Boats, boats, and more boats: The Vancouver Maritime Museum is Canada's premiere Pacific Coast maritime museum and one of the best such museums on the west coast of North America.
Dedicated to preservation and education, the Maritime Museum strives to make learning fun for both kids and adults by incorporating plenty of hands-on displays, interactive features, and intricate models in its exhibits, which cover every kind of maritime interaction, from war ships to trading vessels to pirate ships and tugs.
The museum's star attraction is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Schooner St. Roch.
The St. Roch was built in 1928 to serve as a supply ship for Arctic RCMP detachments. In the early 1940's, St. Roch became the second ship in history to navigate the Northwest Passage and the first to travel that passage from west to east. It was also the first ship to circumnavigate North America, through the Panama Canal.
The wonderfully-restored St. Roch is the first thing visitors see when they enter the museum, and visitors are encouraged not only to tour the vessel but to climb all over it: there's a ladder to the upper deck, steps down into the sleeping quarters, narrow passages into the galley, and loads of nooks and crannies to explore.
Getting to the Vancouver Maritime Museum
The parking lot is a pay parking lot ($2 per hour), but there is a free parking in front of the Museum of Vancouver and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, a less-than-five-minute walk away. False Creek Ferry stops at Vanier Park, or you can take bus 2 or 22 to Cornwall and Cypress.
Vancouver Maritime Museum History
The St Roch was largely responsible for the museum's creation. When the St. Roch became a museum ship in 1954, it was placed in a drydock at Kitsilano Point. The museum was built next to the drydock, officially opening in 1959.
Though once integrated with the Museum of Vancouver and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, today's Maritime Museum is fully independent and operated by the non-profit Vancouver Maritime Museum Society.
Making the Most of Your Visit
First, let me be clear: The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a lot more fun--especially for kids--than the name implies.
Kids--particularly under 10--should really enjoy this museum, because there's so much activity to engage in. There's the real-life St. Roch to climb around and over, the video-game-like interactive Climate Explorer (in French and English), a Pirate's Cove, a mock Bridge of the 1964 tug, Seaspan Queen, drawers to pull out that reveal artifacts (that you can pick up and handle) from ports around the world (including the Port of Dalian, China, and the Port of Iles, Quebec), and boat models galore. Imaginative kids could well spend a couple of hours here, playing and exploring.
And you don't have to be a boat-loving adult to enjoy it either. Even though the museum is, of course, dedicated to all things maritime, it holds equal appeal for history-buffs, fans of military history, pirate fans, anyone who loves models, and anyone who'd love the glimpses of life-at-sea to be had on the St. Roch.
To make the most of a day-trip, combine your visit with trips to the neighbouring Museum of Vancouver and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre--you can do all three museums in a day, if you start early--or with trips to nearby Kitsilano Beach, West 4th Avenue, or Granville Island Market.
Hours, Admission Costs & Current Exhibitions: Vancouver Maritime Museum