Maine is a US state that is ruled by the sea. With hundreds of miles of rocky shores that go hand in hand with its biggest industries, lobstering, boat building and fishing, Maine is a stunning place to spend your summer family vacation.
While in Maine, visitors can also learn about the sea and its inspiration by visiting the best museums in Maine. You’ll find art museums full of works by Maine artists inspired by the natural beauty of Maine’s coast as well the history of Maine and its maritime past.
Join me as we take a look at the best museums in Maine you should visit while you’re there.
One of the top museums in Maine you have to visit if you want to learn about Maine’s past shipbuilding exploits is the Maine Maritime Museum.
You’ll find the maritime museum in the small town of Bath and it’s right on the water. Inside the museum, are tons of pieces of artwork, ship models, and artifacts that all showcase Maine’s shipbuilding past. There are also models and even the exact old equipment used in the shipyards of Bath.
The Bath Iron Works are still making ships and even submarines today and with your two-day ticket to the museum, you can go on a tour of the Bath Iron Works to see boatbuilding in action.
You have the choice of a boat tour on the Kennebec River that gives you an up-close look at the Iron Works or you can do a trolley tour instead. There is so much to see at the museum that you will want to spend two days there to see it all.
Another of the museums in Maine that is worth a visit is the Portland Museum of Art. The Portland Museum of Art is home to over 15000 pieces spread across three different buildings in the artsy district of Portland.
The museum houses a diverse range of artists and artistic history including American Art and pieces that make it a contemporary art gallery as well. The artwork spans three hundred years and also includes hints of architecture too.
You’ll find pieces of American art by Homer and Frederic Edwin Church as well as other foreign masters such as Pablo Picasso, Pierre-August Renoir, Claude Monet, and even Edgar Degas. Of all the Portland museums, this art museum houses probably the most impressive collection of pieces.
One of the museums in Maine that is a little different from the others that are worth seeing is the Maine Lighthouse Museum. In this historical museum, you’ll find a permanent collection dedicated to Lighthouse history, maritime culture, and maritime history. It’s a fun and interesting view into the cultural life of local history and those who live by the sea.
The exhibits showcase the largest collection of Fresnel lighthouse lenses in the world as well as other exhibitions that house the museum’s collection of lighthouse artifacts and Coast Guard memorabilia. The extensive collections are renowned and regarded as the most important landmark collection of this nature in the USA.
A stroll around this museum will have you learning about the rich cultural heritage of Maine as well as being able to get an idea of what being a lighthouse keeper means, plus there is a stunning view from the top. The gift shop is great too and you’ll find models and replicas as well as clothing all about lighthouses and more.
Another of the museums in Maine worth a visit, which is located just down the road from the Lighthouse Museum above in the small coastal town of Owls Head.
While you explore this museum you’ll be able to see a number of displays dedicated to early forms of transportation, their history, and evolution. Each of the displays is dedicated to something different, for example, one is about the evolution of the bicycle and its increasingly efficient design.
You’ll find a display about the Wright Brothers and early flight, as well as the evolution of flight that changed tourism forever. There are tons of classic car exhibitions, world war exhibits, ones about engines, and even a collection of paintings showcasing early automobiles and other forms of transport.
The Ogunquit Museum of American Art is located in Southern Maine and it’s one of the more unique art museums in Maine as it’s right on the water and surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
Before you walk in to see all the works of art, you’ll want to take a stroll around the seaside garden. The garden is about as beautiful as a garden could be with sea views, sculptures, plus a lily pond reflecting pool.
Inside the art museum, you’ll find a series of small galleries to explore, and each one is dedicated to paintings of American Art.
You’ll find paintings by artists such as Charles Burchfield, Walt Kuhn, Gaston Lachaise, Will Barnet, and other famous artists. As you explore each exhibit you’ll be taken on a journey into an artist’s reflection of the beauty of Maine. Admission is free but the art museum is closed during winter so check the website before you plan a trip there.
The Maine Historical Society Museum is located in Portland and is a great museum to explore during your trip to this lovely town. This museum allows visitors to explore the natural history, culture, and life in Maine.
The museum uses changing exhibitions to showcase Maine life across more than five hundred years. You’ll be able to explore a permanent collection that features art, artifacts, photography, and documents that all bring the history of Maine to life.
