Through some magic of architecture, the dining room at The Red Inn promotes the illusion of floating, like the many boats just outside in Provincetown Harbor–or maybe we were seeing things after our pre-lunch bike ride through the dunes to one of the lighthouses. The sea-level view here seems never-ending; the Atlantic just rolls on and on. Maybe this is the end of the earth–if so, a wise journey to make. It must have seemed like that to the Pilgrim leaders when they set foot on the beach a stone’s throw from this spot, almost four centuries ago.
The dining room is decorated in breezy tones and unpainted wood, keeping the focus on the sea view. Rack of lamb is the inn’s signature dish–but we’ve found that a platter of Wellfleet oysters and some sparkling wine do the trick quite nicely. Lunch and dinner are a treat, and brunch is a “see and be seen” event. 15 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA. 866-473-3466, 508-487-7334; theredinn.com
Westport is a semi-secret treasure of a town, known for Horseneck Beach and the great food on the harbor, where the two branches of the Westport River meet. Think outdoor grills, seriously fun cocktails, and local treasures from the verdant farms and bountiful waters around here.
1 Bridge Road, Westport, MA. 508-636-6500; thebackeddy.com
This old-school harborside favorite fairly hangs over the edge of a sea wall, serving countless bowls of creamy, briny chowder and fried-fish platters. A wall of windows looks out on the racing fleets of the town’s world-class sailors and many lobster boats.
141 Front St., Marblehead, MA; 781-631-4236
MERITAGE & ROWES WHARF SEA GRILLE
Chef Daniel Bruce is known from coast to coast, and it has nothing to do with the expansive views of the water from his two fine-dining spots at the Boston Harbor Hotel. In the summer, a floating barge out front offers live music and movie screenings.
70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, MA. 617-439-7000; meritagetherestaurant.com, roweswharfseagrille.com
J. T. FARNHAM’S
There’s a lot of competition for fried clams in this neck of the woods, but hyper-fresh seafood, lack of pretense, and an Essex Salt Marsh location make us opt for this side of the street.
88 Eastern Ave. (Route 133), Essex, MA. 978-768-6643
Right on the sand; what began as a lunch shack decades ago is now an island hot spot serving casual lunches and elegant dinners to longtime residents, all manner of celebrities, and daytrippers alike.
54 Jefferson Ave., Nantucket, MA. 508-228-9641; galleybeach.net
If it’s good enough for Malia and Sasha Obama, then the deck overlooking Oak Bluffs Harbor works for us, too. The crab and corn-coated fresh cod work their Vineyard magic, view or not.
29 Lake Ave., Oak Bluffs, MA. 508-693-0006; nancysrestaurant.com
There’s a great harbor view from every seat in the house, plus a close-up look at the local fishing industry, still hard at work.
36 Homers Wharf, New Bedford, MA. 508-997-7010; waterfrontgrille.com