Beneath a soaring roof, the Maritime Museum sails through Australia’s inextricable relationship with the sea. Exhibitions range from Indigenous canoes to surf culture, and from immigration to the navy. The worthwhile ‘big ticket’ (adult/child $35/20) includes entry to some of the vessels moored outside, including the atmospheric submarine HMAS Onslow and the destroyer HMAS Vampire. The high-production-value short film Action Stations sets the mood with a re-creation of a mission event from each vessel. Excellent free guided tours explain each vessel's features.
You can also visit a lighthouse and an 1874 square rigger, the James Craig, which periodically offers sailing trips. Normally a replica of Cook’s Endeavour also drops anchor here. There's plenty to do for kids, especially at weekends and in summer, when major exhibitions focus on young visitors.
Other parts of the museum include a free exhibition on wooden boats in the next building north and, opposite Pyrmont Bay ferry stop, the Welcome Wall, a commemoration of migration to Australia that seems particularly relevant in the current political climate.