To say that Christina Ferranti-Clift’s and Maria Robertson’s lives revolve around the New England lobster industry is to put it lightly.
The pair met five years ago while working to educate seafood buyers about lobster harvesting. Together they stretched their lobster expertise into another endeavor: Profiling and photographing lobster fishermen in the New England and Canadian regions, photographs that were eventually complied into a calendar. Life in lobstah – as true New Englanders say – world was good, but Ferranti-Clift had an idea to make it even better.
She wanted to share her love of lobster with the consumer, as well as the journey the crustacean takes from the trap to the table, involving the fisherman, the fish market owner, the restaurateur, the chef, the diner and everyone in between. So she came to Robertson with an idea for a New England lobster trail. Robertson quickly jumped on board and agreed to help, and the two set off in search of the best lobster dishes, experiences, boats and chefs they could find.
When you’re going on a trip, sometimes the best thing to do is to follow your stomach. In recent years, food tourism has become more and more popular.
The result is the incredibly comprehensive Lobster Trail guide, with preplanned trips and stops as well as customizable options that allow consumers to plan their own lobster adventures through New England and Canada with guides on where to stay, what to do and – of course – where to eat the best lobster. Their goal was to spread their joy of lobster, and with the app version, they’re optimistic about the reach of the results.
“It’s such a joyful project,” said Ferranti-Clift. “That’s what I found by traveling all around the lobster villages. These fishermen, you find when you go out on their boats, that they’re so passionate about what they do. They’re hauling lobster by traps like they’ve been doing for years and it’s so incredible and beautiful. I hope that’s what comes out to people who travel the Lobster Trail; that they use the website and the app not only to find places to eat lobster, but also see the fun and the happiness and the celebratory nature surrounding lobster. When you eat lobster, you can’t wipe a smile off your face.”
You can plan your trip by region or activity – such as eating, playing or staying – and don’t worry about missing something; Ferranti-Clift and Robertson have thought of everything.
Where to find New England lobster rolls
The Lobster Trail features over 1,000 of the best and most delicious lobster rolls New England has to offer. With so many, it’s hard to pick out a favorite or even narrow down the competition. Luckily, the Lobster Trail website and app have a feature allowing travelers to narrow their search results by geographic area, creating a completely customizable experience. Every hit on the list is sure to be amazing, but be extra sure to check out the following stops in each New England state that the trail runs through.
Blount Clam Shack
Blount Clam Shack is the ideal destination for someone with a go-big-or-go-home attitude when it comes to lobster rolls. Their 9-inch lobster roll is stuffed with a half-pound of lobster meat, served either tossed in butter or with Blount’s signature dill sauce. The restaurant is right on the water, so those amazing lobster rolls come with a free side of stunning views.
Joe’s on a Roll
What’s better than lobster rolls? Lobster rolls on a roll! All corniness aside, Joe’s on a Roll is pretty cool; it’s the food truck extension of Water Street Lobster and sells lobster rolls made with meat harvested from the local waters of Massachusetts Bay, along with fantastic chowders. The truck frequents the Water Street area in Beverly and the Beverly Farmers Market.
Brown’s Lobster Pound
Brown’s award-winning lobster rolls have been revered as the area’s best by numerous publications as well as the judges at the local Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. And while you may head to Brown’s for the lobster rolls, perhaps you’ll return for the many other delectable menu items, including baked lobster pie, lobster bisque and fried lobster.
Robert’s Maine Grill
When it comes to lobster in Maine, it goes without saying that most lobster restaurants employ farm-to-table culinary philosophies. Robert’s Maine Grill goes a step further in embracing the food movement by locally sourcing all their ingredients whenever possible, a feat accomplished through cultivating partnerships with local farms and fishermen. And all the hard work pays off. The lobster sliders, served on buttermilk biscuits, are popular. Diners can also try the lobster pizza, lobster Cobb salad or lobster tacos, served on Tuesdays.
West Haven, Conn.
Stowe’s Seafood, with its creative pirate decor, is tucked along the coast of Long Island Sound. It offers diners a large selection of scrumptious menu items paired with outdoor seating and sweeping views of the water. The menu includes a list of seafood rolls, including the lobster saute roll, fried lobster rolls and lobster salad rolls.
The best New England lobster shacks
Newport Lobster Shack
A group of Newport lobster fishermen discovered the recipe for success when they joined forces to open a lobster shack on Newport’s Long Wharf, where they sell their lobster catches quite literally right off the boat. Visitors can order cooked selections from the menu, including lobster bisque and steamed lobsters, or purchase live lobsters to take home and cook on their own.
Young’s Lobster Pound
Bring your appetite to Young’s Lobster Pound on Penobscot Bay for a waterside lobster-dining experience. And don’t worry about not having enough to eat – the facility has a 30,000-gallon lobster tank and won’t run out of that delicious Maine lobstah anytime soon!
Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
This rustic eatery catches your eye as you approach the bridge it’s named after, thanks to the giant sign on the roof advertising its premier product: LOBSTERS! Inside, diners can pick their own lobsters, then watch – or not – as they’re prepared in seawater.
Bedecked in buoys, the tiny Ford’s Lobster shed is the quintessential New England lobster shack. At least Hollywood thinks so: The building was featured in the movie “Mystic Pizza.” Guests can enjoy their meals in a casual setting thanks to the BYOB policy and outdoor seating. Menu items include lobster rolls, both hot (lobster meat drenched in warm butter) and cold (traditional lobster salad in mayonnaise), as well as a thick and tasty lobster bisque.
