Next to the new Waterfront Park, this collection of 11 historic sailing ships, steam boats and submarines is easy to spot: just look for the 100ft-high masts of the iron-hulled square-rigger Star of India, a tall ship launched in 1863 to ply the England–India trade route. Also moored here is a replica of the San Salvador that brought explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to San Diego's shore in 1542. It's easy to spend hours looking at the exhibits and clambering around the vessels.
The museum also offers trips on some of the boats. Options include a four-hour sail on the replica gold-rush-era schooner Californian, the official tall ship of the state of California (adult/child $79/52) and a plunge into San Diego's military legacy on a 75-minute ride aboard a swift boat (adult/child $28/18).