If you're planning to cross the sea, click here for a few seaport destinations abroad. The histories of their ports, of course, tend to stretch back centuries before the 400-year history of U.S. shipbuilding.
Maine Maritime Museumcolor>
Located on the banks of the Kennebec River in Bath, the Maine Maritime Museum offers cruises, displays and boat-building classes that reveal four centuries of maritime history. This summer, the museum is featuring an exhibit on Maine's participation in the global economy over the last 200 years and how distant cultures affected the people of Maine.
Port Townsend, Washington
The site of Port Townsend, Wash., was a thriving seaport by the 1800s, with a lucrative shipbuilding trade and grand Victorian homes that still stand today. The harbor's calm waters still draw thousands of boat enthusiasts. Visit the City Guide to Port Townsend, Washington.
South Street Seaport Museum
This restored waterfront area on the eastern shore of Manhattan island offers a glimpse of the history of the Port of New York, and of merchant life before the advent of the steamship. Five fully functional sailing vessels built between 1885 and 1911 are in the museum's permanent collection.
Key West Seaport
The historic seaport in the heart of "Old" Key West is a popular destination for seabound travelers scuttling about the Florida Keys. The area has enough restaurants, bars, shops and water sports to keep any traveler busy. While docked in Key West, see the sunken treasure loot at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and travel back to the "Age of Discovery." Treasures from four sunken ships that met their fate in the Caribbean are on display including 17th century coins, Spanish swords and shackles from an English slave ship.
Texas Seaport Museum
Located in the historic port of Galveston, the Texas Seaport Museum explores Texas' legacy of seaborne commerce and immigration. The star of this show is the 205-foot-long sailing ship Elissa, built in 1877. Completed just before the advent of steamships, she's one of the last of her kind.
National Maritime Museum
Located in Greenwich, England, this is the world's largest maritime museum. It boasts important artifacts of Britain's maritime history, portraits, ship models, maps and navigational instruments. Also here is the National Observatory, a historic center of astronomy and the center point for the prime meridian, the longitudinal line dividing the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
The ancient walled seaport of Youghal on the southern coast of Ireland boasts a long list of history-making residents, including the adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Protector of England Oliver Cromwell. It traces the history of its first settlement to the Mesolithic era about 8,000 years ago, with the arrival, probably by sea, of early hunter/gatherers. The port and its surrounding countryside are littered with ruins and ancient structures, including a church built in 1220, one of the few medieval churches in continuous use since its construction.