Never mind spending a mere afternoon here; this information-rich Museum is a comprehensive tribute to all things nautical and historic in Maine, and you’ll need at least a day to even start to skim the surface. The knowledgeable staff is able to answer seemingly any question no matter how obscure, whether it’s about lighthouse esoterica, boat building, or Bath Iron Works. And if all of that sounds a tad nerdy, rest assured that the majority of the learning is so hand-on, it’s effortless and just downright fun.
Founded in 1962 by seven residents of Bath, the Museum is perched on a beautiful 20-acre campus on the Kennebec River. It’s raison d’être: to offer an understanding and appreciation of Maine’s maritime heritage and culture. One immersive exhibit, for example, teaches all about lighthouses via a time lapse video that has you witnessing four seasons in eight minutes, and a replica of a Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. Another lets you try your hand at being a steamship captain and docking a vessel via a system of (literal) bells and whistles.
Exhibits abound, including permanent ones like “A Maritime History of Maine,” which offers hundreds of pieces illustrating lives in fishing, shipbuilding, wartime, coastal travel and trading (particularly Maine exports such as lumber, lime, ice, and granite). And there are temporary exhibits as well, on topics like “Maritime Music” (exploring the function of music at sea, and music about the sea traditionally played on land) and “Shipwrecks and Salvage” (chronicling the different sites and types of technology that make underwater exploration possible).
Outdoors is full of even more interactive experiences. Stroll Percy & Small Shipyard, the country’s only surviving shipyard where huge wooden sailing vessels were once built. (Lots of the shipyard buildings are original.) There you’ll find a full-size sculpture of the schooner Wyoming, the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built in North America, and Victorian-era home of the Bath’s shipbuilding families that you can tour.
None of that’s even to mention the working Boatshop, where working craftsman will answer any and all questions, and chat about and teach woodworking techniques. Venture over to Bath Iron Works and witness Navy vessels being built, or head out on the water and catch glimpses of Maine’s iconic lighthouses from the water on one of Museum’s daily cruises. And should they get bored (not likely), tykes invariably have a blast exploring the Pirate Playship—a jumble of playspaces that include a human-sized lobster trap and a tugboat they can commandeer.

If you go…

Maine Maritime Museum
243 Washington St., Bath
Daily, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
(207) 443-1316,, @MaineMaritimeMuseum on Facebook, @MaineMaritimeMu on Twitter, @mainemaritimemuseum on Instagram

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