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Maryland’s Eastern Shore

What can you make with plain brown wrapping paper, a knife, a hammer and a roll of paper towels? On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, these are the makings of a feast.

With coastlines on both the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Eastern Shore is one of the country’s prime destinations for fresh seafood and perhaps the best place in North America for fresh blue crab. Groups that visit the area can spend their days admiring the scenery and taking in the culture and history of the shore. But at mealtime, there is no better way to experience the Eastern Shore than with a traditional crab feast.

The culinary opportunities in the region go beyond crab meals, too. Visitors can visit seafood markets, sample local specialties, venture out on fishing boats and join in festivals that celebrate the ocean’s bounty.


Ocean City

One of the most popular destinations on the Eastern Shore, Ocean City is famous for its beaches, boardwalk and wild ponies. But it’s also famous for its seafood heritage.

“Ocean City is the original home of Phillips Seafood,” said Norma Dobrowolski, travel and tourism manager for the Ocean City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It started as a little carryout place, and it’s now a multinational, multimillion-dollar seafood company. We have their original Crab House here. It’s a two-story Tudor-style structure that can do extensive buffets or plated meals.”

The Crab House, as well as numerous other seafood restaurants in the area, offers one of the most iconic dining experiences on the Eastern Shore: the all-you-can-eat crab feast.

“The crabs come out to you steamed, and they’re bright orange,” Dobrowolski said. “They give you a mallet, but real crab pickers don’t beat them to death with that mallet. If you’re at a place that has folks that have been around for a while, someone might come to show you how it’s done professionally.

“If you’re going to eat crabs traditionally, you’re figuring on a few hours at the table. You’re sitting around with big pitchers of soda or beer. The crab feast is the highlight of that evening.”

In addition to the crabs themselves, the traditional feast also includes hush puppies, coleslaw, corn on the cob and even fried chicken, all of which are served before the crabs make their debut.

In addition to crab feasts, groups visiting Ocean City should look out for the other fresh seafood options, which include shrimp and flounder caught in the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay. And during the spring and summer, visitors can experience soft-shell crabs, which are usually battered and pan fried and can be eaten with the shell intact.

“A soft-shell crab sandwich is simply delectable,” Dobrowolski said. “You can literally eat the whole thing.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.