Before the invention of modern nautical technology, sudden storms, dense fog, and strong currents provided a challenge for even the most seasoned sailors. These treacherous conditions proved insurmountable for many navigating the waters surrounding Nantucket, dashing vessels against the shoals and sinking more than 700 ships over the centuries. So many wrecks began to fill the floor of the waters around Nantucket Island that the area was referred to as "a graveyard of the Atlantic."
The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum honors the bravery of the local islanders—often members of organizations such as the Massachusetts Humane Society, United States Life-Saving Service, and the United States Coast Guard—who placed their own lives in danger by attempting to rescue the crews stranded aboard sinking ships. The museum's permanent collection, which consists of more than 5,000 pieces, gives guests an opportunity to learn more about these individuals' heroic efforts.
In addition to vintage photographs and exhibits recounting famous shipwrecks and the ensuing rescue attempts, the museum also features period artifacts that helped save lives. Additionally, the museum is a great place to take a bike ride or picnic on the beautiful grounds with views of the water.
EcoTourz’s cache of bikes and kayaks furnish unique perspectives of the Upper Cape’s natural splendor and Sandwich’s historical charms. Guides usher small groups of kayakers down Historic Mill Creek, where herons and osprey soar above the tall grass while conspiring to overthrow the neighborhood mockingbirds. On dry land, EcoTourz staff rents out bicycles and divulges prime pedaling spots, such as the marsh-lined Sandwich Boardwalk or some of the Cape’s oldest buildings.
With more than 20 interactive exhibits designed to stimulate the imagination, Cape Cod Children's Museum blurs the line between education and sheer entertainment. Little ones can siege the castle, cook up pretend pancakes at the Starfish Galley diner, climb the life-size tree house, or spend hours patiently standing in line at the mini post office. The music room's piano and drums add fuel to the creative fire, while a reading wagon offers respite in the form of a story-time break. The museum also hosts birthday parties, during which groups of kids can explore the many exhibits at will.
It would take months of sea travel, extensive scuba certifications, and fluency in several crustacean dialects to find—let alone interact with—all the creatures found in Ocean Explorium's interactive exhibits. The science center emphasizes environmental stewardship and scientific literacy through several educational habitats such as touch tanks of local aquatic wildlife—including New Bedford's world-famous scallops and schools of rays and sharks. The Living Laboratory exhibit brings visitors face to face with sea creatures such as baby sharks, shark egg cases, coral farm, and moon jellies. Beyond the up-close encounters with denizens of the deep, Ocean Explorium also enlightens patrons with a variety of non-living displays. The Explorer's Zone presents scientific experiments that reveal the workings of the natural world through hands-on exhibits themed around different weekly topics, and Discovery Bay enthralls children aged eight or younger with games, puzzles, and a sand and water table. Advanced computers construct a three-dimensional image of our home planet as it appears from outer space in the Science on a Sphere exhibit, displaying global weather patterns in real time or replaying natural phenomena from history, such as the time it rained men.
For the past 15 years, The New Bedford Art Museum has dressed up downtown New Bedford with a seasonally changing collection of visual stimuli from local, national, and international artists—all presented within a former bank that still contains two vintage vaults. Pamela Calore's Time Has Left Its Mark explores the haunting remnants of abandoned local factories and the Rhode Island System that governed the lives of its workers. New Bedford Through the Lens, meanwhile, charts the city's changes over time through photographs or a feature film, depending on how fast attendees sprint past the photographs. The New Bedford Art Museum is open Wednesday–Sunday.