Exploring the Annapolis Maritime Museum

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On a recent visit to Annapolis (check out our post featuring one of the BEST tours we have ever taken- the historical walking tour of the US Naval Academy. and our tour of the Maryland State House) we stopped at the Annapolis Maritime Museum to learn about the nautical history of the area. (Looking for other great, seaside spots? Check out our posts featuring New Bedford, Massachusetts; Gloucester, Massachusetts; and Newport, Rhode Island).

What was once the home of the McNasby Oyster Company throughout most of the 20th century, the property became the Eastport Historical Committee and Barge House Museum in the 1980s and then developed Annapolis Maritime Museum in 2000 with expansions less than a decade later. The museum showcases the history of  the local watermen (the term for men who ) and the harvesting, and over-harvesting of oysters. By the start of the 21st century, less than one percent of oysters were left  and today there is a massive restoration project to save the oysters, with the goal to reharvest 10 BILLION oysters by 2035. 

The museum also highlights the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, fed by 150 freshwater rivers and streams; water from six states flows into the Bay every day. The 11,000+ miles of tidal shoreline are home to over 3,600 spies of plants and animals. The name “Chesapeake” is the Native American term for “Big Water.”

The main maritime Museum property, on the site of the McNasby Oyster Company building, has two 500 gallon aquariums, virtual reality experiences, and hologram exhibits), an outdoor boardwalk, boatyard exhibits, and beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The 12 acre Park Campus is situated on the shores of Back Creek and has indoor and outdoor spaces for function and events, a large boardwalk, kayak launch and rentals and the Skipjack Wilma Lee which has weekly cruises for visitors. 

Travel Tips:

  • The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am-3pm- check here for up to date information on hours and admission fees. Children under age three are free. 
  • There is a small parking lot behind the museum; additional two hour side street parking is also available- check here for information on parking throughout Annapolis. 
  • There is a small gift kiosk near the admission desk; restrooms are located in the back of the museum.
  • The museum is one level and the entire indoor and outdoor spaces are handicap accessible and stroller accessible (although most toddlers won’t want to sit in a stroller).
  • There are no dining facilities on site; for a good list of dining options in Annapolis, check out this list and this list
  • The museum offers a wide variety of cruises and special events; check here for more information about cruises on the Wilma Lee and here for other types of tours. 
  • Plan on 60-75 minutes to explore the indoor and outdoor exhibits, more time for special events.

12 Things to Do at the Annapolis Maritime Museum:

  1. Start by viewing the five minute introductory video in the art gallery (and spend time checking out the artwork).
  2. Compare the Bay Health Aquarium tanks in 1608 (with plentiful oysters and clear water) and the bay today (with pollution and over harvesting of oysters) and compare the tanks of bay water from the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s, 1900s, and 2000s.
  3. Learn about the process of oystering (harvesting, buying, shucking, cleaning, canning and packing, and shipping)
  4. Flip hanging buoys to learn about the McNasby Oyster Company and other local watermen.
  5. Read the Magic Book, a hologram book to learn about the watershed
  6. Experience life on a canoe, waterman trip, and sailboat race with a virtual reality set.
  7. Play the Half Shell game on the huge interactive screen.
  8. Figure out which tools are best for oyster harvesting.
  9. Find new recipes using oysters in a variety of oyster themed cookbooks.
  10. Walk the outdoor boardwalk and read about the history of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay from 1608-1998. 
  11. Head to the Boatyard and peek inside the Draketrail Peg Wallce and the Skipjack Lydia D boats outside.
  12. Follow the timeline of boat oystering boats from a dugout in the 1600s to a Tonger in the 1900s.

Looking for other things to do in Annapolis? Check out our post featuring the US Naval Academy. and the Maryland State House. And for more maritime history, check out our posts featuring New Bedford, Gloucester, and Newport. And follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

Disclosure: Our family was given a media pass to explore the museum; all opinions expressed are my own. 

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  1. So thorough and complete coverage, as usual. I live about an hour from Annapolis and have enjoyed the Naval Academy tour very much, but now you’ve peaked my interest to return and add this Museum to our list. I do believe our guests would enjoy this spot very much. Thank you!

  2. What fascinating information about this important industry to the Middle Atlantic area!This is also a great example of the importance of caring for natural resources. The area is beautiful and I would love to see this museum on our next trip. Wonderful job!

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