Surfers are searching far and wide for unique travel ideas and experiences. If you’re looking to do something different next time you trip around the world, why not check out a surf museum.
With the incredible surf spots around the world and a growing surfer population, you might assume that each major surf location has a museum preserving its history. This is not the case: surf museums are scarce, with only 15 active surf museums around the world. They all deserve to make it onto your surf trip bucket list.
Some may think, arggh… museums, boring. If you’re a fan of surfing as a sport or even just appreciate the lifestyle, then you will most certainly find treasures in these museums. Remember surfers aren’t boring people – and neither is the rich heritage that accompanies our evolution from obscure subculture to mainstream professional sport.
Not only is it great to learn more about the history of surf and the legends of the sport – you might even help curate a few stories and donate some surfing artefacts along the way. Surf museum curators are some of the most interesting people you’ll meet – often able to tell a great story about magical moments in surfing history.
Let’s take a look at the top 15 surf museums around the world.
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United States of America
Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum
The International Surf Museum is located in no other than Huntington Beach, California. Also known as Surf City of the USA. Huntington Beach has so much to offer when it comes to surf history and lifestyle.
The founder of The International Surf Museum, Natalie Kotsch, has never surfed in her life. After moving from Canada to Cali she was impressed by surf culture and the relaxed lifestyle of the surfer.
Currently, the museum is exhibiting 40 years of surf scholars, which is perfect to see your surf heroes as groms. The museum is closed on Mondays, and open every other day from 12-5pm. It costs $3 for entrance.
Find out more about their permanent exhibitions and other events online.
Address: 411 Olive Ave, 92648 Huntington Beach, United States
To my surprise, this is the only surf museum I could find in Hawaii. The Honolulu Surf Museum is housed at the Jimmy Buffets at the Beachcomber restaurant.
It started when Jimmy Buffet decided that his friend James O’Mahoney’s collection of surf memorabilia would be far better appreciated in Hawaii than Santa Barbra. So he shipped it off to Honolulu and started the Honolulu Surf Museum.
It is said to house the only authorised board which was ridden by Marvels Silver Surfer. Not only worth a visit for avid surfers but if you like Marvel then it got something for you too.
The admission is free, there was little information regarding opening times, be sure to contact them before planning a trip as the opening times may be seasonal.
Address: 2300 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815
Originally known as the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum the Florida Surf Museum is home to some big names in the surf game. Or as they refer to as the kahunas.
Cocoa Beach is home to surf superman Kelly Slater, and the museum features some great content of his rise to greatness. Founded in 1999, Florida Surf Museum can be found in Atlantic Avenue at Cocoa Beach.
The museum is open from 9 am – 5 pm 7 days a week and is housed inside of Ron Jon’s Surf Shop. Need to pick up some wax before you hit the water, be sure to pop your head into the museum and get the low down on surf history and culture in the Florida area.
Address: 4275 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931, USA
If you’re looking for unique and unknown spots to visit then this small heritage and culture center will be a real treat.
The cool kid of surf museums, the San Clemente heritage, and culture center tells the untold stories of surf legends. From board designers and shapers to surfers you will be sure to find out something you didn’t know before.
The center is currently showing an exhibit on Joe Quigg Design Alternatives. Self-proclaimed as “The Smithsonian of Surfing” this center is a must-see on the list of surf museums.
Located inland in the city of San Clemente, California and open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am – 5 pm.
Address: 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, USA
The New Jersey Surf Museum is located in Tuckerton Seaport. This smaller and quaint port side museum is a real gem.
Looking at the history of surfing in the New Jersey area from as far back as when surfing first came to New Jersey in 1912.
This museum is a great place to not only soak in the history of surf culture in the area, but they have a strong focus on enriching future generations on the environment, marine life, and conservation.
Tuckerton Seaport area is filled with tradition and they do a great job at sharing these age-old traditions at sea and on land with the visitors to the museum and Seaport area.
Get on your captain’s hat and head down for a blast from the past. The museum is open daily from 10 am – 4 pm.
Address: 120 W Main St, 08087 Tuckerton, New Jersey
Located in Australia’s surf capital of Torquay, the Australian National Surfing Museum is the home of the Australian surf story and how Australian surf impact the sport worldwide.
