Ancient Mariners, Trincomalee

Maritime Museums (Historic Buildings & Sites) in Sri Lanka

A deeper understanding of our society and the nation’s rich maritime legacy is not possible without knowledge of her maritime heritage.

Maritime Museums and Other Heritage Sites around Sri Lanka
National Museum, Colombo
Colombo Port Maritime Museum
Maritime Archeology Museum, Galle Fort
Maritime Museum Galle, Galle Fort
Underwater Museum, Galle Harbour
Fisheries Museum, Martello Tower, Hambantota
Naval Museum, Kirinda
Naval Museum, Hoods Tower, Trincomalee
Naval and Maritime Museum, Trincomalee
Underwater Museum, Trincomalee
Jaffna Archeological Museum
Doric House, British Governor's Mansion, Arippu
Horse Point, Kudremalai
National Museum, Colombo

The oldest and largest museum in the country, established in 1877 by Sir William Henry, British Governor of Ceylon. The main sections are natural science, culture, natural heritage and the library. Open to public 9am to 6pm. Closed on Poya days. Fee.

Colombo Port Maritime Museum

Located towards the end of Chaithya Road in Colombo Fort. The Museum tells the story of the origins of Colombo and its maritime and trading history dating back over 2,000 years. Exhibits include paintings, maps, armoury and figures. Open to public 10am to 7pm daily. Free.

Maritime Archeology Museum, Galle

The museum is housed in a 1671 Dutch East India Company VOC Warehouse above the Maritime Museum which is a little bit confusing. The entrance is at the west side of the building located opposite the Dutch Reformed Church.

Here you can learn about the work of the maritime archaeologists who are surveying the 26 shipwrecks in Galle Harbour. It is worth going in just to look inside this amazing historic building. Exhibits of marine artefacts found in underwater explorations including the recreation of the 30m VOC Avondster are also showcased.


A number of Chinese vases are displayed. There is a gallery on the occupation of Ceylon by the Dutch East Indies Company VOC and the effect it had on trade. With the arrival of the European colonial powers the museum tries to show the effect that this had on the local population who had to take on manners and dress of the Portuguese, Dutch or British to succeed. There is also a large scale model of one of these early European armed sailing vessels. Entrance fee.

Maritime Museum Galle

Located in the same Dutch warehouse and below the Maritime Archeology Museum in Galle Fort. Exhibits of marine artefacts recovered in underwater explorations including ship wrecks are show cased in the Museum. There are maps, naval craft, ropes, earthenware, beer mugs, smoking pipes, barrels, vast amount of articles including artillery guns and sailor shoes.

 

The first gallery depicts the traditional life style in Southern Sri Lanka of fishing communities including fishing techniques with attractive models and replicas

 

The second gallery is focused on marine eco systems and their flora and fauna. Displays includes mangroves, sea shore plants, corals, marine shells, invertebrates, turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. A full length skeleton of a Bryde's whale that stranded in 2003 is mounted to the roof. Entrance fee.

Underwater Museum. Galle Harbour

Founded June 2020. Located about 15 meters deep in Galle harbour. The marine park exhibits different types of maritime and historical related artifacts and sculptures done by the Sri Lanka Navy. Closed for fishing. Open to public. Best to visit from November to April. Only access this area with a registered boating company or diving school since this area is high security zone which is under Southern Naval Command of Sri Lanka Navy

Naval Museum, Hood's Tower, Trinco

Named after Admiral Sir Samuel Hood who located a vantage lookout point from which enemy ships could be detected and subsequently bombarded. Within the old British gun site in Hoods Tower there is a small but well built fort with underground casements. It appears that this fort was repaired, modified and strengthened during different colonial times. Now it is home to the naval museum.

 

Open to public daily during weekends and holidays from 9am to 5pm and 2pm to 5pm on weekdays. Fee. Entrance through Naval Dockyard main gate. Prior permission 3 days in advance is required by sending a fax to 026 222 0045 addressed to Eastern Naval Command Area Trincomalee with a copy of your ID. Call 026 226 6100 to check confirmation.

Naval & Maritime Museum, Trinco

Located in the 17th century Residence of the Dutch Naval Commissioner, in Trincomalee town in front of Dutch Bay. This two-storey historical building has been well renovated and was opened in 2013. The Museum is small but has many exhibition booths containing information on the history of Naval affairs, sea artefacts and marine life. Informative historical exhibits are housed on the ground floor including a video documentary. On the first floor are exhibition displays on corals, mangroves, seagrasses and marine mammals. Well worth a visit. Open to public. Closed on Tuesdays.

Underwater Museum, Trinco

Founded 2021. Located in Sandy Bay, the construction work was carried out by the Sri Lanka Navy. The marine park has been set at a depth of around 60ft and spread over an area of roughly 13,000 square feet, providing a unique sightseeing experience. It depicts a historical storyline that unfolds the rich culture and heritage built around the world-famous Trincomalee Harbour and surrounding area. The statues placed here have been handmade by naval personnel and these unique sculptures have been produced from concrete and eco-friendly materials. The main aim of this project is to promote the regeneration of corals and fish breeding. Closed for fishing. Open to public. Best to visit from March to October.

Jaffna Archeological Museum

Located in Nallur, Jaffna. This interesting museum is hidden away at the end of a shabby garden behind a concrete events hall. Exhibits range from ancient Sri Lanka period to colonial times. At the entrance are a rusty pair of Dutch cannons from the fort and a set of whale bones. Open to public.

Doric House, Arippu

Located in Arippu, 8km north of Silavathurai. House of the first British Governor of Ceylon, Hon. Frederic North. Designed by Doric and built in 1804 to oversee the pearl fishery off Kondachchi Bay. The mansion had 4 small bedrooms on the ground floor with a flight of stairs at the centre and one large dining hall with the governor’s bedroom on the first floor. Open to public.

Horse Point, Kudremalai

Located on the northwest coast of Wilpattu National Park and overlooking the picturesque Dutch Bay. The remaining base of an ancient stone carving of a prancing horse facing the sea. It is estimated to be about 10 metres high from the size of the foot still attached to the base. Kuderemalai is derived from the Tamil word for horse. Open to public. Access via the National Park.