The 7 most amazing underwater museums in the world

As a trained marine biologist and art lover out of interest, combined with being a frequent traveler and avid scuba diver, the idea of ​​an underwater sculpture park is simply perfection. for me. And what I especially love is that many of the new underwater museums are working to raise awareness of the environmental threats our oceans face today.

MOUA (Photo credit: Queensland Tourism and Events)

Take the MOUA along the Great Barrier Reef: each facility has a story, tells about specific threats, and is not only beautiful, but makes you think. And extracting notoriety from a work of art is always a bonus. But of course, it also adds a lot of fun and adventure to a seaside trip.

In the past two years alone, new underwater museums have popped up around the world, and they all encourage local and international tourism, raising awareness among residents as well as visitors and a sense of responsibility towards the sea and its surrounding areas. creatures, while also adding a much needed boost to the community’s tourism income.

And they are so nice. Scuba diving or not, the vast majority of these sculpture parks are accessible by glass bottom boats, some even have sculptures visible from the ground. Artistic installation.

Here are some of the best.

MOUA, statue of the man who works to shovel the earth.
Matt Curnock

1. Museum of Underwater Art, Townsville, Australia

Off Townsville, along the Great Barrier Reef and not far from Magnetic Island is MOUA, the underwater art museum opened in 2020, and a stunning showcase of installations by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. MOUA is an innovative project combining underwater art, research and education, accessible not only to scuba divers and snorkelers, but also spanning on dry land. It prides itself on being a project telling an informed story about the Great Barrier Reef and the impacts of people and climate change. Of particular significance is Jason deCaires Taylor’s work, as he is a prominent advocate for marine conservation, and his art, also on display at the Underwater Museum in Cannes below, is a powerful storyteller.

Pro tip: It’s a great addition to a road trip on the Great Barrier Reef, and pairs really well with the simply stunning Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville, which lets you see all the creatures living in the sea, without having to get wet.

Cannes Underwater Museum.
Eric Barnabé Photography 3N

2. The Underwater Museum of Cannes, France

In preparation for four years, the Cannes Underwater Museum opened in 2021 and is a great addition to the attractions of the French Riviera. With the renowned MOUA Jason deCaires sculptures nestled on the white sands and fringed with luminous sea grasses, visitors don’t even have to dive to appreciate the facilities, but can easily reach them while snorkeling in the sea. region. As already pointed out in The journey awaits you, the subjects of the sculptures are based on portraits of members of the local community spanning a range of ages, including an 80-year-old fisherman named Maurice and a 9-year-old boy named Anouk, making the art even more personal and specific. to the region.

Diver at the Cannes Underwater Museum.
Cannes Underwater Museum (Photo credit: Eric Barnabe Photograpie 3N)

Pro tip: The godfather of scuba diving Jacques Cousteau was director of the nearby Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, which not only perches in spectacular surroundings, but is a must-see if you are interested in the underwater world.

3. Museo Subacuático De Arte (MUSA), Mexico

The Cancun Underwater Museum sits on the bustling stretch between La Isla and Aquaworld and is arguably one of the most diverse underwater museums when it comes to art. From people hiding their heads in the sand to a VW car, from abstract figures to domestic scenes, this museum takes some time to explore. And, luckily, you have different ways to explore. Travel Art is a tour operator specializing in tours of this museum and offers snorkeling tours, glass bottom boat tours and scuba diving, to ensure that everyone can enjoy the art, not just skilled divers.

Pro tip: Scuba diving and snorkeling is extremely popular around Cancun, with incredible marine life to see. Here you can learn to dive, whatever your age, or, if you are already an expert, go on excursions along the coast.

Lanzarote Underwater Museum, man on swing.
Lanzarote Diving College

4. Museo Atlántico Lanzarote, Spain

And here we have the work of underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor again. This time, in the enchanting setting of the Canary Islands off the African coast. This museum predates the other two in Australia and France, having opened in 2016, but has lost none of its power: Designed to act like an artificial reef, the Museo Atlantico is made up of 10 different sculpture groups. There are powerful images, among others, like the famous Raft of Lampedusa, a reference to the refugee crisis in Europe, and a group of 35 human figures walking towards a wall. As in Cannes, the models used for these sculptures are inhabitants of Lanzarote. The largest installation represents a human vortex made up of 200 life-size sculptures placed in an endless circle. According to the museum, the artist wants to highlight the beauty of the underwater world and stress the need to protect it with this piece.

Underwater diver, swim in the Lanzarote Underwater Museum.
Lanzarote Diving College

Pro tip: As this museum is best seen by scuba diving, there is a special and quick program that teaches people without a diving license the basic skills and takes you to see the sculptures, for a double adventure.

5. The Baiheliang Underwater Museum, China

This underwater museum is a little different, because it is not located in the sea, but in a river. The Yangtze River, to be precise. The archaeological site of Baiheliang was submerged by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, and now the natural ridge and notable sites such as the stone carvings lie under 140 feet of water. What makes this museum even more special is that you can see the underwater sites from the museum and stay dry. No need to learn to dive for this one. Instead, the ridge would have been encased in an arch-shaped glass dome filled with purified water. Two underwater canals with escalators and conveyor belts were installed from the museum onto the riverbank, allowing museum visitors to go below the surface of the dam to view the stone carvings and inscriptions without the need to enter them. -same in water. The museum also features other treasures that were saved before the dam engulfed the area.

Pro tip: Combine the tour with a Three Gorges Cruise, traveling through a magical landscape like no other.

6. Underwater Archaeological Park of Baia, Italy

At the gates of the southern city of Naples, in the picturesque Bay of Naples lies a treasure of Roman history, surprisingly well preserved under the waves. The bay has always been popular with travelers seeking sun and water, and Roman tourists were no different. Baia was a popular seaside resort around 2,000 years ago. But then, an unusual seismic phenomenon called “bradyseism” caused the complex to sink under the Mediterranean Sea. Apparently, unlike earthquakes which move mostly horizontally, Bradyseism moved the ground up or down and sank Baia. Now it is experiencing a revival, if only by divers and snorkelers, who can appreciate seeing statues, Roman mosaic floors and ruins on the seabed. There are seven underwater sites, all archaeological reserves, and all at a depth ranging from about 15 feet to a maximum of 42 feet.

Pro tip: The local dive club offers an introductory snorkeling course, preparing you to see the Roman wonders underwater.

7. Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, Grenada

And a final underwater sculpture park filled with sculptures by extraordinary underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor. The Molinere Bay – or Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park was not only the first of Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater art museums, but also the world’s first underwater museum, dating back to 2006. It features 75 works spanning a area of ​​8,600 square feet in the Caribbean Sea, and less than 10 to a maximum of 16 feet below the surface. As in many of these underwater parks, you can admire the art while scuba diving, snorkeling, or enjoying an excursion on a glass bottom boat.

Highlights include a lost writer typing on a typewriter, Christ under the waves and a man on a bicycle, with all of the sculptures, as is the artist’s custom, having been placed to form a new reef and habitat for marine flora and fauna.

Pro tip: To continue the theme, why not try the Restaurant Aquarium? It offers a wide choice of local and very fresh seafood, as well as a popular barbecue on Sundays.

The underwater wonders can be experienced in different ways:

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