Great Lake Historic Sites & Maritime Museums

Great Lakes

As one of the world's largest freshwater ecosystems spanning more than 750 miles, the Great Lakes holds a deep history of maritime stories along United States and Canadian waterways.

These stories tell tales of war heroes such as U.S. naval officer Oliver Hazard Perry who defeated the British squadron in the War of 1812’s Battle of Lake Erie. Or they chronicle one of the most mysterious tales in shipwreck history — the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald — where 29 men vanished on Lake Superior in 1975 without a cause ever discovered.

From larger-than-life battleships that sunk enemy fleets to archives and artifacts tucked within historic walls, the five Great Lakes are home to tons of educational sites. Attend events and lectures, browse collections, take virtual tours, or stand at the helm of a glorious vessel that played a critical role in history at the following museums.


Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center

Duluth, MN

This visitor’s center sits across from Bayfront Festival Park and Duluth Entertainment Convention Center’s waterside festival grounds. Check out displays through the multi-level museum and free public programs throughout the year.  

Where to Dock: Lakehead Boat Basin

SS Meteor | Superior Public Museums

SS Meteor Whaleback Ship Museum

Superior, WI

Witness the last remaining above-water whaleback ship in the world along these Wisconsin waterways. After sailing its final journey in 1972, the SS Meteor is permanently berthed on Barker’s Island where guests can tour the ship’s pilot house and learn about its Twin Ports shipbuilding history.  

Where to Dock: Barker’s Island Marina

Bayfield Maritime Museum

Bayfield, WI

Along Lake Superior’s southwest shoreline, 22 islands make up the Apostles archipelago. Take a deep dive into the region’s history and experience this waterfront museum’s events, boatbuilding projects and the annual Blessing of the Fleet Concert.  

Where to Dock: Apostle Islands Marina

Marquette Maritime Museum

Marquette, MI

Tour the stunning Marquette Harbor Lighthouse built in 1853 and discover maritime exhibits that await inside this museum’s historic stone walls. Paranormal Lighthouse lecture series and free children’s workshops are offered throughout the year.  

Where to Dock: Presque Isle State Harbor

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Paradise, MI

Home of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald’s bell, learn about the notorious shipwreck mystery at this fascinating site. In conjunction with the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, the team continuously finds new discoveries and frequents underwater research with a 47-foot survey vessel, R.V. David Boyd, capable of diving to 1,400 feet.  

Where to Dock: Whitefish Point State Dock


Wisconsin Maritime Museum

Manitowoc, WI

Tour World War II submarines, explore shipwreck artifacts, view photographs and historic vessels, and learn all about Wisconsin’s maritime history at this location. Popular festivities include the week-long SubFest and 4th of July events.  

Where to Dock: Manitowoc Marina

Port of Ludington Maritime Museum-Piloting the Carferry | Port of Ludington Maritime Museum

Port of Ludington Maritime Museum

Ludington, MI

The port’s former U.S. Coast Guard Station transformed into a charming museum showcasing local maritime industries that shaped the Lake Michigan region. Ludington’s iconic North Pier Light and historic SS Badger car ferry are among the top sites to see.  

Where to Dock: Ludington Municipal Marina

USS Silversides Submarine Museum

Muskegon, MI

Docked along the Muskegon Lake Channel, take a tour of two World War II vessels: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter McLane and USS Silversides submarine. Learn about war stories within the site’s two- story museum and check out seasonal events including lectures, ceremonies, festivals and plays.  

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Great Lakes

Michigan Maritime Museum | Courtesy of Michigan Maritime Museum

Michigan Maritime Museum

South Haven, MI

This museum boasts a selection of vessels from a huge fleet for guests to explore the local waters. Embark on an adventure sail on the 1810 replica top sail sloop, Friends Good Will, take a journey on the electric-powered replica river launch, Lindy Lou, or a enjoy lake cruise on the 1929 Chris-Craft Cadet, Merry Time. Purchase a ticket to cruise the South Haven shores and get free museum admission with your ride!  

Where to Dock: South Haven Municipal Marina

North Chicago Maritime Museum

Chicago, IL

Take a chronological cruise through maritime history on the River Level on the Bridgeport Art Center. Immerse yourself in exhibits such as the Ralph and Rita French Canoe Collection and history of the Great Lakes frigates and French fur traders.  

