8 Must-Try New England Clam Shacks

No summer road trip is complete without a stop at one – or all – of these iconic clam shacks.
clam shacks

What’s the best recipe for a summer meal? Take one part fresh-off-the-boat seafood, one part sunshine, add a dash of ocean breeze, a squeeze of lemon and voila! Here are some of our favorite New England clam shacks. Share yours in the poll below.

Champlin’s Seafood Deck

Narragansett, R.I.

Located just steps off the docks of Point Judith, where all of the fishing boats full of that delicious calamari come in, is Champlin’s. The first floor is a seafood market where you can pick out your own lobster. The second floor is the Seafood Deck, where you can have it cooked. Champlin’s serves clam cakes, white, red and clear chowder, and all of the traditional clam shack fare. There’s also a shucked-to-order raw bar and an outdoor bar serving up killer mudslides.

Jim’s Dock

South Kingstown, R.I.

Jim’s Dock is closer to Champlin’s by sea than by land. Even though it’s in a different town, it’s a stone’s throw across Galilee Salt Pond Harbor to Point Judith. This BYOB restaurant is as casual as they come, and people regularly roll in from a day at the beach in their bathing suits and shorts. Don’t miss the interesting variations on calamari, and the Point Judith “stuffie” or stuffed quahog clam, a Rhode Island staple.

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The Clam Shack

Kennebunkport, Maine

The line can be long at The Clam Shack, which sits right on the bridge over the Kennebunkport River. That’s because a lot of people have tried the legendary fried clams in the over 50 years that the restaurant’s been open, and most come back for more. Order at the window and eat at one of the restaurant’s picnic tables or take it to a spot along the main thoroughfare of this idyllic Maine town. Don’t miss the signature lobster roll served on fresh bread.

Bob’s Clam Hut

Kittery, Maine

Bob’s Clam Hut has been feeding hungry crowds in southern Maine since 1956. Here, the whole belly clams come Bob’s style (breaded then fried) or Lillian’s style (dipped in egg wash, then breaded and fried, so they come out with a lighter texture and consistency), on a roll or as a dinner plate with fries and coleslaw. Combo platters, where you can combine clams with shrimp, scallops, fish or oysters, are where it’s really at. Instead of keeping tips left behind in tip cups, Bob’s donates that money to worthy causes; there’s even a form on its website to apply as a beneficiary.

Clam Box of Ipswich

Ipswich, Mass.

This North Shore food destination has been lining up crowds since 1935, and for good reason: Clam Box dishes out some of the best seafood in all of the Bay State. Choose from clams, scallops, shrimp, haddock, calamari or oysters – and in a nice change from tradition, you can pick onion rings in place of your fries or your coleslaw. Smaller “mini meals” are a nice choice, especially if you decide to add a seafood-only “box” or two for the table.

Larsen’s Fish Market

Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Larsen’s, in the tiny fishing village of Menemsha, isn’t really all that close to the ferry landings at Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Menemsha is part of Chilmark, which is almost as far west on the island as you can get. But the trip out to Larsen’s is worth it, especially at the end of the day, when the sunsets from the picnic tables are spectacular. The menu is small – lobsters, chowder, stuffed clams and scallops, steamers and mussels – but it’s as fresh as seafood comes and really makes the case for life’s simple pleasures.

Costello’s Clam Shack

Noank, Conn.

While you’ll get clam cakes in Rhode Island, you’ll get clam fritters in Connecticut. And if you order them at Costello’s, you’ll get to eat them right on the docks of the Mystic River and look out at views of three states at once. This BYOB restaurant is so close to the shore it offers directions by land and by water. The menu is slightly bigger than your average clam shack – it also has items like fish and shrimp tacos, and several salads – but if you don’t get some Noank-style clear chowder and some fritters for dipping, you’re missing out.

clam shacks

Lobster Landing

Clinton, Conn.

Lobster Landing sits on Clinton Harbor, squarely in the center of Connecticut’s coast, and overlooks the Long Island Sound. The small menu is written on a white board inside the photo-worthy seaside shack, and the owners welcome customers to bring anything they don’t serve. So while you should definitely order some steamers and the restaurant’s specialty hot lobster roll, you could, theoretically, bring a cooler with a dessert tucked inside. Just a suggestion.

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Which clam shack completes your summer? Tell us about it in the comments. 


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97 Thoughts on “8 Must-Try New England Clam Shacks

  1. Flo’s Clam Shack in Middletown, RI, and Evelyn’s Drive-In, Tiverton, RI, are 2 favorites in the South Coast area of Rhode Island.

    1. Flo’s can be OK if you catch them on a good day. Evelyns is mediocre, and the waits are horrendous. Anthonys Seafood in Middletown is the best in the area.

