosphere the diver is used to while at deep ocean depths. It’s crazy looking.
The Chumash Boat
Next, there is an area with an old Chumash boat, and that talks about the Chumash Indian history in the area.
In the back, there is a selection of diving masks that I was intrigued by. These rustic metal masks were awesome to see up close, and they looked cumbersome to wear.
There is an exhibit in the back on the sailor tattoos and what they mean, which was fun.
The Point Conception Lighthouse Lens
Right in the middle of the museum sits the main draw, the Point Conception Lighthouse Lens. This massive glass lens used to sit at the top of the lighthouse to guide ships in, and it is in immaculate condition.
Heading upstairs, they had a rotating exhibit from Ernest H. Brooks II, which they said was the Ansel Adams of underwater photography. As a photographer myself, I enjoyed seeing his black and white photos.
Looking Through the Periscope
The highlight of the upper part of the museum was the actual working periscope they had.
I had never looked through one before, and it was fun to look through as it was pointed out at the harbor, and you could move it around.
There was an exhibit on surfing history and how it interacted with Santa Barbara’s history in the other corner of the upstairs.
The Oil Spill
Lastly, there was an exhibit on the oil spill that happened in this area and its impact.
The upstairs is also a great place to view the lighthouse lens up close as well since you are at a higher vantage point.
When you exit the museum, be sure to stop by the Purisima, which was used by offshore divers and which greets visitors by the entrance.
I didn’t get to spend as much time here as I would have liked, but you can see that this is an impressive museum with a lot to explore. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.