Looking to while away a day on the Massachusetts coast?
Take a tour of the waterways by canoe or kayak; stroll along the beach and eye the lighthouses and quaint cottages; breathe in the crisp, ocean air. Just don't forget to stop to savor a leisurely meal of local seafood favorites!
Seafood by the Seashore
In late spring and summer, casual seafood shacks serve the quintessential tastes of Massachusetts. But dining at these seafood shacks is about more than the food. It’s also about the experience of driving the rocky coast, seeking the humble roadside restaurants that concentrate between Rockport to the north and Cape Cod to the south. It’s about stopping to put your toes in the sand and photograph postcard-perfect scenes. The exploration prepares travelers for the tastes. The menus are chock-full of native clams, mussels, oysters, lobster and fish, especially haddock. Steaming and frying are go-to preparations, though offerings range from raw oysters and steamed mussels to golden-fried clams and lobster rolls, which are chunks of lobster meat lightly dressed in mayonnaise and served on a split bun. Place your order, grab a wad of paper napkins and select a picnic table with a view of the ocean — it’s all part of the experience.
Most of the eateries along the coast have a fun, funky vibe like this one. Don't be alarmed when the food comes out in baskets and the beer in plastic cups!
Year-round, New England clam chowder (pronounced “chowdah”) can be found in restaurants statewide. Clams, simmered in their own broth and cream, are combined with chunky bites of potato and flavors of thyme or salt pork. Do as the locals do and sprinkle “oyster crackers” on top of your bowl of chowder, then dig in.
The clambake is another popular coastal tradition — one that’s perfect for a party. Fresh seafood such as mussels, clams and lobster are slow-cooked with potatoes, corn on the cob and sausage. The cooking method involves a pit dug into the sand, sometimes lined with ocean rocks and seaweed. Many catering companies in the state will set up clambakes, and coastal accommodations are known to host them. In a pinch, the clambake can be prepared as a clam boil, steaming the ingredients in a large pot of boiling water.
Order your lobster on a roll or steamed with warm butter and a twist of lemon.
Festivals and Fairs
The party continues at annual festivals, where locals and visitors mingle over food and entertainment. Don’t miss the oyster-shucking contest at the Boston Seafood Festival on Boston Fish Pier in August. Enjoy a dinner of fried, plump scallops at Scallop Fest at the Cape Cod Fairgrounds in September. In October, Cape Cod celebrates Wellfleet OysterFest, packed with cooking demonstrations and educational workshops.
Oysters are delicacies in Massachusetts, and many restaurants feature them on the half-shell.