Sea clutter is one of the main limiting factors influencing the target detection performance of nautical radars. The physical mechanism of sea clutter is complex with an abundance of influencing factors, and the non-Gaussian as well as non-stationarity behavior is significant. Thus, research into sea clutter property cognition is complicated and has to be systematic. Based on research that concentrates on experimental data, this paper reviews and summarizes the research developments in sea clutter property cognition. It concentrates on the properties that are of most interest for target detection algorithms: amplitude distribution, spectra, correlation, and non-stationarity and nonlinearity. The main research results are also concluded. Based on this, four aspects of problems that need further exploration are highlighted and include the following: further analysis of sea clutter influencing factors; the game problem between sea clutter precision modeling and the requirements of detection algorithms; and the property cognition between radar target and sea clutter.