Exhibit in Visitor Center

The entrance to an exhibit in the visitor center with blue-colored flooring and murals painted on the walls.
The Waterfront Exhibit in the park's visitor center recreates six historical waterfront neighborhoods, and invites visitors to take a walk along the edge. Visit a wind-swept Yelamu village at the Golden Gate. Find Gold Rush ships buried under the Barbary Coast. Hear the clamor along the shore and get lost in the stories that made "Frisco" a legendary port. “The Waterfront! Sailors Called it Frisco,” won the first place media award at the National Association of Interpreters conference in 2014.

NPS Photo


How would you like to explore the salty old waterfront of the town sailors used to call "Frisco"? You can! San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park has created a visitor experience that invites you to walk through time as you see, hear, and touch San Francisco's historic working waterfront. (The Visitor Center is at 499 Jefferson Street in SF, cross street Hyde, and open seven days a week from 9:30am to 5pm, 415-447-5000.)

As you begin your walk around the City's edge, listen for the voices of Yelamu natives as they ready their tule reed canoes for a day of fishing at the Golden Gate.

Stroll along Fisherman's Wharf piers in the 1920s, past trim Italian fishing boats and fresh fish for sale.

At the foot of Market Street, touch an anchor or a huge timber from a real Gold Rush ship recently unearthed by archeologists. Or eavesdrop on sailors trading yarns at a raucous Barbary Coast bar.

Make your way south to the watery inlet of Channel Street. Not actually a street, today it's called Mission Creek and it feeds McCovey's Cove at the AT&T ballpark. Here, you'll find hay scows or lumber schooners, unloading fresh lumber from Puget Sound just over your head, while the clamor of steel shipyards waits for you further south.

View two slide presentations that are part of the exhibit on wooden shipbuilding on San Francisco Bay and the coastal lumber trade.


This exhibit was a labor of love for park staff, who worked with Academy Studios to design a visitor experience that avoided the walls and cases of a typical museum. It would take a year of research and design plus three more years to complete. Over 360 artifacts from the Park's collection are carefully tucked into ship facades, store front windows, and even ship passengers' luggage.

A state of the art film takes visitors to the top of Telegraph Hill where they can watch boats and ships sailing San Francisco Bay from the earliest times to the present. The audiovisual design firm John Cavala Associates collaborated with park staff to create the film, other sounds and stories. Extensive collaboration with representatives from the Native American, Chinese, and Italian communities helped ensure that the sounds and content were as authentic as possible.

We salute all the librarians, archivists, historians, photographers, designers, small boat builders, historic riggers, welders, electricians, interpreters, and exhibit specialists who helped create "The Waterfront." San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park's significance lies in its collections, and its mission is to preserve and educate our visitors about America's rich maritime heritage. We hope your experience here sparks your interest in maritime history, and that you will return to journey with us again!

National Association for Interpretation 2014 Media Award


The Waterfront! Sailors Called it Frisco exhibit won the first place 2014 Media Award.

Last updated: November 6, 2017

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