As summer approaches, lobster shacks along New England’s coast start popping open, like flowers in bloom, for the short-yet-busy season. Connecticut-based travel writer Mike Urban, author of the book Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints (Countryman Press, 2016), dishes his choices for the 12 best lobster shacks in New England.
Five Islands Lobster Co.
Located on a pier at the end of Route 127, Five Islands Lobster serves up some of the best cold-water, hard-shell lobster you’ll find anywhere. Throw in its award-winning fried clams and the shack’s magnificent view of Sheepscot Bay, and you’ll find it hard to leave. Georgetown, ME. 207-371-2990; fiveislandslobster.com
Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar
Touristy though it may seem, Arnold’s is the place to go for succulently steamed lobster on the Cape. Owner Nate Nickerson III keeps the lines moving while serving more than a thousand customers on most summer days: lobster rolls, of course, but also crab cakes topped with guacamole and summer salsa. Eastham, MA. 508-255-2575; arnoldsrestaurant.com
Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier
This delightful waterside eatery, worlds away from the outlet-mall crowds of nearby Kittery, sits on a 200-foot-wide planked pier astride a broad tidal creek. With its colorfully painted picnic tables and a bird’s-eye view of continuously passing watercraft, Chauncey Creek is a great place to BYOB and tuck into meaty, fresh lobsters imported daily from Canada’s cold waters. Kittery Point, ME. 207-439-1030; chaunceycreek.com
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough
Abbott’s cooks its lobsters via the low-steaming method, in massive cast-iron vaults, to seal in all the crustaceans’ natural flavor. Dine next to the scenic harbor on a dock where striped bass feed on chowder crackers below. Abbott’s is also famous for its hot, buttery lobster roll–the version that’s a Connecticut original. Noank, CT. 860-536-7719; abbotts-lobster.com
Thurston’s Lobster Pound
Housed on a two-story, screened-in deck overlooking scenic Bass Harbor, Thurston’s is tops for off-the-boat-fresh lobster on Mount Desert Island. There’s a commercial boat dock next door where lobsters are brought in throughout the day, then boiled in a massive outdoor cooker right outside Thurston’s front door. Bernard, ME. 207-244-7600; thurstonslobster.com
The Clam Shack
Don’t let the name fool you: There’s plenty of good lobster to be had at The Clam Shack. Owner Steve Kingston makes what may be the best lobster roll anywhere in his tiny riverside shack in downtown Kennebunkport. The lobster meat is picked fresh daily and kept ice-chilled until served on a toasted, lightly buttered burger bun. Kennebunkport, ME. 207-967-3321; theclamshack.net
Roy Moore Lobster Company
This may be the friendliest lobster shack anywhere. Housed in a diminutive shingled building on Rockport’s Bearskin Neck waterfront, Roy Moore Lobster cooks its crustaceans continuously throughout the day, so there’s rarely a wait for a fresh-cooked meal. Start with owner Ken Porter’s thick, creamy clam chowder, and dine atop wooden lobster crates on the crowded yet friendly back deck. Rockport, MA. 978-546-6696
Brown’s Lobster Pound
Perched over the tidal Blackwater River near Seabrook’s inviting beach, Brown’s has been serving up fresh boiled lobster for more than 50 years. The timber-frame dining hall is a great place to feast on lobsters, fried clams, lobster rolls, and creamy, spicy lobster bisque. The summer sunsets off the back deck are not to be missed. Seabrook, NH. 603-474-3331; brownslobsterpound.com
This is just about the only place anywhere that steams and then roasts its lobsters over an open-air, wood-fed firepit. The flavor is as unique and delightful as the tree stumps that serve as seats around brightly painted wooden tables. Two other must-haves from the firepit here are the roasted clams and the flame-roasted corn on the cob. Guilford, CT. 203-453-9276; theplaceguilford.com
McLoon’s Lobster Shack
One of the most picturesque lobster shacks in New England, McLoon’s is a relative newcomer, opening its doors in 2012 as an offshoot of McLoon’s lobster wharf. Their four-ounce regular lobster roll and six-ounce “Rolls Royce” version are the most popular items here, each served chilled, with mayo slathered on the bun or melted butter on the side. The whole, steamed lobsters, pulled daily from nearby traps, are also outstanding. South Thomaston, ME 207-593-1382; mcloonslobster.com
This shingled, Rhode Island-shore mainstay has been serving up fresh seafood for nearly 100 years. Known primarily as the birthplace of the clam cake, Carrie’s also serves excellent shore dinners of fresh boiled lobster, steamed clams, Rhode Island-style chowder, fried fish, and freshly baked pie for dessert. Narragansett, RI. 401-783-7930; auntcarriesri.com
Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf
A bit off the beaten path, Shaw’s Lobster Pound in New Harbor is worth the trip. The lobster is “wicked” fresh, and their deck seating consists of picnic tables overlooking a picturesque harbor. The accommodations are casual, and the locals will tell you that this is the real lobster-eating deal. New Harbor, ME. 207-677-2200.
What tops your list of the best lobster shacks in New England?
Note: This list originally included Waterman Beach Lobster in South Thomaston, Maine. Waterman Beach Lobster closed for good in September, 2016, so the author kindly provided a replacement (McLoon’s Lobster Shack, also in South Thomaston).
Waterman’s Beach Lobster
The James Beard Foundation designated this family-run beachfront shack an “America’s Classic” in 2001. It prides itself on its fresh lobster, freshly baked pies and bread, and steamed corn and clams. Dine on picnic tables overlooking island-dotted Muscle Ridge Channel and watch local lobstermen offload their catch on the dock by the beach.