Why You Should Visit Searsport on Your Way to Acadia

The shipbuilding town’s burgeoning downtown has more than a rich maritime history.

Searsport Maine from above

Just an hour south of heavily touristed Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, a hidden gem is ready to welcome visitors. Sitting where the Penobscot River meets Penobscot Bay, the town of Searsport boasts a rich maritime history, first-rate shopping, and creative cuisine — all in a pristine setting with land preserves and recreational opportunities.

It’s rich with history — and antiques

At the height of its 19th-century shipbuilding industry, Searsport had 11 shipyards and was home to more than a tenth of the nation’s deepwater sea captains. The town launched more than 200 ships, and sailors furnished their homes with treasures found abroad. Many of those treasures are now displayed in area museums — and some are available for purchase at the town’s several antiques shops.

lobsterboat in Searsport, Maine, on a foggy day

Shops serve every interest

Searsport shops are stocked with crafts by local artisans, new and used books, furniture and home décor, handcrafted gifts, and jewelry, including some made with rare shades of Maine tourmaline. Given the town’s seafaring history, it’s no surprise that shoppers can also purchase historically accurate model kits of famous ships to build at home.

Foodies flock here

There’s no shortage of fresh seafood in this coastal town: chowder, fried clams, lobster rolls, and raw bars. And the culinary scene has recently expanded to include European tapas, West Coast–style tacos, English tavern classics, and chef’s tasting menus. Sweets shops specialize in homemade, small-batch ice cream, authentic Italian pastries, and gourmet chocolates, including Needhams — a Maine favorite.

The arts and music scene shines

Galleries display paintings, pottery, fiber arts, and period American furniture, and arts organizations offer classes in stained glass, printmaking, woodworking, and more. Restaurants showcase works by local artists, and at night they bump with live music, from piano to funk to country, to open-mics.

A paradise for outdoors enthusiasts

Searsport’s greatest asset is its beautiful location and the many ways to enjoy it — nature trails, salt- and freshwater swimming, and water sports, to name a few. The fishing pier and boat ramp are open and free to the public. Sears Island, a 940-acre uninhabited island accessible by car, bicycle, and kayak, is a favorite of beach-combers, who search for artifacts left by ships that sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in the 1800s. Nearby Moose Point State Park has an evergreen grove and tide pools to explore, hiking trails, and a picnic area with playground.

Sleep under the stars — or in a sea captain’s home

The area’s oceanside campgrounds make it easy to enjoy the outdoors with a variety of options, including tent and RV sites, cabins, and yurts. More-luxurious accommodations can be found at several inns, many of them former sea captains’ mansions with cozy bedding, fireplaces, and homemade breakfasts.

Searsport is working on major improvements to its infrastructure, bringing in new lighting and brick sidewalks to make the already-welcoming downtown even more welcoming. Parking is always free and plentiful. For more information to help plan your Searsport itinerary, visit searsport.maine.gov.