If you’re planning a visit to Maine, you must add Maine lobster to your list of things to experience. Lobsters can be found off the coast of Maine in the cool Atlantic waters. Maine’s lobster catch accounts for more than half of all lobsters trapped in the United States.
Before your next stop in Maine, learn all about Maine lobster, where to get it, fun activities around it, and everything else in between.
What Exactly Is Maine Lobster?
Maine lobster, or American Lobster, is known for its freshness and delicious taste. Maine takes pride in its lobster-harvesting practices, and lobstermen have been hauling in catch off the state coast since the mid-1800s.
The lobster industry has become a way of life in Maine with families passing down the lobster businesses of harvesting, restaurants, and trapping from generation to generation.
About Maine Lobster
The Maine lobster is a sea crustacean that has a long body and 10 legs: two large claws and 8 smaller legs it uses to walk. They’re characterized by their big claws, which make up the majority of their body weight.
The shell is typically brownish, mossy green, or black and can be spotted. Some even come in rare colors, like calico, yellow, orange, or blue. When cooked, the lobster turns a vibrant red.
Maine Lobster Types
There are hard-shell and soft-shell lobsters in Maine. After molting, lobsters have a soft shell that hardens over time. Soft shell lobsters have softer and often less meat because they have just undergone a molt.
Soft shell lobsters usually cost less because of these qualities. Ideally, hard shell lobsters are the best for trapping and consuming because they offer firmer, tastier meat.
Maine Lobsters are cold-water lobsters since the northern Atlantic Ocean maintains cool temperatures year-round. Cold-water lobsters are characterized by having whiter, firmer meat that is slightly sweet when cooked.
While primarily called Maine lobster, there are many other names for cold-water lobster, such as New England lobster, Boston lobster, Atlantic lobster, and Northern lobster.
Maine Lobster Trapping
While boats may have new fancy technologies, the basic principles of lobster trapping have remained the same. Lobstermen use traditional traps as they have done for hundreds of years.
Lobsters are trapped year-round, but the peak lobster season is late spring through early fall. Winter months can bring ice and storms that damage traps, so lobstermen don’t generally trap in the wintertime.
The lobsters are caught with sturdy traps that are baited and that sit on the ocean floor. When hauled in, the lobsters’ claws are immediately banded to ensure that they don’t pinch.
Lobstermen must follow certain requirements to maintain the sustainability of lobstering. For instance, lobsters must be at least 3.25 inches in length and at least 1 pound. Otherwise, they must be returned to the sea.
If a female is caught and has eggs, the lobstermen must put a notch on her right tail flipper and put her back in the ocean. This ensures the future lobster population because she is a breeder and her eggs will hatch into new lobsters for future trapping.
Why Should I Visit Maine for Lobster?
Maine Lobster is the most coveted and delicious type of lobster in the fishing industry. Visitors come from far and wide to enjoy the succulent, tender meat and freshest catch.
While other types of lobster are available around the world, Maine lobster lives up to its reputation as the tastiest and most luxurious of lobsters. Every state has a signature dish, and for Maine, that is lobster.
A visit to Maine isn’t complete without encountering lobster in some way. Even if you aren’t up for eating a lobster meal, you’ll surely enjoy the lobster theme, lobster boats, lobster souvenirs, and lobster boat races across the state.
Where Can I Get the Best Lobster in Maine?
There are many places to get lobster in Maine. Whether you’re looking to have it at a restaurant or take it home fresh from a market, you’re sure to find dozens of places. Check out these restaurants and markets for five-star experiences.
1021 US-1, York, ME 03909
Southern Maine Lobster Co. is a well-known retail store that’s open seasonally (late spring to early fall). The market offers both live and cooked lobsters, as well as shucked lobster meat.
Check out the specials, which often include discounted lobsters if there has been an abundant catch. For summer weekends and holidays, it’s best to call ahead for large orders.
9 Custom House Wharf, Portland, ME 04101
246 US-1, Scarborough, ME 04074
The Harbor Fish Market in Portland Maine has been in business since the 1800s and is one of the most photographed places in the city. Visitors enjoy stopping by the market for its vintage feel and fresh lobster. Lobsters can also be cooked halfway or steamed all the way, depending on your preference.
Harbor Fish Market opened a second location in Scarborough, and it also offers high-quality, fresh seafood and lobster. It even has a waterfall lobster tank. Additionally, the market can ship lobsters, but for a true fish market experience, visit one in person.
450 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
Free Range Fish & Lobster offers a wide range of fresh seafood from the shores of Maine. The friendly staff can answer any questions and advise you on how to cook lobsters.
Free Range offers shipping, but visiting its market in person includes the widest variety of products, and you can even pick out your own lobster.
211 Union St, Rockport, ME 04856
The Graffam Bros. Maine Seafood Market has been in business for 75 years and offers the freshest lobster and seafood at its market. The family-run market has live or steamed lobsters, as well as cooked and shucked lobster meat.
If you’re looking for a large lobster, Graffam Bros. has 2 and 3-pound lobsters available to purchase. The market serves lobster rolls, lobster mac and cheese, lobster stew, and bulk lobsters too.
