While physically not a large museum, the collection is contained on three small floors, there is quite a bit of content to cover. Overall the museum is informative and worth an hour or two depending on your level of interest in things nautical. Your ticket allows multiple visits on the same day should you really get into it and wish to go out for a break (or to eat as there is no on-site eatery. There is a reasonable café just outside the museum’s entrance).
The museum is located on Lipson Street in an old bond store and warehouse built in 1856 for Elders & Co. Prior to entering the museum and then while you walk around inside do take time to look at the beautifully restored building. For some interesting information why the bottom row of windows barely appear above the ground (picture one attached) have a look at my separate review ”Have the buildings really sunk?”. Inside, and in particular, in what is now the basement – formerly the ground floor – and the top floor have a look at the original floor boards, the roof and support columns.
In terms of the museum itself, which houses the oldest nautical collection in Australia (commenced in 1872), there are quite a few interesting displays including the following which I especially enjoyed:
-Fourteen – 3 more in store – (largest collection in southern hemisphere) ships figureheads – carved wooden sculptures which ornamented the bow of a sailing vessel from across the world including one from Londonderry, Northern Ireland (my regular reader will know that if there is an Irish connection anywhere I will sniff it out!) – picture two alongside
-a well structured and detailed exhibition on migration (by sea) into South Australia from the UK
-a display on the history development of Port Adelaide since its first settlement in the 1830s
-nautical instruments, bathing costumes, shipwreck artifacts, paintings, photographs, models, etc.
-a full sized replica of a ketch – Active II. (sailing vessel) – great for the kids. The original ketch – Active was built in 1873 and continued in operation until 1959 – picture three.
A couple of more obscure items to look out for (both on top floor) are :
-Smoking pipes hand carved by idle seamen from albatross leg bones
-Iron cathead – Catheads were beams protruding from ships’ bows to support anchors. Seafarers believed black cats brought good luck at sea -pictured alongside.
For visitors interested in tracing migration details, there is a computer register of early migrants available for use.
When I visited there was also a most hideous and tacky pirate display in the temporary exhibition area. It’s only redeeming feature was that I didn’t have to pay extra to see it. I truly hope it has “moved on” to a recycling bin before your visit.
The Port Adelaide Lighthouse – the red lighthouse at the wharf end of Commercial Road is part of the Maritime Museum’s collection and entry to it is included in your museum ticket so hold on to it. The lighthouse can also be visited separately from the museum in which case an entrance fee of $1 (50cents kids) is payable. Please refer to my separate review Port Adelaide Lighthouse for further details on the lighthouse.
The museum has a reasonable gift shop and toilet facilities but, as noted above, no eatery.
Museum 10am-5pm daily, lighthouse 10am-2pm Sun-Fri. Both closed Christmas Day.
If arriving by car, there is free parking on the streets surrounding the museum – some of it is time limited so read the signs.
See my general transport review for other transport options.
Address: 126 Lipson St