A Great Museum On The Great Lakes: The Wisconsin Maritime Museum
Published: Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Ready to dive in maritime history? Look no further than the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Manitowoc’s rich shipbuilding heritage forms the foundation of the region’s largest maritime museum on the shores of Lake Michigan. Area shipyards were building graceful wooden sailing schooners in the 19th century and were turning out proud iron steamships by the turn of the twentieth century. Distinctively, Manitowoc turned out 28 submarines critical to US naval warfare in WWII, earning the city the title of “Freshwater Submarine Capital.”
At the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, you can experience an in-depth tour of USS Cobia, an incredibly restored Gato-class submarine built in 1943 – identical to the submarines built here in WWII. Guided tours are 45 minutes and run throughout the day. In addition to daily tours, groups can arrange overnights on the sub year-round, complete with a comprehensive educational program and access to areas of Cobia usually not open to visitors. These programs are popular with scout and youth groups and are a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with WWII history.
Exhibits on Great Lakes shipwrecks, Wisconsin boat building and maritime trades, and a working triple-expansion steam engine fill the museum galleries and tell a wider story of innovation, transportation, and recreation. Hands on components throughout make this a perfect destination for families and multi-generational groups. In particular, the Wisconsin Waterways room allows kids of all ages to engage in experiential learning with water tables and activity stations that may get visitors a little wet, but always puts a smile on their face.
Located on the banks of the Manitowoc River just before it enters into Lake Michigan, the museum is also a great venue to relax at the end of the day on the roof deck SubPub in the summer. Of course, no museum would be complete without a great place to pick up a unique souvenir. Pier 75, the museum store, is stocked with special maritime gifts to make your visit memorable.
The biggest outreach event of the year - SubFest - happens the second weekend in July each year. In 2019, SubFest was July 12-14 and featured music, food, sidewalk sales, self-guided submarine tours, fireworks, kid-friendly activities, and so much more. The Tolling of the Boats Ceremony at 10:00am on Sunday that weekend commemorated the US submarines lost in service in a moving ceremony on the deck of USS Cobia and was followed by special guest speakers and reduced museum admission.
The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is located at 75 Maritime Drive in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and is open year round, with hours adjusting seasonally. Please visit www.wisconsinmaritime.org for a full schedule of events, hours of operation, and admission details.
This article first appeared in the Summer Issue (Jul/Aug) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.