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Day Trip to the Maine Maritime Museum

A day trip to the Maine Maritime Museum in nearby Bath ranks as one of our favorite ways to spend the day in any season. The museum first opened its doors in 1962. Now open 363 days a year, a visit to the 20-acre campus on the banks of the Kennebec River reveals much about Maine’s maritime history and heritage.

Both indoors and out, a variety of exhibits will expose you to Maine’s intimate connection with the sea. Take your time exploring the vast array of interactive displays that provide an in-depth look at all aspects of living and working so close to the coast. From boat-building to shipwrecks and salvage, the collection paints a clear picture of the trials and tribulations of making a living along the coast of Maine.

Adjacent to the Bath Iron Works, builder of commercial and naval vessels since 1884, the Maine Maritime Museum offers something for everyone. Here are some highlights.

An old ship's wheel and underwater gear

The Exhibits

Like most museums, you will find temporary exhibits that come and go on rotation, as well as permanent ones.

Currently on display is The Burden Collection. Dr. Charles Burden played a prominent role in contributing to the museum. For example, he set up the first exhibits in 1964. Over the years, he acquired thousands of items that he then donated to the museum. His vast collection includes ship portraits, shipboard medicines, steamer timetables, sailor-made folk-art, rare books and more.

Future exhibits for 2022 include Fakes, Forgeries, and Facsimiles, an interactive exhibit that portrays the process museum professionals use for authenticating various types of artifacts.

The museum’s permanent exhibits offer insight into the life of shipbuilding families, how they lived, what the ships were like, and historic artifacts that give visitors a general idea of Maine’s maritime history. These permanent exhibits include the following.

Wooden overhead sign at the museum that reads: The Shipbuilding Gallery

The Donnell House

Step back in time to experience what life was like for a shipbuilding family during the Victorian era. The Donnell’s, one of Bath’s most successful shipbuilding families, built the home in 1892. The home reflects the enormous amount of wealth that William T. Donnell made from his shipbuilding business. Today, the interior, furnished in period pieces, is a tribute to a family whose history with seafaring is firmly embedded in Bath’s past.

Snow Squall: An American Clipper

Here you’ll discover the last remaining example of an American clipper ship. Renovated in 2021, the Snow Squall launched in Portland in 1851. It was built for speed with its narrow hull and massive amount of sail.

Schooner Mary E

The historic schooner Mary E has a long and storied past. Built as a fishing schooner in Bath in 1906, Mary E served several roles: cargo carrier, passenger-carrying windjammer, and supposedly a rum runner. She was beautifully restored right here at the museum in 2017/2018. Step aboard and experience this impressive piece of history during on-deck tours and sails in the spring, summer, and early fall.

Historic Boat Collection

The museum boasts a collection of over 140 small crafts that were either built in Maine or were part of Maine’s history. Seeing them all will take some time as they’re housed in several different buildings and exhibits, so be sure to plan ahead.

Historic Fresnel lens on display at the Maine Maritime Museum

Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience

Definitely a “must-see” exhibit, the Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience will take your breath away. The beauty, artistry, and functionality of the Fresnel lens is heralded here in this immersive display. You’ll see a full-scale replica of one of Cape Elizabeth’s Two Lights. The experience demonstrates the view from the lantern room through time-lapse video.

Workshops and Gallery Talks

Throughout the year, the Maine Maritime Museum offers a series of workshops and gallery talks designed to shed light on various aspects of life in a seafaring community. Storytellers, historic art exhibits, special tours, and craftsmen delve deep into the past to provide an accurate picture of life on the coast of Maine.

Exterior view of shipbuilding yeard near the museum

Lighthouse and Nature Cruises

If you visit during the warmer months, plan on taking one of the Museum’s delightful lighthouse or nature cruises. Varying in length from 30 minutes to 4 hours, you’ll have an opportunity to explore lighthouses, shipyards, rivers, and wildlife. Get out on the water and see what’s happening at the Bath Iron Works. Witness for yourselves, up close and personal, the building of the latest and greatest Naval ships.

Trip Tips

Plan on spending a minimum of 2.5-3 hours to fully explore the exhibits and grounds at the Maine Maritime Museum. The on-site Even-Keel Café offers sandwiches, baked goods, coffee, and soda.

What’s more, there are plenty of other options around town and nearby that offer full menus. For example, Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, home of the world’s best lobster roll, and the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant in Harpswell are two of our favorites for lunch or dinner in season (May through October). Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, midway between the inn and the museum, remains open all year. You’ll find homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees to enjoy on site or packed to travel for a picnic.

Collage of Wolf Cove Inn clockwise: beige guest room, exterior view of the inn in winter, massage, hearty breakfast

Lodging in Poland, Maine

After a day spent along the coast, come back to the Wolf Cove Inn for a soothing cup of tea or perhaps something stronger. Take advantage of our many guest amenities to enhance your stay. Enjoy relaxing massages and spa services, cozy fireplaces, luxurious linens, and a delicious comfort breakfast each morning. We hope you enjoyed your day trip to the Maine Maritime Museum.

More Day Trips in Maine

For more ideas on fun day trips in Maine, read a few of our recent blog posts.

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