Discover the Mysteries from the Seashore to the Sea Floor at the International Mermaid Museum
Story by Anne Erickson | Video and Images by Capture.Share.Repeat
Along Highway 105 between Aberdeen and Westport is one of those roadside attractions that’s so beguiling you’ll be unable to resist. You’ll know you’re there when you see the massive siren sculpture beckoning. Don’t fear, she isn’t drawing you to destruction on rocky shores. This mermaid will lure you into something far more fun than sirens of yore.
The International Mermaid Museum describes their mission as ‘dedicated to teaching ocean ecology from seashore to sea floor’ using mermaid mythology that’s common across all cultures. Here you’ll find denizens of the deep like Sedna - Inuit goddess of the sea. Tlanchana - a freshwater mermaid that hails from Central Mexico. Even the ‘Moclips Mermaid’, from Washington’s coast. There are also plenty of pop-culture mermaids from the Starbucks siren to Disney’s Ariel. Glittery floors and deep blue walls make the museum feel like a plunge into a magical pool and each mythical being provides a deep dive into real-life ocean facts that are just as fascinating as the mermaid lore.
Since this museum opened in spring of 2021 it’s become the unofficial hangout of west coast mermaid pods - real people who sport colorful tails and take dips in chilly local waters and enchant us regular land-locked humans with their personas. Time your visit right and you’ll spot a real-life siren perched on the mermaid throne in the museum’s entrance. And no matter when you visit, you can try on a tail and become a mermaid for a moment.
To guarantee meeting up with a living, breathing mermaid at the International Mermaid Museum there’s no better time to visit than during the Mermaid Festival, which takes place from noon to 5pm on April 1 through April 9 this year. Many mermaids will make appearances, including Olive the Alchemist, founder of the Seattle Mermaid School, who will teach seminars for aspiring mer-folk covering everything from mermaid physicality to believability. Una the Mermaid will perform in an underwater tank on weekends and members of the Portland Mermaid Pod’s Traveling Fanta Sea Cove will host a booth teaching mer-folk mythology and selling handmade mer-wares. There will even be live music from a Poulsbo band called ‘Bad Little Space Mermaids’ - one of the members is, in fact, a professional mermaid.
This one-of-a-kind non-profit museum is a creation of Washington’s coastal community. Folks from the area donated everything from shell collections to a WWII era diving helmet worn during the recovery effort after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Local artists made the many sculptures that adorn the grounds. And museum founder Kim Roberts, who also co-owns Westport Winery and the other businesses here with her husband Blain, has some mer-cred herself. She was one of the first women to break into Westport’s fishing industry, and she is an expert diver - she and her husband once owned Maui’s largest diving operation. Now she’s answering the call of a new siren song - helping people discover the wonders of our oceans through the magic of mermaids.