See a flotilla of six historic ships on the San Francisco waterfront.
The Hyde Street Pier is a floating museum, with a fleet of six 19th century ships. An entrance fee is required to do a self-guided tour of four of the six ships.
The Hyde Street Pier was originally a ferry terminal, constructed in 1922 to transport people across the Bay to Sausalito and Berkeley in Marin County, before the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.
10 best things about the Hyde Street Pier
1. The Hyde Street Pier has stunning views of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
It's at the quieter western end of the Fisherman's Wharf away from Pier 39, and so has a more relaxed vibe.
2. Entrance to the Hyde Street Pier is free for kids under 15.
Hyde Street Pier historic ships
3. You can do a self guided tour of four of the ships.
Step onboard four ships at the Hyde Street Pier, to see hands-on exhibits, photos and videos. The four ships available to tour are the 1888 Balclutha, 1895 C.A. Thayer, 1890 Eureka Steam Ferryboat, and 1907 Steam Tug Hercules. However, access can vary based on the tide's impact on the slope of the gangway to each ship. If the gangway is deemed too steep, the ship will be closed. An early 20th century houseboat is also docked on the pier, available for self-guided tours.
4. See the square rigger that navigated Cape Horn 17 times.
The three-masted 1888 square rigger Balclutha (on the left), is perhaps the most striking ship in the flotilla. This square rigged ship transported cargo all over the world, including grain from California in exchange for coal from England, timber from the Pacific Northwest in exchange for coal from Australia, and as a passenger ship transporting Chinese laborers from San Francisco to Alaska canneries. She has navigated treacherous Cape Horn an incredible 17 times.
5. Learn about an 1890s schooner that transported lumber up and down the West Coast.
The red hulled ship is the C.A. Thayer, launched in 1895 to carry lumber between a wood mill in Grey's Harbor in Washington State, to San Francisco. This historic photo shows how the lumber could be stacked up to three meters high on the deck.
6. Walk onboard a historic 1890 San Francisco ferryboat, with a deck filled with antique cars.
The Eureka Steam Ferryboat (on the right) was launched in 1890. She originally operated as a passenger ferry boat between Tiburon and San Francisco. When the demand for an automobile ferry grew, the Eureka was re-fitted to carry cars, and did the San Francisco to Sausalito ferry run from 1922 to 1941. The car deck is filled with antique vehicles.
7. Book a sailing tour on the Alma.
The 60-foot Alma is an 1891 schooner that transported goods around San Francisco Bay.
8. See an original steam donkey engine.
This steam donkey engine is at the entrance of the Hyde Street Pier. It has a steam powered winch, once used to transport cargo to and from ships. The steam donkey engine is still operational today, and has a very noisy whistle, audible across most of the waterfront.
Steam donkey engine
9. Enjoy the small, sandy beach overlooking the Hyde Street Pier.
10. Visit two other free museums nearby.
The Hyde Street Pier is one of three museums that form part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. The other two museums are very close, and include the excellent Visitor Center Museum (Hyde and Jefferson Streets), and award winning Maritime Museum (Polk and Beach Streets). Try to visit all three museums to get a feel for San Francisco's fascinating maritime history.
Know before you go