San Diego is also home to the Maritime Museum which is internationally recognized for having one of the world’s finest collections of historic vessels, all of which speak to the history of the Pacific and specifically to the history of the U.S. West Coast.
The Maritime Museum’s ship collection includes California and National Historic Landmarks: the 1898 ferry boat, Berkeley, a recipient of a National Maritime Act Save America’s Treasures Award and the 1863 bark, Star of India, recognized by the World Ship Trust as one of the few historic vessels that are important treasures of humanity and on a path toward inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, the MMSD also owns and operates full-sized replica ships which speak to the Pacific of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Cabrillo National Monument, established in 1913, commemorates Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo's 1542 voyage of discovery in which the first European expedition to explore what is now the west coast of the United States was settled.
Cabrillo departed from the port of Navidad, Mexico, on June 27, 1542. Three months later he arrived at "a very good enclosed port." That port is known today as San Diego bay. Historians believe he anchored his flagship, the San Salvador, on Point Loma's east shore near Cabrillo National Monument. Cabrillo later died during the expedition, but his crew pushed on, possibly as far north as Oregon, before thrashing winter storms forced them to back to Mexico. The National Monument operated by the National Park Service exhibits a museum gallery, a theater, historic light house, tide pools and extensive hiking trails and book store.
In 1542 the Spanish first came to what is now San Diego, but settlement did not start until 1769. “Old Town” is the site of the first settlement.
In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain, and along with it, California. In 1848 the Mexican War saw the annexation of California to the United States. From about 1868, San Diego's "New Town" began to be built in what is now downtown San Diego. This led to a general decline of Old Town up until 1969 --the 200th anniversary of San Diego-- when the city's Bicentennial celebration returned Old Town to the public eye, and to the heart of San Diego.
First of the 21 missions and known as the Mother of the Missions, Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded on July 16, 1769 by Blessed Junipero Serra.
Founded in an area long inhabited by the Kumeyaay Indians. The mission and the surrounding area were named for the Catholic Saint Didacus, a Spaniard more commonly known as San Diego. The mission was the site of the first Christian burial in Alta California. Father Luís Jayme, "California's First Christian Martyr," lies entombed beneath the chancel floor. The current church is the fourth to stand on this location. The Mission is a National Historic Landmark. The Mission today is an active Catholic Parish in the Diocese of San Diego.