Your Guide to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

Why is an examination of the sea and the ships that traverse it so fascinating? Those who have fantasized about navigating the ocean have probably read and been inspired by The Sea Wolf by Jack London or The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway or other maritime literature. Consequently, they may have had dreams of venturing out to sea. Fortunately, when visiting southern California, a marine reality awaits all who have such an interest. Be sure to take advantage of your guide to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. An active imagination will be tugging at the sailor inside to begin your voyage.

About the Museum

The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum’s mission is to help visitors understand and appreciate the depth and diversity of the maritime history and the heritage of the Santa Barbara Channel. Santa Barbara is a logical location for a naval museum because it is a coastal community with a strong, varied maritime past.

Firsthand information was provided for the museum by those who were part of its history – fishermen, divers, and sailors. The idea was to establish a museum where visitors could experience the maritime culture without going to sea. Awaiting you are hands-on learning experiences for all ages that will expand your knowledge of the Santa Barbara Channel.

There are three fascinating things at the museum that will enhance your appreciation for maritime culture:

  1. Visitors learn about the people who make their living on the sea.
  2. Anyone interested in surfing, kayaking, or being out on the water will better understand the exciting recreational activities that the ocean makes possible.
  3. Guests will be amazed at learning about the abundant marine life that inhabits the coastal waters of Santa Barbara.

The museum will attract and impress visitors with almost 8,000 square feet of exhibits and a docking space where you can explore three historic vessels. The Munger Theater shows films, lectures on various marine topics, and even panel discussions on maritime subjects when available. For safety reasons, it is currently closed.


Arthur Beaumont: Art of the Sea: This is an exhibit of original works of 53 paintings that chronicle the achievements of the US Navy. Pieces stemming from the USS Constitution and extending to expeditions to the North and South Poles will enchant. The exhibit runs from December 3, 2020, to May 30, 2021.

Love Letters to the Sea: This is an interactive exhibit that is arts-enriched and is a project that features creative letter-writing.

Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility Exhibit: Guests will learn about and understand the Santa Cruz Acoustic Range Facility (SCARF).

Numerous other exhibits await the maritime enthusiast. As visitors take an expedition through two floors of this fantastic building, presented are:

  • Early Explorers
  • History of the Waterfront
  • History of Oil in the Santa Barbara Channel
  • Shipwrecks
  • The Chumash Native American people
  • Channel Island Ranching
  • First Order Fresnel Lens from Point Conception Lighthouse
  • Santa Barbara Lighthouse Women Keepers
  • Whaling
  • Commercial Diving and Technology
  • Commercial Fishing
  • Surfing
  • Navigation

Events and Lectures

Hearing a discourse is a way to embed information, help you retain what you have learned, and fuel the imagination. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is one of the foremost settings for enlightening lectures about the Santa Barbara Channel and its maritime culture and history. Equally essential topics of a more contemporary nature, such as environmental preservation and sustainability, are also addressed. There is something for all interests. Be sure to check for upcoming events.

Educational Programs

The museum’s educational programs nurture curiosity through exhibits, learning through observation, and experiencing the maritime world. In addition, community outreach programs emphasize California’s maritime history and the multiple ways we interact with the sea.

Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center (OSBVC)

Take in a gorgeous view of the city, it’s beaches, the harbor, mountains, wharf and islands. The panoramic display will top off your visit.

Activities are abundant, ensuring a beautiful day at the museum. Your tour of the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum may stimulate your interest in several other museums that populate Santa Barbara. But that can wait for the next day of your escape. Now is the time to relax in luxury and enjoy the comforts of your gorgeous room or Casita and the abundant amenities that complement it. As you chill out on the veranda or balcony enjoying a comforting ocean breeze, reading a few chapters of your favorite marine novel may be a great way to top off the day.

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