Let’s talk Maine lobster

Maine is world-renowned for its lobster, and you can enjoy it a gazillion ways.

Maine lobsterFor visitors, Maine lobster, of course, is one of the biggest tourist and gourmet attractions (with so many options — baked, broiled, boiled, stuffed, and even fried — for starters), but don’t stop there.

Attend a festival celebrating the bugs (as nicknamed by lobstermen), attend a lobster festival, or cruise aboard a lobster boat and learn about and perhaps take part in how the tasty crustaceans are caught. Better yet, do it all.

• Maine lobster shacks

Now, I think the best way to enjoy it is in the rough at a lobster shack. You can get down and dirty and dig in with abandon, savoring the succulent meat and enjoying the experience of eating outdoors on a wharf or seaside deck while watching lobstermen unload their catches or bait and fuel their boats, and listening to seagulls beg. Even better, at many, you can bring all the necessary go-withs, from tablecloths and flowers to wine and cheese. Here are my favorite Maine coast lobster shacks.

Maine Lobsters• Maine lobster festivals

Maine has three lobster festivals that are worth planning a visit around.

• The big kahoona is the Maine Lobster Festival, in Rockland. This isn’t just a chow-down but a full-blown festival, with crownings and parades, fun races and games, exhibits, arts and crafts, music, and, of course, lobster (last year, 17,000 pounds served). Plan well ahead; it’ll take a miracle to arrive in town and find an empty hotel/motel room or even a campsite. Always the first weekend in August.

Download Airplane Carry-on Checklist• Far smaller is the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival in Winter Harbor, on the Schoodic Peninsula and near the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. An event highlight is the annual lobsterboat race, with 13 classes rated by size and power. Other activities include a road race, large craft fair, parade, and, of course, a chow-down lobstah dinnah with all the trimmings. Festival is free; there’s a charge for dinner. Always the second Saturday in August.

• Tiniest, but perhaps biggest in local pride, is the annual Frenchboro Lobster Festival, a one-day fund-raising shindig that requires a special ferry boat run from Bass Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. Frenchboro, by the way, is great to visit anytime. Always the second Saturday in August.

Maine Lobster boat tours

maine lobstersYou’ve eaten lobster, celebrated lobster, watched the boats in the harbor — now it’s time to hop aboard one and take part in the catch. In the process, you’ll learn all sorts of lobster trivia, fact, and lore. When you’re ready for Lobster 101, consider cruising on one of these excursion boats.

Join Capt. Tom Martin aboard the Lucky Catch, operating from Portland’s waterfront, and you might even catch your own dinner. You can purchase any lobsters caught during the cruise at boat price and have them cooked at a nearby restaurant. Even if you don’t catch any, you’ll fill up on lobster trivia and have a blast.

Similarly, Capt. Steve Hale demonstrates the art of catching lobsters and shares stories on the Captain Jack, operating from Rockland Harbor. In addition to regular cruises, he also offers a lunch cruise complete with an ultra fresh lobster roll. Afterwards, buy lobsters at boat price from Capt. Hale.

Capt. John Nicolai’s Lulu operates from Bar Harbor. Like the others, he’ll tell you The Truth about lobsters, every little detail (including lobster boxing) you may (or may not) wish to know. He hauls a few lobster pots and demonstrates how to use a carapace to measure a lobster to determine whether it’s legal — a keepah! Kids love this trip, but adults are equally enthralled.

Story by Hilary Nangle.