Is there anything better than enjoying fresh seafood in the place where it was caught?
Many popular tourism destinations large and small are situated on waterfronts. Oceans, lakes, rivers and bays offer abundant activity options and beautiful scenery. But for many travelers, the jewel in their crown is fresh, local seafood.
Seafood is available in restaurants all across the country; however, frozen fish just doesn’t measure up to a fresh catch. Some destinations have become so well known for their signature seafood dishes that eating them is practically a requirement for visitors.
Here are seven waterfront destinations around the United States that have become famous for their fresh seafood, along with recommendations from local travel experts for restaurants that are especially receptive to groups.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Sitting on the small tip of Alabama that touches the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach are famous for sugar-white sands, emerald waters and beachfront resorts. It’s also a great place to enjoy fresh Gulf seafood.
Fresh Catch: Locals swear by Gulf oysters, which are harvested just offshore. Die-hard seafood fans eat them raw on the half-shell, but they’re also delicious in chargrilled or fried preparations.
Where To Get It: Cobalt, an Orange Beach restaurant that overlooks the back bays by Perdido Pass, is a popular spot for groups, with indoor and outdoor dining areas and a variety of Gulf oyster dishes.
In southcentral Alaska on the Cook Inlet, Anchorage is the state’s largest city and its primary jumping-off point for adventures in Denali National Park and other stunning outdoor areas.
Fresh Catch: Wild pacific salmon return to Alaskan waters each year to spawn, making it easier to catch them in Alaska than almost anywhere else. Many locals stock their freezers year-round with fish they catch during salmon season.
Where To Get It: Restaurants throughout Anchorage and other Alaskan destinations feature fresh salmon on their menus. A great option for groups is the Glacier Brewhouse, which features the state’s only alder woodfired rotisserie. In addition to fresh salmon, it serves Alaskan halibut and peanut butter pie.
Among the most beautiful seaside settings in New England, Portland is famous for its Atlantic Ocean scenery and six historic lighthouses. The city is a frequent destination on fall foliage tours through the region.
Fresh Catch: It would be a shame to leave Portland without indulging in fresh Maine lobster. Often served whole with drawn butter and a bib, lobster can also be found in many other dishes. If cracking open a lobster sounds like too much work, try an iconic lobster roll instead.
Where To Get It: Luke’s Lobster sits on Portland Pier, a working waterfront overlooking Casco Bay. The restaurant specializes in traceable, sustainable seafood from local waters. Travelers can opt for the full lobster experience or enjoy classic seafood chowders and bisques.
Maryland’s Eastern Shore
The meandering arms and inlets of the Chesapeake Bay define most of Maryland’s waterfront. But on the state’s Eastern Shore, visitors can enjoy ocean scenery, as well as fresh seafood harvested from the Atlantic.
Fresh Catch: Maryland is famous for its blue crab, which is found in abundance in the waters around the Eastern Shore. Perhaps the most popular way to enjoy this specialty is in the form of crab cakes, which are ubiquitous in the area. But crab makes its way into many other dishes as well.
Where To Get It: The Red Roost Crabhouse and Restaurant in Wicomico County offers all-you-can-eat crab and other seafood specialties. It’s located in a former chicken house and offers a shuttle to a nearby dock bar that features waterfront libations.
The town of Bayfield sits on the shores of Lake Superior in the northernmost reaches of Wisconsin. The charming destination is also the gateway to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, which features 12 towering rock islands complete with rocky cliffs and sea caves.
Fresh Catch: Like many lakefront destinations, the Bayfield area has lots of fresh trout. A more local specialty, though, is lake whitefish, known for its firm meat and mild flavor. Fish and chips are found in many area restaurants, but there are many other preparations of whitefish to try as well.
Where To Get It: Each restaurant in Bayfield offers a different interpretation on whitefish, including tacos, whitefish livers and blackened whitefish Cobb salad. A great bet for groups is the Pier Plaza, which offers the area’s best traditional fish fry, as well as braided, baked whitefish and a lake trout special.
About 55 miles southwest of New Orleans, the city of Houma is the headquarters of an area known as Bayou Country. With more than 2,500 square miles of swamps and marshes, it makes a great destination for exploring Louisiana’s wetlands and indulging in its famous Cajun and creole cuisine.
Fresh Catch: Though shrimp is enjoyed in restaurants around the country, you won’t find it fresher than in Houma, where it is harvested from nearby waters by local fishing fleets. There are many ways to prepare shrimp, but anything blackened with Cajun seasoning is a sure bet in the bayou.
Where To Get It: There are numerous Cajun seafood restaurants around Houma. But for a distinctive experience, groups should take an expedition with Down the Bayou Shrimp Tours, during which they can explore the marsh with working shrimp fishermen. The adventure ends at Kim’s Sugar Shack, where guests can enjoy fresh shrimp in an outdoor pavilion.
Sitting at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, Paducah revels in its waterfront heritage. A series of floodwall murals tell the stories of Paducah’s history and its relationship with the rivers. The destination is also noted for its diverse arts scene and has been named a UNESCO Creative City.
Fresh Catch: In Paducah and much of western Kentucky, when locals want fresh fish, they order catfish, which is abundant in the area. The traditional preparation is breaded and fried with tartar sauce, though chefs around the region offer their own interpretations.
Where To Get It: Catfish Kitchen in nearby Benton is a western Kentucky institution and would be a good fit for a small group. If your motorcoach is closer to full, Doe’s Eat Place in Paducah offers catfish specials and has a private group dining area.