Our visit to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth was a real treat. As we live on a part of the Cornish coastline that is steeped in nautical history, with tall tales of smugglers and incredible clear seas rich with wildlife, we spent hours inside learning more about it.
The one exhibit I would have loved to take home with me was the Waterlily. She was designed and built in 1866 by a chap named John Thornycroft, who was just 23 at the time. She is one of the words first steam launches ever built and is in immaculate condition.
The most gripping sea survival story is the tale of the Robertson family and their friend, who sailed out of Falmouth in 1971 to have the adventure of a life time. They planned to sail around the world but 18 months in, their yacht was hit by Killer Whales and sunk.
All 6 managed to clamber aboard this small dinghy and they spent the next 38 days drifting in the Pacific ocean awaiting rescue. They had very little food or drink on board and stayed alive by catching rain water, turtles and fish. Honestly, my skin went cold as I read their story and excerpts from their journal.
Wandering downstairs in the museum the temperature drops as you enter the Tidal Zone. Here, the thick glass windows are all that separate you from the harbour outside. Fish swim past as limpets feed on the glass and boats bob on the surface. This section is fantastic for kids and it really brings to life the world beyond our beaches.
And then you enter a world of smugglers and illicit trade. The Cornish coastline has always been famous for its smuggling history, but to see the bounty up close and personal really brought the tales to life. I knew that alcohol, silk and tea were all smuggled into our bays, but was amazed to learn that there became a ‘free trade’ in salt after it became taxable to the tune of up to 400%!
Other sections include an area dedicated to the air and sea rescue services that protect our coastline, with a retired navy Sea King helicopter that you can climb aboard and exhibits showing the importance of the Cornish coast in war time. There’s also plenty more to keep you and the family entertained with lots of interactive displays, a lovely cafe and shop.
And don’t forget, if you’re visiting for the day check out the 1 day Falmouth Mussel Card, which includes free parking at the Park & Float car park just outside of Falmouth with a ferry (or bus) trip into town and the museum. You’ll then have the rest of the day to explore the river over to St Mawes or beyond.
Big thanks go out to the fine folk at the National Maritime Museum for giving us the chance to explore their museum and write this review. As always all views are my own.