Have a New England lobster meal or stay with a lobster chef
The Ocean House’s private beach, set among the dunes of the magnificent East Beach, is a natural masterpiece. With a set of tickets to one of the Ocean House’s summer lobster boils, you’ve upgraded your beaching experience to downright luxurious. Fare includes seafood, barbecue favorites and, of course, plenty of lobster that you’ll work off while dancing the night away to live music.
Chebeague Island Inn
Chebeague Island, Maine
The Chebeague Island Inn is, as you may have assumed, on an island, and is accessible only by boat. After checking in and getting settled, guests who book the Lucky Lobstering package can head back out in the water of Casco Bay with the staff lobsterman, Capt. Jedediah Spear, to learn about lobstering, habitat conservation and to try their own hand at hauling lobster traps. They will later enjoy their haul as part of a five-course lobster tasting menu prepared by the well-trained culinary staff headed by a lobster chef.
New England lobster boat tours
F/V Lady Esther
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Passengers who board the F/V Lady Esther will have to opportunity to follow co-captains Larry Knapp and Bruce White as they complete their daily lobster harvesting routine. In addition to learning about a day in the life of a lobsterman, passengers will learn the logistics of the trade, including how traps are hauled, how lobsters are measured and about the trends and history of the business.
Fish ‘n Tales Adventures
If you’re looking for a sit-back-and-relax kind of vacation, the Fish ‘n Tales Adventures tour isn’t for you. Expect to be put to work and get down and dirty on the decks of the F/V Northeastern as you help rebait traps and release lobsters that need just a little more growing time. You’ll be learning from the best in the business; Capt. Rob DeMasi has been a lobsterman in the Narragansett Bay area for over 30 years.
Sunrise Adventure Charters
Hampton Beach, N.H.
Guest sailors on board this family-friendly lobster tour are welcome to get hands-on as the traps and nets pull up lobsters, crabs and other sea creatures. Each passenger gets to take home a lobster caught that day.
New England lobster festivals
Maine Lobster Festival
Where better to celebrate lobster in all its delicious glory than at a festival dedicated to the crustacean? The 2017 festival takes place from August 2-6 and will feature live music, a lobster-themed parade, beer and wine tasting tent, arts and crafts vendors, seafood cooking contests, and, of course, plenty of mouthwatering lobstah. Each year, the festival serves up an estimated 20,000 pounds of lobster. When you’re done eating, try your hand – or your footing, for that matter – at running across connected lobster crates floating in the water.
Boston Seafood Festival
The Boston Seafood Festival aims to promote the preservation of wild lobster reserves through developing sustainable harvesting practices and to serve up some incredibly tasty seafood. Attendees to the Aug. 6, 2017 festival, which takes place at the Boston Fish Pier, can feast off an all-day lobster bake, enjoy live music and cheer on their favorite contenders as they compete in the “Battle of the Shuckers” oyster shucking contest.
Lobster Boat Races
Even lobster fishermen, who are notoriously hard-working and passionate about their trade, need a day off every once in a while to have some fun. That’s where lobster boat races come in, which take place in various port towns along the Maine coast, but are perhaps the most popular and well-known races are based out of Stonington. Here, the local lobster fishermen compete annually to see who has the fastest boat as visitors and townsfolk cheer on their favorites.
Learn about New England lobster fishermen
Because Ferranti-Clift and Robertson began their careers working directly with New England lobster fishermen, they know how essential the lobstermen are to lobster dining throughout the area, how individual, unique and inspiring each of their story is, and, perhaps most importantly, their incredible work ethic and the extraordinary passion they have for their careers, which, for most, are a lifestyle rather than just a job. Therefore, they’ve built a section of the Lobster Trail that highlights the stories of some of the many hardworking lobstermen (and women) that head out to sea every morning, often before sunrise, to make sure you have plenty of delicious lobster on your plate. Read on to meet some of these inspiring fishermen.
Captain Chuck – Orr Island, Maine
Orr Island is two islands deep into Casco Bay, meaning one must leave the mainland and travel across an entire island before even setting foot on Orr. But, once you’ve reached the island, if you’re able to find Captain Chuck’s lobster stand, set up on a wharf in front of his own home, the reward is well worth the trek. Here members of his family sell the lobster he harvested earlier that day, a sale that often sells out in a half-hour.
Lobster Lady Therese – Beverly, Mass.
Therese isn’t one to conform to traditional gender roles. She got the lobstering itch when she was just 10 years old, and didn’t let the fact that lobster fishing is a predominantly male-dominated career path hinder her from following her passion. Lobster is a family affair for Therese, who serves the lobster she catches at the popular local restaurant, the Anchor Pub, which she owns with her husband.
Captain Ryan – Gloucester, Mass.
Captain Ryan is fairly young as lobster fishermen go, but he’s not new to the game by any stretch of the imagination. He’s been working on lobster boats since the age of 11 when he obtained a student license. Today, he’s a professional commercial lobsterman who’s enthusiastic and hard-working when it comes to his craft, a fact evident by his boat’s name: “No Excuses.”
The future of the New England Lobster Trail
So far, the New England Lobster Trail has been a big success. And Ferranti-Clift has faith that as people start to use the new app, it will get even better.
“People all around the world love food and traveling, and the whole basis of the trail is based on the whole travel experience. It’s so interesting because people are so interested in where their food comes from. We could have stopped with the guide of where to get the best lobster roll, but they want to see where their fish is being caught, and if you want to, where to stay at an inn where you can see a lobster boat going by the window or can walk down to the dock. It’s about the whole experience. It’s like a wine trail; it’s immersive. It’s that same peek behind the curtain,” she said.
Ready to create your own, personalized peek behind the curtain and hit the Lobster Trail? Head to Lobstertrail.com to plan and customize your lobster trail adventure, or click here to download the Lobster Trail app.