Let’s talk Maine lobster: All you need to know about Maine’s lobster shacks, lobster festivals, lobsterboat races, and lobsterboat tours

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Take a lobster cruise with Capt. Tom Martin aboard the Lucky Catch, out of Portland, and you'll learn everything there is to know about lobsters and see a few lighthouses, too. Hilary Nangle photo.
Lobster and lighthouses: Portland Headlight as viewed from aboard the Lucky Catch. ©Hilary Nangle

Maine is world renowned for its lobster, and you can enjoy it a gazillion ways.

Eating it, of course, is the biggie (with so many options —baked, broiled, boiled, stuffed, and even fried—for starters), but don’t stop there.

Attend a festival celebrating the bugs (as nicknamed by lobstermen), or watch races between lobsterboats (fierce competition), or cruise aboard one and learn about and perhaps take part in how the tasty crustaceans are caught. Better yet, do it all.

• Maine lobster shacks
McLoon's Lobster is worth finding in Spruce Head. ©Hilary Nangle
Nothing finer than dining on the wharf at a traditional Maine lobster shack such as McLoon’s, in Spruce Head. ©Hilary Nangle

Now I think the best way to enjoy it is in the rough at a lobster shack. You can get down and dirty and dig in with abandon, savoring the succulent meat and enjoying the experience of eating outdoors on a wharf or seaside deck, while watching lobstermen unload their catches or bait and fuel their boats, and listening to seagulls beg. Even better, at many, you can bring all the necessary go-withs, from tablecloths and flowers to wine and cheese. Here are my favorite Maine coast lobster shacks.

• Maine lobster festivals
Rockland, Maine, is home to the annual Maine Lobster Festival. ©Hilary Nangle
The Maine Lobster Festival takes every August in Rockland, Maine. ©Hilary Nangle

Maine has three lobster festivals that are worth planning a visit around.

• The big kahoona is the Maine Lobster Festival, in Rockland. This is isn’t just a chow-down but a full-blown festival, with crownings and parades, fun races and games, exhibits, arts and crafts, music, and, of course, lobster (last year, 17,000 pounds served). Plan well ahead; it’ll take a miracle to arrive in town and find an empty hotel/motel room or even a campsite. Always the first weekend in August.

• Far smaller is the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival, in Winter Harbor, on the Schoodic Peninsula and near the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. An event highlight is the annual lobsterboat race, with 13 classes rated by size and power. Other activities include a road race, large craft fair , parade, and, of course, a chow-down lobstah dinnah with all the trimmings. Festival is free; there’s a charge for dinner. Always the second Saturday in August.

• Tiniest, but perhaps biggest in local pride, is the annual Frenchboro Lobster Festival, a one-day fund-raising shindig that requires a special ferry boat run from Bass Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. Frenchoboro, by the way, is great to visit anytime. Always the second Saturday in August.

• Maine lobsterboat races

Every year, lobstermen race their boats in fishing harbors along the Maine Coast. Tom Nangle photoNASCAR, schmasscar, in Maine real men and women race lobsterboats, replacing the chug-a-lug engines with souped up vroooommmers! Competitors take these races very seriously, and there are classes rated by size and power.

Here’s the 2017 schedule:
June 17: Boothbay Harbor
June 18: Rockland
June 25: Bass Harbor
July 1: Moosabec Reach
July 9: Stonington
July 23: Friendship
Aug. 12: Winter Harbor
Aug. 13: Pemaquid
Aug. 19: Long Island
Aug. 20: Portland
Maine Lobster boat tours
Aboard the Lulu with Capt. John Nicolai. ©Hilary Nangle
Capt. John Nicolai shares his deep knowledge about lobster fishing and the waters of Frenchman Bay from aboard the Lulu, out of Bar Harbor. ©Hilary Nangle
Take a lobster boat tour along the Maine coast to learn everything there is to know about the tasty crustaceans and perhaps catch your dinner, too. ©Hilary Nangle
Join Capt. Tom Martin aboard the Lucky Catch out of Portland, Maine, and you might even go home with a lobster dinner. ©Hilary Nangle

You’ve eaten lobster, celebrated lobster, watched the boats in the harbor, now it’s time to hop aboard one and take part in the catch. In the process, you’ll learn all sorts of lobster trivia, fact, and lore. When you’re ready for Lobster 101, consider cruising on one of these excursion boats.

Join Capt. Tom Martin aboard the Lucky Catch, operating from Portland’s waterfront and  you might even catch your own dinner. You can purchase any lobsters caught during the cruise at boat price and have them cooked at a nearby restaurant. Even if you don’t catch any, you’ll fill-up on lobster trivia and have a blast.

