The chilly waters off the coast of Maine are a bounty of delicious seafood.
You’ll find fresh clams, kelp, scallops, crab, oysters, mussels, fish and of course the acclaimed Maine lobster. Mainers also grow a plethora of fresh farmed products like wild blueberries – 40,000 acres of the Pine Tree State are dedicated to the little blue treats.
When you’re not exploring the 65 lighthouses or over 500 acres of state and national parks, head to some of these top places to sample some of the local products made, harvested or caught in Maine.
Immerse yourself in the best experiences the world has to offer with our email newsletter delivered weekly into your inbox. Maine’s lobster roll is served cold with mayonnaise © Patrick Donovan / Getty Images
Feast on lobster, Maine’s local delicacy
You can’t go to Maine without trying the fresh-out-of-the-water lobster. Maine is the largest lobster-producing state in the nation, with about 80% of America’s lobster coming from the coastline here, thanks to the combination of factors that keep lobster content, such as temperature, depth and food supply.
There are many popular ways to prepare lobster, including pie, chowder, bakes and even pizza. Aside from a classic steamed lobster, the most common dish is the famed lobster roll. The native New England dish is made up of juicy lobster meat tucked into a toasted bun, with a filling containing a variation of butter, mayonnaise, celery or scallion, depending on the state. The Pine Tree State uses mayonnaise in its version and serves the lobster cold. But the long debate over using drawn butter or mayonnaise in a lobster roll will continue to fuel heated discussions across New England.
Where to try it: You can find this delicacy just about anywhere in the great state – from fine dining establishments to roadside lobster shacks. Salt Yard Café, on the street level of Portland’s Canopy Waterfront hotel in the heart of the Old Port, serves a lobster roll with truffle mayo, chives, lettuce, brioche and French fries. Meanwhile Day’s Crabmeat & Lobster is a roadside shack in Yarmouth that’s been around since the 1920s and is said to sell one of the best lobster rolls in Maine, which can be enjoyed with a water view.
Want to get adventurous? Book a ticket on a lobster boat to see the behind-the-scenes action of Maine lobstering. Lucky Catch Cruises offers a lobstering tour where you’ll learn how to haul up traps on Casco Bay. For those wanting to take the flavor of Maine home with you, you can order fresh lobster products (live lobster, DIY lobster roll kits, lobster mac & cheese) right to your doorstep via Goldbelly.
Maine is home to over 150 breweries © Robert Allen Photography / Shutterstock
Quench your thirst with a local brew
Nicknamed the home of craft beer, Maine has over 150 breweries, so it’s fair to say that this is a state where beer is taken seriously. But it wasn’t always this way – a little more than ten years ago, there were less than 40 breweries in Maine. In the early 2010s the law was reformed to allow breweries to sell beer where it was made, marking the start of the state’s craft brewery boom.
Locally sourced hops and grains are central to most of the brews, along with a good quality water source. Some breweries formed the Maine Brewshed Alliance to help educate people on the importance of supervising the local water sources.
Where to try it: The Maine Brewing Company has become a household name in Maine and has a cult following for its quality craft beers. It’s easy to spend an entire day at the brewery, where you can sample the beers, eat tasty pizza and take a tour of the brewery.
Tucked in the woods outside Acadia National Park, the Terramor Outdoor Resort, a glamping property, highlights local ingredients and quintessential Maine flavors like lobster bakes and beer sampling with local Fogtown Brewing Company. Across Maine, you can set up beer tours (bike or bus?), beer classes or enjoy a beer aboard the Portland Schooner Co., a BYOB majestic sail in Portland.
Try Maine’s juicy mussels
Farming in the open ocean, commonly known as aquaculture, has become a leading method of producing seafood in Maine. And as the demand for seafood like mussels increases, companies like Bangs Island Mussels and Pemaquid Mussel Farms in Maine are growing their marine farms. While they’re expanding to keep up with the demand, they’re also creating healthy habitats for marine life and are even helping to rebuild endangered species.
The mussels are sustainably hand-raised in the protected waters off the coast of Maine and have the perfect conditions from the type of food they’re eating to the water depth, wave energy and temperature. With the global economy growing, these farms recognize the need for sustainable protein sources that appeal to consumers and that are simply delicious.
