Exploring San Diego’s Waterfront: A Journey from the Maritime Museum to Tuna Harbor Park

San Diego’s downtown waterfront, called “The Embarcadero”, is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to this sunny California city. Stretching along the harbor from the San Diego Maritime Museum to Seaport Village, this picturesque area offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s rich maritime history while providing plenty of opportunities for sightseeing, dining, and relaxation.

Discover the San Diego Maritime Museum

Your journey begins at the San Diego Maritime Museum, one of the finest museums of its kind in the United States. This impressive museum is home to several historic ships and exhibits that transport visitors back in time to the golden age of sailing.

As you approach the museum, you’ll be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of the Star of India, a stunning iron-hulled sailing ship built in 1863. This magnificent vessel is the oldest active sailing ship in the world and a true testament to the craftsmanship and ingenuity of 19th-century shipbuilders.

SD Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum includes many historic vessels and extensive museum displays and exhibits

Historic Ships and Exhibits

The HMS Surprise

In addition to the Star of India, the museum boasts an impressive collection of other historic ships, each with its own unique story to tell. The HMS Surprise, a replica of a 24-gun British naval frigate from the 18th century, is a particular highlight. You can explore its decks and imagine what life was like for the sailors who once called it home.  The ship was used in the making of the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, with Russel Crowe, where she portrayed the British Royal Navy frigate of the same name.

Another must-see is the B-39 Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine, which offers a rare glimpse into the world of Cold War-era submarine warfare. Visitors can tour the cramped quarters and learn about the challenges faced by the submariners who lived and worked in these confined spaces.

The museum’s exhibits are equally fascinating, covering topics such as maritime art, navigation, and the history of San Diego’s fishing and whaling industries. Interactive displays and knowledgeable docents bring these stories to life, making the museum a truly immersive experience.

The USS Midway Museum

Just a short walk from the Maritime Museum, you’ll find the impressive USS Midway Museum, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that now serves as a floating museum and memorial. This massive ship, which saw action in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of a modern naval vessel.

Midway Tune Harbor
USS Midway and Tuna Harbor Park

As you step aboard the Midway, you’ll be transported to a world of high-tech machinery, intricate engineering, and the daily lives of the sailors who called this ship home. Guided tours take you through the ship’s various compartments, including the flight deck, the bridge, and the crew’s living quarters, providing a fascinating glimpse into the challenges and sacrifices of naval service.

One of the highlights of the Midway Museum is the impressive collection of aircraft on display, ranging from World War II-era fighters to modern jets. You can even climb into the cockpit of some of these planes and imagine what it must have felt like to soar through the skies.

See San Diego on Our Self-Guided GPS Driving Tour

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a curious local, this tour is a valuable introduction to everything San Diego has to offer. Fire up your camera because we are hitting the best of seashore sightseeing! There’s no FOMO here.

Freedom Park

Adjacent to the USS Midway Museum, an exciting new addition to the waterfront is currently under construction. Freedom Park is a 12-acre public park that will feature a variety of attractions and amenities, including a memorial honoring veterans, a public promenade, and a large grassy area perfect for picnics and events.

Rendering of the planned Freedom Park

When completed, Freedom Park will provide a beautiful and peaceful space for visitors to relax, reflect, and appreciate the sacrifices made by those who have served in the armed forces. It will also offer stunning views of the bay and the USS Midway, making it a perfect complement to the maritime attractions in the area.

The Waterfront Walk

After exploring the Maritime Museum, the USS Midway, and the future Freedom Park, it’s time to stretch your legs and enjoy the scenic waterfront walk that connects these attractions to Tuna Harbor Park. This leisurely stroll offers stunning views of the San Diego Bay, the Coronado Bridge, and the city skyline.

Along the way, you’ll pass by several parks and plazas, each with its own unique charm. The Embarcadero Marina Park, for example, is a popular spot for picnicking, sunbathing, and watching the boats come and go.

Tuna Harbor Park

Your waterfront journey culminates at Tuna Harbor Park, a delightful green space that pays homage to San Diego’s rich tuna fishing heritage. Here, you’ll find a charming replica of a tuna fishing boat, complete with nets and other equipment, providing a glimpse into the lives of the hardworking fishermen who once plied these waters.

The “Unconditional Surrender” statue in the park is a captivating, larger-than-life sculpture depicting the iconic World War II photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, symbolizing the euphoria and celebration at the war’s end.

The park also features a playground, picnic areas, and a scenic walkway that offers breathtaking views of the bay and the nearby Coronado Bridge. It’s the perfect spot to relax, enjoy a picnic lunch, or simply soak up the warm California sunshine.

Dining and Entertainment

No visit to the San Diego waterfront would be complete without indulging in some of the area’s fantastic dining and entertainment options. Along the waterfront walk, you’ll find a variety of restaurants, cafes, and bars, many of which offer outdoor seating with stunning views of the bay.

Little Italy
Little Italy

From fresh seafood and classic American fare to international cuisine and craft cocktails, there’s something to suit every taste and budget. And if you’re in the mood for some live music or entertainment, several venues along the waterfront host regular events and performances. Just a short stroll away, Little Italy offers a delightful array of culinary attractions, from traditional trattorias and modern Italian bistros to charming cafes and gelaterias, making it a must-visit for food enthusiasts.


Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply someone who appreciates beautiful scenery and a relaxed atmosphere, the San Diego downtown waterfront between the Maritime Museum and Tuna Harbor Park is a must-visit destination. With its rich maritime heritage, stunning views, and abundance of attractions and activities, this area offers a truly unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

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