A veritable mecca for lovers of boats, sailing, and the open water, Mystic Seaport is the largest maritime museum in the entire world with multiple protected, landmark vessels, a working 19th century village, and even the world’s only remaining wooden whaling ship.
Established in 1929 as the Maritime Historical Association, the waterside museum quickly grew as eager seamen donated everything from log books to blueprints to ship parts to the cause. However, the site’s first great acquisition came when they got their rough sailing hands on the Charles W. Morgan, a wooden tri-masted whaling vessel that was the only one of its kind left in the world (and is currently recognized as the oldest remaining merchant ship). After restoring their new prize, interest in the association’s museum boomed. Entire buildings were moved in from all around coastal New England to recreate a 19th century fishing village, and a shipyard was built specifically for historical preservations.
The collection continued to grow over the years and today the museum, now officially known as the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, is easily the largest maritime collection in the world. In addition to the hundreds of boats, over one million photographs, and ongoing restorations, the site also offers classes teaching traditional boating and shipbuilding techniques. Their full-service shipyard has even undertaken historical recreations such as that of the Amistad, which was rebuilt from the water up and later used in Steven Spielberg’s film of the same name.
Update May 2020: After a closure due to COVID-19, the Mystic Seaport Museum has reopened its outdoor attractions to the public. It expects to open other portions as time goes on.