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Published April 23rd 2019
Enthralling exhibitions making it a must-see attraction
Enter the spectacular underwater warfare world by boarding a navy submarine, exploring the last of the big-gun destroyers, marveling at the Spirit of Australia (holder of the world water speed record since 1978), climbing aboard HMB Endeavour (the magnificent replica of Captain James Cook's famous vessel of discovery) or climbing the 1874 James Craig or 1874 Cape Bowling Green Lighthouse… these are some of the exciting activities to be enjoyed at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Located in the picturesque Darling Harbour and opening in 1991, the Museum is home to many captivating exhibitions and must-see collection of vessels, the Australian National Maritime Museum is the perfect way to explore the marine world and have a "funtastic" day out!
There are indoor and outdoor attractions, interactive action stations, tours, fantastic program of activities and things to do for kids of all ages on weekends and school holidays. The exhibits include six permanent galleries and an ever-changing program of temporary exhibitions and a fleet of historic craft at its wharves.
Spectacular Sydney City views can be seen from the Museum
Navigators Originally called "Discovery of Australia", this gallery looks at discovery, exploration, and charting of Australia's coastline by the Dutch, British, and French, as well as trade between the Indonesians and Australian Indigenous people before European discovery.
Watermarks This is a celebration of "Australia's love affair with the water" in terms of recreation and entertainment. The gallery was opened in December 2001, with major focal points including the yacht Blackmores First Lady (which was used by Australian Kay Cottee when she became the first woman to sail solo, nonstop, unassisted around the world), the coxless four rowing shell used by the Oarsome Foursome at the 1992 Summer Olympics, and a vessel from the Darwin Beer Can Regatta.
Navy This Exhibit showcases the role of the Royal Australian Navy (and before that, the Royal Navy's Australian Squadron) in the defence of the nation, including the "Sydney Series" models and histories of the four Australian warships named after the city of Sydney.
The gallery takes a look at the links and commonalities between Australia and the US. A US $5 million endowment to the Australian National Maritime Museum was the United States' gift for Australia's bicentenary, making the Australia-USA Gallery the only gallery in a national museum funded by a foreign nation.
There are four other gallery spaces in the Museum, including The Tasman Light Gallery which contains the original lenses from the Tasman Island Lighthouse. The other three spaces are used to host temporary exhibitions.
The Museum's Ships include an exquisite collection focusing on three vessels that are open for public viewing: The HM Bark Endeavour Replica, the destroyer HMAS Vampire, the submarine HMAS Onslow, and the 19th century Barque James Craig which is moored nearby and can be toured.
Boarding and experiencing the Vessels at the Wharf:
Venture into the secret world of this submarine warfare. It was decommissioned in 1999, just weeks before coming to the Museum and it was commissioned during the Cold War. It is still close to operational condition, so when visiting onboard, listen out for the diving alarm!
This is Australia's largest Museum vessel and is the last of the country's big gun ships. After this, Australia's fighting ships were equipped with missile weaponry. The Daring class were the largest destroyers built in Australia. The Vampire served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1959-1986. Its arsenal included 3 twin turrets housing 6x 4.5-inch guns (still in place), 2 single-gun and 2 twin-gun Bofors anti-aircraft guns (still in place), 5 anti-ship torpedo launchers (removed in 1970) and surface to subsurface anti-submarine mortar (removed in 1980).
During the Queen's Silver Jubilee tour of Australia, in 1980, it was refitted as a RAN training ship.
Commissioned in 1968, this hardworking patrol boat served out of Darwin until 1977. In that time it helped shadow a Russian fishing boat suspected of spying, expelled illegal foreign fishing boats, weathered Cyclone Tracy in 1974, and assisted with hydrographic surveys of Australia north-west coast, and it even featured in the popular ABC-TV series Patrol Boat.
This Australian-built replica of Captain James Cook's HMB Endeavour is one of the world's most accurate maritime replica vessels! You can take a self-guided virtual tour as you wander onboard this beautifully crafted ship, taking a glimpse into a sailor's life during one of the history's great maritime adventures, Captain Cook's epic 1768-71 world voyage.
Steam Yacht Ena
SY Ena was designed by Sydney naval architect Walter Reeks and built by WM Ford Boatbuilders in 1900, just across from the Museum in Berrys Bay, North Sydney. It was originally built for local banker and yacht racing enthusiast Thomas Dibbs, named after his wife Tryphena, and was used on Sydney Harbour for government functions and weekend entertaining. She also was used by the Navy, where SY Ena was painted dark grey and had a 3-pound cannon installed, to become HMAS Sleuth.
She was used to patrol the Australian coastal waters on the hunt for armed German raiders. At the end of the war, Ena went back into private ownership. In the 1980s, she was salvaged by a business syndicate and fully restored in 1987 as close as possible to the yacht's original specifications as a pleasure yacht. In 2017, she was generously donated to the Museum.
The Museum is also home to the newly renovated interactive gallery and play space for kids under five. The Under 5s Play Gallery features an imaginative journey from the 'sandy seashore' to 'under the sea' with free play games, activities and displays.
With so much to see and do, from exhibitions that tell stories of adventure on the water, naval battles and mutiny, migrants venturing across the seas to settle on our shores, ancient saltwater traditions, modern beach culture to aquatic sporting achievements. There is certainly something for everyone, so be sure to add the Australian National Maritime Museum to your list of things to do this weekend!