Just next to this Portland museum and linked to it is the Wadsworth–Longfellow House. This was the first-ever house museum open to the public in Maine and the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and is the oldest standing structure on the peninsula in Portland. If you’re a fan of architecture, a stroll around the most historic houses in Portland is a must on your trip.
The Museums Of Old York is one of the hidden gems in Maine for history buffs. You find it located in York Village and it was founded more than a hundred years ago. The museum is dedicated to preserving artifacts and the history of the town which was America’s first chartered city and one of New England’s earliest colonial settlements.
Inside the museum, you’ll find one of the largest collections of Maine’s history with thirty-seven different period rooms to explore as well as numerous galleries in nine historic museum buildings. A walk around the building is enough but once you see the decorative arts as well as all the exhibits that tell the stories of the men, women, and kids of Maine from the 17th century to the present day.
The Brick Store Museum is another great art museum in Maine that shows off a little more than art. Its focus is Maine history and it tells the tales of maritime and rural life in the Kennebunks and the surrounding area.
The best exhibits to explore at this museum include items from the estates of Kenneth Roberts and Booth Tarkington, some of Maine’s top authors as well as incredible artifacts from the past.
You’ll find handwritten inscriptions, an old chest from 1685 that has hues of piracy surrounding it, quilts with secret pouches, and even a painting of a Kennebunkport ship captain that was found floating at sea, how cool is that! There is even a Civil War drum and it has the largest collection of WWI and WWII posters in Maine too.
The Colby College Museum of Art is another wonderful museum of art to explore in Maine. The setting couldn’t be better as the museum is housed in a beautiful building plus a three-story glass pavilion.
This is the largest museum in Maine with over 38,000-square-foot of space and is home to quite a few different exhibits that are great to explore.
The most famous exhibit to see is probably the Alex Katz exhibit that is home to over 900 different paintings from the artist that sits in its own dedicated wing. There are lots more artists featured in this art museum with a focus on American artists as well as sculptures and photography too.
The Farnsworth Art Museum is somewhere you have to visit while on your trip to Maine if you’re a fan of art. Located in the seaside town of Rockland along with many an independent art gallery, you’ll find excellent exhibitions full of paintings and a sculpture or two by artists from the USA with a connection to Maine.
You find paintings by artist Alex Klatz as well as Fairfield Porter and Neil Welliver. The most famous of the arts in this museum include a sculpture or two by Louise Nevelson who was a former resident of the town.
The Tate House Museum was built in 1755 and is the only pre-Revolutionary house in the area around Portland that is open to the public. If you’re a fan of architecture and want to take a look at an old Maine home, this is a museum you should explore.
Inside you’ll find that the house is exactly as it would have been back in the day with period furniture and its roof is quite special. It’s only one of two houses in Maine with an indented gambrel roof.
The grounds are also stunning and feature a herb garden. Exploring them makes for a wonderful walk after seeing the house.
If you’re a fan of old cars then a trip to the Wells Auto Museum is a must. You’ll find a collection of more than 80 old classic and antique cars. The collection covers more than 100 years of the history of automobiles with some very rare cars that are hard to find.
There are also vintage motorbikes and lots of old automotive memorabilia. While this isn’t a children’s museum, children will love it too. There are vintage games, music boxes, and nickelodeons all around the museum that children can play with.
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is home to some off-the-wall exhibitions as well more formal ones too. The first floor has lots of artwork that is usually accompanied by films in the small theater next to one of the galleries while the second floor showcases arts from around the world including Chinese, Indian, and Asian art.
The collection has more than 20,000 pieces inside it and you can even search these online to ensure you see exactly what you want to see while you’re there.
The Maine State Museum is the oldest state museum in the USA. If you love a look into the history of things, you should drop by. It shows off everything about Maine from its natural resources to its rich history.
You’ll find displays featuring the geological history of Maine, the art history of Maine as well a look into Maine’s involvement in key events such as the Civil and Revolutionary War. You’ll find artifacts, documents, and photographs too.
The Stanley Museum is located in the town of Kingfield in a 1903 Georgian-style Stanley School. The museum showcases everything about the famous Stanley family. One of the most famous pieces is the Stanley Steamer automobile which was designed and invented by Francis Edgar Stanley and built by him and his brother.
Inside the museum, you can see the steam automobiles and see a series of photos that were taken by their sister that depict life in Maine in 1900. You’ll also get to take a look at the Mason Regulator engine which was used in the first Stanley cars.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!