Published October 11th, 2011

In the small town of Searsport, Maine, visitors can step back in time to walk the streets of a 19th-century seafaring village. At the Penobscot Marine Museum, more than a dozen buildings housing exhibits and collections recreate the look and feel of a New England town during the “Great Age of Sail.”

Founded in 1936 by descendants of local sea captains, it’s the state’s oldest maritime museum, dedicated to celebrating the marine traditions and cultures of the Penobscot Bay Region. Its campus, located midway between Belfast and Stockton Springs, features historic vessels, ship models, marine art and photography, as well as period tools and furnishings.

Stroll through the grounds and you’ll find a historic lobster boat, rigged ship models and rare painted whale’s teeth on display. Explore the fully furnished sea captain’s house, decorated with objects from the Orient and a piano with mother-of-pearl keys, or examine a ship model crafted from bone by a French prisoner, as well as delicately wrought model miniatures.

For the kids, an educational center provides props and clothing to dress up as 19th-century shop owners, sailors and other characters. Young ones can also work on crafts activities or learn how ships were steered and rigging handled on a real ship’s wheel, capstan and scale model mast.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds, or grab a meal at one of several restaurants in the neighborhood. Open May through October, the museum is a can’t-miss activity for history buffs exploring Midcoast Maine.