Where to Dock: Chicago Harbors


Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum

Rogers City, MI

This unique location shares more than artifacts — it honors memories of local legends from Native American traders and 21st century captains to Coast Guard lighthouse keepers and lifesaving station employees. The museum offers its own Great Lakes Maritime Hall of Fame collection that’s worth viewing.  

Where to Dock: Rogers City Yacht Harbor

Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center

Alpena, MI

This center explores the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and offers many educational sites and activities. Visit the seasonal shipwreck site moorings, kayak, snorkel or take a glass bottom boat tour.

Where to Dock: Alpena Marina

Huron Lightship Museum Port

Huron, MI

Serving for more than 50 years, the Huron Lightship was the last operating lightship on the Great Lakes, retiring in 1970. She is now a National Historic Landmark open to public tours.  

Where to Dock: Bridge Harbour Marina

Great Lakes Maritime Center

Port Huron, MI

This lovely waterside facility celebrates Great Lakes history with educational opportunities. Check out speaker programs, video presentations and visit the small museum inside this maritime center.  

Where to Dock: Bridge Harbour Marina


National Museum of the Great Lakes | Chris Winters

National Museum of the Great Lakes

Toledo, OH

Discover a full scope of Great Lakes history at this national museum. Tour two museum ships: the 617-foot Col. James M. Schoonmaker and the historic tug Ohio. The website also provides extensive online exhibits and virtual tour options.

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Toledo Beach

Maritime Museum of Sandusky

Sandusky, OH

Learn about Sandusky Bay history throughout the campus and explore sites including the Howman Boathouse and Motor & Engine Room. Attend lectures, board Lyman boats or see what’s working in the boat-building school.  

Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at Battery Park

Steamship William G. Mather Museum at the Great Lakes Science Center

Cleveland, OH

Built in 1925, this 618-foot historic freighter is now a popular Cleveland landmark that allows guests to experience the golden era of steamships. The Great Lakes Science Center offers multiple exhibits to explore.

Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at North Coast Harbor

Erie Maritime Museum | Photo by Charles Christ, courtesy of the Erie Maritime Museum Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Erie Maritime Museum

Erie, PA

In the heart of the Historic Bayfront District, this museum is the homeport of the U.S. Brig Niagara, a replica of Oliver Hazard Perry’s relief flagship during the Battle of Lake Erie. Observe maritime art, shipbuilding tools and artifacts, and enjoy fresh baked goods and sandwiches from Thelma’s Tasty Temptations on-site, plus concessions in the lobby.  

Where to Dock: Perry’s Landing Marina

Port Burwell Marine Museum & Historic Lighthouse

Port Burwell, ON, Canada
Across the Canadian border on Lake Erie’s north shore, discover the region’s shipbuilding history and climb the 55-step lighthouse for a picturesque view of the port.  

Where to Dock: North Erie Marina


HMCS Haida | ©Parks Canada: HMCS Haida National Historic Site

HMCS Haida National Historic Site

Hamilton, ON, Canada

Tour the massive HMCS Haida warship, flagship of the Royal Canadian Navy. Known as Canada’s “fightingest ship,” Haida sank more surface tonnage than any other ship during World War II. This tribal-class destroyer later joined the Trainbusters Club during the Korean War where ships were required to destroy an enemy locomotive. HMCS Haida destroyed 2.5 trains.  

Where to Dock: Harbour West Marina

Niagara-on-the-Lake Museum

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, Canada

This museum explores the region’s rich history and maritime heritage along this Lake Ontario town. Exhibits feature important collections honoring the local indigenous people.  

Where to Dock: Port Dalhousie Pier Marina

H. Lee White Maritime Museum

Oswego, NY

Guests can comb through over 4,000 artifacts, images and documents at this location nestled in the Historic Maritime District. The museum offers cruises to tour the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse just offshore at the west arrowhead breakwater.  

Where to Dock: Oswego Marina

Marine Museum of the Great Lakes

Kingston, ON, Canada

This nautical museum ventures through Lake Ontario maritime history with various ship models, artifacts and paintings. Take a guided tour of the Kingston Dry Dock to learn about the area’s social and economic heritage. Also check out the SS Keewatin steamliner.

Where to Dock: Confederation Basin Marina or Kingston Marina

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