130 Main St, Kennebunkport, ME 04046
The Three Sea’s Fish & Lobster market carries lobsters of all varieties and sizes. If you’re looking for a great selection, it has hard shell, soft shell, chick, and large lobsters to choose from.
If you prefer to buy lobsters already cooked, the market can steam lobsters, and it sells fresh pickled lobster meat. Prices are competitive and vary based on market pricing.
Are There Any Maine Lobster-Related Activities?
Maybe you aren’t up for consuming lobster but still want to immerse yourself in lobster culture. Many fun activities in Maine revolve around the lobster industry. The activities are often family-friendly and may be seasonal, so always check the hours and season before visiting.
Lobster Boat Tours
Lobster boat tours are a great way to learn about the lobster industry while getting a chance to see the beautiful Maine coastline and get out on the water.
A typical lobster boat tour takes you into the open waters for a trapping lesson where a lobsterman will regale you with stories of lobster trapping and teach you the basics of the industry. Each tour is different, so check to see what’s included before you book.
Possible Things You’ll Experience
Typically, lobster boat tours involve pulling in a trap and seeing firsthand the things that can get into the traps other than lobsters. Don’t be surprised if you see crabs, fish, starfish, and even trash hauled!
You’ll learn what makes for a “good catch” from the color, size, shape, and age of a lobster. Many lobster boat tours even give you a chance to purchase the lobsters that are caught during the excursions.
In addition, lobster boat tours are great for seeing local sights because you’ll cruise past lighthouses, beaches, keeper’s quarters, landmarks, and sea life while out on the water. If you’re looking to book a lobster boat tour, try one of these on your next visit:
- Nonantum Resort Lobster Boat Tours — Kennebunkport
- Rugosa Lobster Tours — Kennebunkport
- West Wind Lobster Tours — Orr’s Island
- Camden Harbor Cruises — Camden
- The Back & Forth and The Out & About — Belfast
- Swan’s Island Charters — Swan’s Island
- Lulu Lobster Boat Tours — Bar Harbor
- Catch Your Dinner Lobster Tours — Gouldsboro
- Robertson Sea Tours — Milbridge
Not surprisingly, Maine hosts lobster festivals to celebrate the state’s love of lobster. These events are great family fun and have good food, entertainment, music, and activities to please all ages.
Maine Lobster Festival
The Maine Lobster Festival is the biggest of the three lobster festivals in the state. Hosted in Rockland, the festival runs for five days during the month of August.
Activities include a seafood cooking contest, crafts and artwork to purchase, live music, a children’s parade, a lobster crate race, a big parade, and a road race.
As for food at the Maine Lobster Festival, there’s plenty of delicious hot lobster available for purchase and tons of lobster dishes to try. Also, there’s a popular lobster eating contest, local craft beers to try, an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, and more.
Winter Harbor Lobster Festival
The Winter Harbor Lobster Festival is held each year to coincide with lobster boat races at Henry Cove. This event is typically held in August and has been running for over 50 years.
The Winter Harbor Lobster Festival kicks off with a Maine blueberry pancake breakfast and a craft fair. A Lobster dinner, ice cream trucks, and a parade round out the full day of activities. The festival is held rain or shine.
Annual Frenchboro Lobster Dinner
The Annual Frenchboro Lobster Dinner has been held for over 50 years to benefit the local church and town. Hundreds of visitors flock to the lobster dinner every August to enjoy delicious lobster, entertainment, and activities for families.
The event is held rain or shine and typically includes raffles, art auctions, a road race, live music, games for kids, and of course, an amazing lobster dinner.
Lobster Boat Races
If you haven’t heard of the lobster boat races, you’re in for a treat. Every year, the lobster boat captains of Maine have the chance to compete in races along the coast of Maine on weekends throughout the summer.
The races have grown in popularity and many feature over 100 lobster boats. The captains compete for bragging rights and cash prizes, as well as trophies. At the end of the racing season, there is a banquet where awards are given out to those who tallied the most points throughout the racing season.
The lobster boat races are a fun, lighthearted way for the captains to unwind and show off their racing skills and vessels. Spectators are welcome at all of the races. The best place to view the races is on a spectator boat on the water, but many races can also be viewed from a distance on land.
The races start at Boothbay Harbor in June and continue up the Maine coast through August. The awards banquet is typically held at the end of September or early October.
Each host town has its own twist for the lobster boat races. Some have full-on festivals to celebrate, while others shut down their main streets and have parades or set up food trucks and live music. The atmosphere at all of the lobster boat races is energetic and celebratory.
What Maine Lobster Dishes Should I Try?
You’re sure to see lobster on the menu at many restaurants throughout Maine. With so many places offering lobster and various lobster dishes, you might feel overwhelmed. Check out some of the best places to get traditional and specialty lobster items.
315 Island Rd, South Thomaston, ME 04858
The traditional favorite is a Maine lobster roll, and there are many places to get one throughout the state. One of the most highly-rated lobster rolls in Maine can be found at McLoons Lobster Shack.
