Morro Bay Maritime Museum - Atlas Obscura

Morro Bay Maritime Museum

Morro Bay, California

A wealth of seafaring history displayed on the California coast. 


The history of Morro Bay, a small city along California’s Central Coast, is a history of seafaring, from its commercial fishery to the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base that trained troops to fight in the Pacific Theater of World War II. At this small museum—a passion project that took decades to come together—this maritime history is preserved and displayed along California’s picturesque coastline.

In the 1990s, museum founder Brent Roberts gathered a group of maritime history aficionados with the goal of building a museum in Morro Bay. As they worked to raise money and find a site, they also helped organize—among other oceanic projects—a visit from a replica Spanish galleon to the city’s harbor and the first manned dive on the wreck of the SS Montebello, an oil tanker torpedoed during World War II. In 2018, the museum officially opened in a ceremony that featured a blessing from members of the local Salinan tribe. 

The museum’s exhibits and items, displayed inside and outside the museum, vary from the area’s military history to its abalone diving industry and a 27-foot-long whale skeleton found on a beach in the 1970s. Its historic fleet includes the Alma, a representative of the small wooden tugboats that once worked the harbor, and which assisted in rescue operations after the sinking of the SS Montebello; a bathysphere, a deep-sea submersible lowered into the ocean in the 1930s to study marine wildlife; and the Spindrift, a rare survivor of a Monterey-style boat used decades ago in the commercial fishing industry. And the museum’s weather balloon allows it to serve as a weather station, reporting on the coast’s moody swings between sun and fog. 

Know Before You Go

The museum is located at 1210 Embarcadero, opposite the pier. A parking lot adjoins the building. Admission is free.

The museum also hosts annual swap meets focused on marine items, such as kayaks and surfboards.

In partnership with KAYAK

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