  2. My husband I have traveled for years and by far the best is Essex seafood Essex mass. Peteys summertime shack rye nh is no. 2.

    1. used to always go to Peteys in NH with my mother. Took my son and got the supposed world famous chowder. Had a couple of potatoes and there were no clams at all, must have been the bottom of the barrel. Fried clam plate-Clams were gritty. Never mind that prices are really high. Won’t go again.

  3. Woodman’s is only a short distance from The Clam Box, easy to think it’s in Ipswich. I like them both. Woodman’s had 3 ???? Roll sizes/prices last time I was there.

  4. Mac’s Seafood in Chatham, MA has the best fried seafood on the Cape. The whole menu is gluten free. Fast service, great outside seating, and excellent drinks.

      1. I had my very first lobster 40 years ago at Cap’t Cass Rock Harbor seafood restaurant. Was great back then and is great now. They take their boat out and catch fresh for the evening. Maybe 6 to 8 tables and right on the pier. Best seafood. Best ambiance.

  5. I grew up in Connecticut and have lived near Cape Ann on Boston’s North Shore for the past 33 years. In my opinion,
    Farnhams in Essex, MA has great fried clams and other summery fried seafood.
    You eat in the rough outside and have great views of the salt marsh.
    I think Woodmans and Clam Box are overrated and too crowded.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. My daughter grew up down the road in Hamilton and I always thought Farnham’s was better than Woodman’s. In one of the Robert B. Parker Spenser novels the P.I. eats at Farnham’s.

      1. Been to both recently and Farnham’s is IMHO better. Clam Box always has a line and I’ve been there too. Not sure why folks think its great. It is good but usually quite crowded.

  6. I still think The Village Restaurant in Essex, beats them all. Friendly environment, comfortable seating, family style top quality food (the chowder to die for). I have more praise but I’m getting hungry,…. see you there.. Charlie from Rockport. ????????

    1. The village restaurant is the best all around. Relaxing atmosphere. Places like the clam box are tourist traps

    2. I’d rather go to Farnham’s in Ipswich or Causeway in Gloucester. Large amounts of food and soooo good for reasonable money. We have been going to both these favorites for decades. We have gone to The Village too but it’s not a “clam shack” and ok for a more “formal” lunch or dinner. Been disappointed with Woodman’s. I grew up on the Northshore and still live there. We know good seafood and used to fish off the piers in Gloucester when I was young. We have been to Martha’s Vineyard and Larson’s is excellent as many on the island are too. So many good seafood restaurants in our area, we are soooo lucky! You really can’t go wrong with the local area ones mentioned.

      1. I agree that Farnhams is excellent (and a salt-marsh view to die for!) and you also mentioned my favorite – the Causeway Restaurant in Gloucester. Always excellent, super portions and fast service. Their Haddock Fish Chowder is sufficient to have alone for dinner. Really, really good.

  7. Woodman’s is in Essex. And can be a disappointment when crowded. Sometimes orders will sit for a while in the confusion. It’s seafood in the rough for sure, and a fun dining experience if patronage is manageable.
    And I’m afraid the Clam Box in Ipswich is popular mostly from longevity and history. I suggest heading just about a half-mile further up Rte 1A and look for the Clam Bake on your left. Owned by one of the Woodman’s and food is always top-notch. Just make sure to ask for tartar sauce, it used to be self serve and they sometimes forget if you don’t ask

  8. Lobster Landing was a huge disappointment! Sullen staff serves expensive and unremarkable lobster rolls that are tasteless and soggy. Waited while others were served, needed to remind them we were waiting – then we were chased in the parking lot by a suddenly alert server who thought we didn’t pay. Skip this one – not a single amenity to speak of.

  9. What about Westfair Fish and Chips in Westport Ct? Like a true New England clam shack close to NY!

  10. You can’t talk about Fried Clams without mentioning Woodman’s in Ipswich. It is a great place and they were the first to ever make Fried Clams way back in 1916.

      1. Well, before 1819, Paul would have been correct. Before that, Essex was Chebacco Parish in Ipswich. Rumors that the first European settler of the town was named Han Solo are just that – rumors.

  11. We love the Lobster Pot in Buzzards Bay, MA. Not on the water but great steamer, clams and lobsters. Also, Eastwind Seafood, just down the road on RTE 28 is fantastic. located on Buttermilk Bay, Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, MA

    1. Lobster Pot in Buzzards Bay is my favorite also. I don’t feel like it’s truly Summer until I get my Steamers and Chowder from there. My favorite for 50+ years.

  12. styrofoam and plastic are the two reasons I never go to Champlins. George’s is across the car park from them and serve delicious chowder in paper bowls. Responsibly run businesses earn my patronage.

  13. I am very happy my favorite was not included in this list. It’s crowded enough already!

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