The museum has many permanent displays as well as pop up exhibitions throughout the year. Current exhibitions to check out include the Australian Surf Hall of Fame, as well as an in-depth look at surf culture in Australia
If you’re not into history, then this is the place for you. The museum also has its own in-house shaping bay where you can watch, international shaper Eiji Shiomoto shape some boards live.
It will cost you $12 Australian Dollars to get in and they are open from 9-5 7 days a week.
The Surf World Gold Coast is not only a museum but also a great surf shop. Situated amidst the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary near the coast this is a beautiful area to check out even if you’re not into museums it’s a must-see coastline and leafy green suburb.
The collection of surfboards here is pretty impressive, with one board dating back to 1915, they seem to have the longest timeline of boards in Australia.
They are open daily from 10 am – 5 pm. After a session at Currumbin Alley be sure to stop into the museum to check out what the guys back in the 1910’s were surfing on.
Address: 35 Tomewin St, Currumbin QLD 4223, Australia
Surprisingly The Mount Surf Museum seems to be the only one in New Zealand. The collection of memorabilia is housed at the Mount Surf Shop at the Totara Street store.
The surf memorabilia was brought together by Dusty Waddle who was a keen surfboard collector. The museum has a collection which consists of over 500 different boards, making it the largest collection in New Zealand.
The museum also tells the story of a convicted Malibu fraudster who hid out in New Zealand 30 years ago enjoying the New Zealand surf.
Being the only surf museum in New Zealand, it is a must see for sure. Contact Mount Surf Shop to find out hours and costs of admission.
Address: 98 Maunganui Rd, Mount Maunganui 3116, New Zealand
The home of super tubes, J-Bay Pro and endless surf stories. J-Bay is known worldwide as a hot little surf town, so it is only natural to bucket list this surf museum as a top priority.
Having family and myself who have grown up surfing in and around the J-Bay area I can tell you this one is most definitely worth a visit.
The Surf Museum is located inside the Instep Shop in J-Bay and is open daily. If you don’t feel like you’ve got the full story from the museum, then head down to a local bar. I am sure one of the patrons will have some surf tales to tell.
Best time to head to J-Bay is June and July when the J-Bay Pro is taking place. The town is abuzz with international surf champions, and the waves are hot.
Address: 24 Da Gama Rd, Jeffreys Bay, 6330, South Africa
Phone: +27 84 240 1741
Time Warp Surf Durban
Warm weather, water, and great waves. Durban has produced some fantastic surfers over the years.
With strong ocean life tradition, Durban is full of surf history and home to many of South Africa’s greatest surfers.
The Time Warp Surf Museum has a collection of boards dated back to the 1930’s. Many museums in South Africa holds a rich and troubling history. Knowing how surf culture survived the trying times of the South African past makes the sport that much stronger.
The museum is located in South Beach. It is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm.
Address: 190 Lower Marine Parade,Ocean Sports Centre, Durban 4001, South Africa
This can’t be right? Yes, they surf in the UK. The Museum of British Surfing in North Devon holds the story of surf in Britain. Who would have thought that a cold mostly grey place could adopt a love of surf?
The history here goes way back. The museum claims to have proof of contact with British surf happening as early as 1769.
This seems like a wonderful place to stop in and learn about a completely new side of the surf community.
If you’re from a warmer climate you may avoid going in the water. At least it will be interesting to hear about surfing in 18th century England.
Nazare in Portugal is a lighthouse point where some of the world’s biggest most majestic waves have been recorded.
At the lighthouse point, there is a medieval fort. The fort houses a collection of boards and acts as a shrine to the surfers who have risked their kahunas to take on the monstrous waves the area produces.
Not only is there a shrine to the surfers, but they also have an explanation on why the waves get so big there. Prepare to get down and dirty with some wave science while visiting a medieval fort.
Definite yes for the bucket list.
Address: R.25 de Avril, Nazare 2450-076, Portugal
Phone: +351 265 561 967
Having searched the globe for magical surf museums I must say it was a bit of a shock to come across so few. Many museums are non-profit organizations run by donations and admission fees. Many museums struggle to find funding and sadly shut down.
It would be great if some big surf brand could get behind these museums. Like O’Neill in Santa Cruz, or Billabong in Australia. It is so important to keep these great surf cultures and histories alive. We need to enrich and inspire people with positive surf stoke.
I didn’t find any kind of surf museums in Bali either which a was a shock. I think I have found my retirement plan.