The Wisconsin Maritime Museum is a museum situated in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Spanning 16,000 square feet, the facility is the biggest museum of its kind in the Midwest. The mission of the museum is to educate the public about the maritime heritage of Wisconsin and the Great Lakes of North America. It features interactive exhibits, World War II submarines, original artifacts, and archived materials. The museum is also dedicated to gathering and preserving maritime artifacts, advocating research, and carrying out local environmental education programs.


During World War II, Manitowoc was one of the main US hubs for building military submarines. As a result, a group of civic leaders and former submariners wanted to permanently display a World War II submarine in Manitowoc as a tribute. The museum was established in 1968, and was originally located in the building of the former YMCA of Manitowoc. The doors opened to the public in 1969, and in 1991, the museum relocated to its current residence on 75 Maritime Drive, Manitowoc. In 1970 the United States Navy gifted the US.Cobia to the museum. This Manitowoc-built submarine now resides in the Manitowoc River.

Permanent Exhibits

USS Cobia: Below the Surface: A Submarine Simulation Experience is an exhibit featuring a submarine simulator and a theater. The simulator recreates an actual battle sequence from th.Cobia’s war patrol log. Films shown in the theater detail the six war patrols of th.Cobia, the building of the 28 Manitowoc submarines throughout the war, and the vital role of the Navy submarines during World War II. Sailor IDs on display can also be studied to learn about the duties of the crew on board th.Cobia.

Those on the US.Cobia tour can peer through the periscope of a Manitowoc-built submarine and explore the Rasher Concourse, where an inside view of a Mark 14 torpedo is presented.

The Children’s Waterway Room, presented by Burger Boat Company, features hands-on construction activities. Children can choose from launching toy boats onto a scaled-down Lake Superior, maneuvering the waterfalls of the Wisconsin River, or sailing through the locks at Sault Ste. Marie.

The Little Lakefarer’s Room presented by Aurora Healthcare is a further hands-on, child-friendly environment for children and parents to enjoy. Visitors are able to play maritime games and look through the line of sight of a periscope.

The Maritime History Gallery displays how shipping and shipbuilding were some of the first industries to form in the early beginnings of Wisconsin. Visitors can tour the old streets of Manitowoc, where sailors, traders, and shipbuilders resided over 150 years ago.

The Model Ship Gallery & Car Ferries Exhibit displays a model of th.Edmund Fitzgerald, now a wreck sitting deep within the seas of Lake Superior. Also included are an array of scale models, half-hull models, and quarter boards, detailing the old freighters and sailing ships that sailed the Great Lakes. The Car Ferries Exhibit presents former car ferries of Lake Michigan, such a.City of Saginaw 31 an.City of Midland 41.

The museum houses a steam engine from the vintage car ferry, th.Chief Wawatam. Dating back to the early 1900s, the steam engine weighs 65 tons and was once used to power the ferry that brought rail cars, vehicles, and passengers across the Straits of Mackinac.

The Wisconsin-built Boat Gallery, presented by the Manitowoc Company, displays actual Wisconsin-built boats such as th.Skybird from 1947 and th.Lady Isabel from 1907. The collection also features hunting craft, outboard motors, and many other locally built boats.

Visitors can undertake the role of detective biologist when they enter the Suspect Species Investigation Lab. Designed to educate those interested the ecosystems in the Great Lakes, this interactive exhibit presents a mystery to solve by deciphering a number of clues.

Ongoing Programs and Education

A special overnight educational program is run by the museum, where groups can spend the night aboard the US.Cobia. Included within the program is a tour of the non-public areas of the submarine, access to the museum, and a selection of educational activities. The program also provides the opportunity for Boy Scouts to work towards an American Heritage Merit Badge with this stay.

Educators at the museum offer a variety of educational programs for school groups. These include a tour of the US.Cobia as well as guided tours of the museum. The museum educators can provide pre and post-visit activities to maximize learning from these visits.

75 Maritime Dr, Manitowoc, WI 54220, Phone: 920-684-0218

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