This restaurant has a quarter-pound lobster roll that is served on a buttery split top roll with chips, a pickle, and coleslaw. For a larger portion, try the Lobster Rolls Royce, which is double the size of the regular lobster roll.
41 Water St, Wiscasset, ME 04578
Red’s Eats has consistently been ranked as having one of the top lobster rolls in Maine. It is huge and served without mayo or butter on it. Mayo and butter are offered on the side for guests to decide how much, or how little, they want to use.
Each lobster roll is made with an entire lobster, including two claws and a whole cut-up lobster tail. It is so packed that you’ll need to start with a fork before you can even pick it up.
9 Thurston Rd, Bernard, ME 04612
Thurston’s Lobster Pound is one of the best places to get steamed lobster in Maine. Guests can choose between a soft or hard shell lobster that was caught fresh that very morning.
The lobster is served with corn on the cob and coleslaw, and you can get a side of chowder or chips. Many customers also like to get a side of steamers to accompany the lobster. Unlimited melted butter and a bib are served with each lobster too.
180 Commercial St, Portland, ME 04101
Portland Lobster Co. has many lobster options on its menu — from lobster rolls to steamed lobster dinners. While they are all delicious, one thing not to be missed is the homemade lobster stew. It features big chunks of lobster meat in a creamy, tasty bisque-like broth.
Can I Get Maine Lobster Delivered?
If you can’t make it to Maine, you can have Maine sent directly to you! Several Maine lobster delivery options will ship directly to your home or place of business, sending a restaurant-quality meal to you. Check out some of these reputable options.
Located in Saco, Maine Lobster Now has been shipping fresh lobster all over the world for decades. Each lobster is hand selected based on your order and comes only from Maine lobstermen.
Every lobster comes with lobster bibs, sea salt, placemats, and detailed cooking instructions. Delivery is fast, fresh, and kept at cool temperatures to make sure the lobsters are comfortable.
On the other hand, you can order just lobster tails, lobster roll kits, lobster mac and cheese, and lobster meat that’s already cooked and shucked. Other seafood items can be added to your shipment as well.
Get Maine Lobster out of Portland offers fresh or frozen lobster for shipping. All orders are shipped via overnight shipping and arrive cold and fresh. The company offers a big box of 12 live lobsters, individual lobsters, and culls.
Culls are lobsters that have lost a claw, which is very common. They are completely healthy and taste the same as lobsters that have both claws, but the plus is that you can get them for cheaper.
Maine Lobster & Seafood Company offers wholesale prices on fresh shipped lobsters. You can order live lobsters ranging as small as 1 pound to over 2 pounds or fresh, cooked lobster meat.
This lobster retailer is a smaller operation than others in Maine but offers customized orders and same-day or overnight delivery. Orders can be placed by phone or online.
Maine Lobster Boys in Cape Elizabeth is a lobster retailer that offers fair pricing on fresh, live lobsters. Most of the lobsters range from 1 pound to 1.5 pounds in size.
Lobsters can also be cooked and are offered as a hard or soft shell. Orders can be placed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Add a side of steamer clams to your order to have a feast.
Cape Porpoise Lobster is located at a fishing pier in Kennebunkport. It offers fresh live Maine lobster, cooked lobster meat, and whole or split tails delivered to your door. Each order comes with an iconic lobster bib.
Other options to order include a Maine lobster roll kit, a seafood party pack, a seafood sampler, Maine lobster, and tuna or swordfish. Shipping is overnight to ensure the freshest product.
FAQs About Maine Lobster
Is lobster found year-round in Maine?
Yes! Maine lobster can be found year-round at local restaurants and markets. Prices can be more expensive during the winter months.
Why are Maine lobsters so expensive?
Maine lobster prices vary based on the daily catch. Since lobsters are trapped using traditional methods that require a lobsterman to haul in the catch, supplies can be limited.
Also, lobstermen need to review each lobster to ensure that it’s legal to sell to markets, so every catch takes a lot of work!
Is Maine lobster healthy to eat?
Yes! Maine lobster meat — by itself without mayo or butter added — is loaded with protein and is low in fat.
What’s the best way to cook Maine lobster?
Maine lobster is best steamed or boiled. When steamed, it produces more tender meat.
What should I serve with Maine lobster?
Traditional side dishes with Maine lobster include corn on the cob, coleslaw, and chips. However, you can serve anything you’d like — from rice to veggies to mashed potatoes.
Are Maine Lobsters red-listed?
The “red listing” of lobster is a major headline story across the state, and on top of threatening to sour the industry, there’s a new limitation on the size of lobsters. Maine lobstermen are working with new technology to minimize the danger their lobster harvesting has on the right whale population off the coast of Maine.
Try Maine Lobster During Your Next Visit to Vacationland
Maine relies on lobster for its economy and tourism. Lobsters can be found everywhere — from delicious lobster meals to festivals, boat tours, and souvenir shops.
The sustainable fishing and trapping practices of Maine’s lobstermen ensure that locals and tourists will have fresh Maine-caught lobster to enjoy for years to come. To get the full Maine experience, indulge in a lobster on your next trip to see what all of the hype is about.