Maritime fans, students of history and children will love the historic vessels permanently docked here. Typical of the ships that would have been common here in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they include the 1886 full-rigged Balclutha, built to carry grain from California to Europe; the CA Thayer, an 1895 sailing ship that carried timber along the West Coast; the Alma, an 1891 scow schooner that hauled cargo throughout the Bay Area; Hercules, a 1907 ocean tugboat; and the 1890 commuter ferry Eureka.
Along with the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the set-up is the highlight of what is officially designated as the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park. The park's lovely visitors' centre, at the corner of Jefferson and Hyde Streets (June-Sept 9.30am-7pm daily; Oct-May 9.30am-5pm daily), contains a fascinating series of displays on the area's seafaring history, which makes for a welcome contrast to the variety of miserable tourist traps just a few blocks down the street. For more on the park and its various services and attractions, call 447 5000 or visit www.nps.gov/safr.