The quirky culture of Belfast extends even to its history. The Belfast Museum (10 Market St., Belfast, 207/338-9229, www.belfastmuseum.org , mid-June.–mid-Oct., free) contains a mishmash of interesting exhibits, including a recreated 19th century pharmacy and jail, and an homage to Belfast’s most famous balloonist. While you are there, pick up a brochure for a self-guided walking tour of the many Victorian buildings in Belfast’s downtown area.
While not as slick as the Maine Maritime Museum  down the coast, the Penobscot Marine Museum (5 Church St., Searsport, 207/548-2529, www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.; noon–5 p.m. Sun., $8 adults, $3 children 7–15, free children 6 and under, $18 family) wins points for authenticity. Many of the original historic buildings in Searsport  village have been preserved and filled with antiques and artwork gathered from the families of the captains who once sailed from the port. A particularly interesting exhibit in the old town hall traces the little-known history of Maine’s  contribution to international shipping during the golden years of the windjammers.
Seventeen miles west of Belfast , the three-story Liberty Tool Company (57 Main St./Rte. 173, Liberty, 207/589-4771, www.jonesport-wood.com , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Mar.–Dec.; 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Jan.) is worth a detour for its astounding collection of 10,000 tools and countless nuts, bolts, and washers dutifully sorted into hundreds of tiny bins. Across the street, a museum showcases antique tools as well as artwork and Native American artifacts.
Even further down Route 3, the deliciously quirky Bryant’s Stove & Music Museum (27 Stovepipe Alley, Thorndike, 207/568-3665, www.bryantstove.com , 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., donations accepted) showcases the extraordinary collection of John Bryant, who has gathered more than a dozen antique cast-iron stoves, which are as much works of art as they are pieces of cooking equipment. Other exhibits in the ambitious museum include antique cars, music boxes, and a one-of-a-kind “doll circus.”