Where to try them: Located on Middle Street in Portland, the pickled mussels with crackers from Eventide are delectable. Bangs Island Mussels is headquartered right next to Scales, an upscale restaurant that serves up decadent steamed mussels doused in cream. You can also purchase Maine mussels at grocery stores like Harbor Fish Market and Cantrell Seafood to cook up your own creation at home. And don’t fret if you live far away, you’ll find Maine mussels served in restaurants across the country.
Blueberries are a major crop in Maine © Cavan Images / Getty Images
Crush a blueberry treat, savory or sweet
For generations, farmers have been growing Maine’s wild blueberries and harvesting them from late July to early September, when they’re perfectly plump and juicy. There are 40,000 acres of blueberries grown here, making it obvious why the Maine State Legislature designated blueberry pie as the official state dessert.
Packed with vitamins and antioxidants, wild Maine blueberries have a richer flavor than cultivated blueberries, and that’s why locals use them in everything from bread, pie, and pancakes to beverages like tea, cocktails, beer and wine.
Where to try them: Two Fat Cats Bakery in Portland bakes fresh pies from scratch every day, including the best-selling wild Maine blueberry pie. Locals and visitors flock here to snag a slice before it’s sold out. You can pre-order or even have a pie shipped to your doorstep via Goldbelly. It’s easy as pie.
There are also ample blueberry beverages available throughout the state. Soakology is a spa and tea shop in Portland that offers blueberry spritzers and smoothies while you get a foot massage. If you want to add alcohol to the mix, Maine has got you covered with a variety of unique drinks. There’s wild blueberry sparkling wine from Bluet, which is available at grocery stores and restaurants. Or head to the Luna Rooftop at the Canopy Portland Waterfront hotel for a fresh blueberry cocktail called the Sailor’s Delight featuring Maine blueberries, rum, mint and lime.
Munch on some kelp
Kelp is a type of seaweed that can be harvested in the wild or farmed in the ocean and, like mussel farming, it is another fast-growing aquaculture sector. In the past ten years, the kelp industry has grown exorbitantly, in part because it’s a healthy sea vegetable that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. It’s also very versatile and can be used to make many things, from personal hygiene products and pharmaceuticals to food and beverages. Maine-based and women-run Atlantic Sea Farms is the country’s largest kelp aquaculture farm. The impact-driven company not only produces nutritious kelp products but also strengthens Maine’s aquaculture industry with regenerative kelp.
You can’t go to Maine without witnessing this newfound popularity – from walking past dedicated kelp stores to finding it donning the menus of restaurants and bars across the state. Notable Maine chefs are using kelp to make everything from handcrafted spirits, beer, kombucha, and cheese to cocktails, crudos, pasta and desserts.
Where to try it: Nina Jude, a restaurant in Rockport, offers kelp and crab pasta, and Chaval, located in Portland, makes a sweet kelp and lemon curd churro dessert. Barren’s Sugar Kelp Vodka partnered with Atlantic Sea Farms to use kelp to produce a unique flavored vodka. Try the award-winning Lakin’s Gorges Rockweed Cheese in Waldoboro with powdered seaweed.
Vegetarians and vegans
While seafood comes to mind when thinking about Maine’s food scene, the state also serves many vegetarian and vegan dishes. While smaller towns may not have dedicated plant-based restaurants, there are many vegan and vegetarian places to eat in larger cities. Some popular spots in Portland include Cheese Louise, a casual corner restaurant with options for vegetarians, and the Totally Awesome Vegan Food Truck, a traveling food truck that serves up veggie burgers and sandwiches.
Food worth trying
Whoopie pie Indulge in Maine’s official state treat. The whoopie pie is made up of two cake rounds with a cream filling and can be found throughout the state at grocery and general stores.
Moxie Moxie was born in Maine and is now the official soft drink. Some Mainers like the bitter taste and some don’t – either way it’s a classic Maine beverage available across the state.
Any seafood While lobster is Maine’s quintessential seafood, you can’t go wrong with trying any seafood. With grocery stores and restaurants overflowing with everything from clams, oysters, scallops and fish, there is plenty to choose from.
A year in food
At any point in the year, Maine has local seafood in season.
Food festivals Mainers love food, so you can expect to see year-round food festivals throughout the state. There is an abundance of wild blueberry festivals that take place in the summer and while every festival differs, you can expect to sample the famous blueberry pie. There’s an annual Seaweed Week around the end of April, where you can enjoy the tasty snack in many forms.