How to measure a lobster to see if it's legal
Capt. John Nickolai demonstrates measuring a lobster aboard the Lulu, out of Bar Harbor, Maine. ©Hilary Nangle

Similarly, Capt. Steve Hale demonstrates the art of catching lobsters and shares stories on the Captain Jack, operating from Rockland Harbor. In addition to regular cruises, he also offers a lunch cruise complete with an ultra fresh lobster roll. Afterwards, buy lobsters at boat price from Capt. Hale.

Capt. John Nicolai’s Lulu operates from Bar Harbor. Like the others, he’ll tell you The Truth about lobsters, every little detail (including lobster boxing) you may (or may not) wish to know. He hauls a few lobster pots and demonstrates how to use a carapace to measure a lobster to determine whether it’s legal—a keepah! Kids love this trip, but adults are equally enthralled.

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Any suggestions for mailing lobsters? My favorite, 3 sons, is closed.

    Keep up the great writing.

  2. We are heading to Boothbay Harbor the end of August and are looking for off the beaten path places to eat, visit, see. Do you have some suggestions for us? We will be heading to both Rockland and Portland for dinner at our favorite spots but are unfamiliar with the not so touristy spots in the vicinity. Thank you in advance for any suggestions

  3. Apologies, I think I missed this one. There’s not too much off the beaten path in the Boothbays, but Bet’s Famous Fish Fry, on the Boothbay Village Green, is a must for takeout fish and chips; Baker’s Way is a funky hole-in-the-wall (you can eat in the garden behind it) that’s great for sticky buns in the morning as well as Vietnamese food; Ocean Point Inn is the place for fabulous sunsets. Ports of Italy and the deck of the Boat House Bistro are both well known, but worth it. New in town is the Boothbay Craft Brewery —I’ve yet to visit, but I’m hearing good things.

  4. My husband and I are flying into Portland Maine (our first visit) on Sept 15.
    We are only in town for 3 days and we want to enjoy eating lobster and seafood and to see as much as Portland and surrounding areas as possible. Where would you recommend we eat lunch/dinner (we will have a rental car) and if you can think of anything as a “must do or see” in the three days we will be visiting, what are some of your favorite places? We love the outdoors, we’re willing to drive a couple of hours and we’re very excited about our upcoming trip!!

  5. September is a beautiful time to visit Maine. For lobster: Head out to Two Lights Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth; Portland Lobster Co., on the waterfront, also does a good job. For must-see/do, there are so many, depending upon your interest. Shameless promo: Pick up a copy of my new, 2013 edition, Moon Coastal Maine guidebook. I cover Greater Portland in depth as well as other locations all along the coast. You can easily day trip from the Kennebunks to Bath, although frankly, there’s likely plenty to keep you quite busy just in Greater Portland (Freeport/So. Portland/Cape Elizabeth) and the Casco Bay islands. Have fun!

  6. My husband and I are flying into Bangor and know we want to go to Bar Harbor. He wants to eat lots of lobster! Any suggestions for stops or other directions in 5 days?!

  7. Check out my post on my favorite lobster shacks, but be sure to call before visiting as the no-frills on-the-docks shacks usually cut back hours (and sometimes close for the season) at this time of year. Hug the coastline, and you’ll find lobster served nearly everywhere.

  8. Hilary
    I am a teacher from SC and Maine is a MUST SEE state for me. I’ve loved reading your posts and saved your 10 day itinerary from an article. This article eventually was helpful in getting me to this blog.. If I visit in June or July, what am I missing as compared to September or October? I am trying to plan whether to come when I’m off work and stay longer or take some days and visit in September/October..

  9. Hi Deb,
    The weather tends to be more reliable in September or October, but late August, if you can swing that, is also a great time. June to early July can be buggy, depending upon where you’re traveling in the state, and also wetter and foggier, but that’s not set in stone–you might have a week of warm, dry sun. If you’re a fan of gardens, June and July are when most are in bloom–not much prettier than a seaside garden. And if you’re thinking of visiting offshore islands, summer months tend to offer more opportunities. A lot of variables, I’m afraid. H.

  10. Hillary: thanks for all the great information-I want to visit Maine and eat my fill of lobster and steamers(maybe a few fried clams too) and your site is so helpful. I was hoping to find inexpensive lodging for my wife and I plus some “off the beaten path” lobster shacks with views of lobster boats, fisherman, etc! thanks again! Rob

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