As a Mainer, I feel so spoiled to be where some of the best seafood in the world comes from! Unlike many places where food is transported from 3,000 miles away before it hits the table, much of the food here in Maine comes from only a few miles away, including our famous Maine oysters. In fact, we take so much pride in them that we created the US’ first oyster trail, The Maine Oyster Trail.
From kayaking excursions and boat tours to shucking lessons and oyster farm experiences, there are so many different ways to enjoy Maine oysters! I can’t wait to share some of my favorite adventures with you on the Maine Oyster Trail. Read on!
In my last blog, I shared a guide to the Maine Oyster Trail so you can create your own itinerary and also included a 4 day predefined itinerary as well.
In this blog, I share…
- My Oyster Story
- Every Oyster Has a Story
- How to Tell Where Oysters Are Grown in Maine
- The History of Oyster Farming
- Adventures on the Maine Oyster Trail
- How Farmers Harvest Oysters
- The History of Oyster Farming: How Oyster Cultivation Has Changed Over the Years
- My Favorite Adventures on the Maine Oyster Trail
- Beyond the Oyster Trail: Other Seafood and Outdoor Activities to Enjoy in Maine
My Oyster Story
You want to know the thing I love about Maine? It’s a big small town where you can pull up to someone’s house at any hour of the day and grab a bag of oysters on the honor system.
I can’t tell you the exact moment I realized my love of oysters. All I know is that I’ve been eating them ever since. It was love at first slurp. 😉 I’m proud to say that I’ve even converted the unwilling boyfriend or two. Now? They love oysters so much that they order them for themselves! But, I digress..
I’ll never forget the initial feeling I had after moving to Maine during the height of the pandemic, where I took the leap and bought a New England style farmhouse fixer upper. All that kept running through my mind was, first, how crazy I was, and second, how amazing it was to get to live in a wide open state full of so many natural wonders.
I was eagerly awaiting all the delicious discoveries I would make around Maine. Little did I know that I would be spoiled with so much fresh seafood. My goodness!
One night after having trouble falling asleep, I went online to search what a Mainer does out here in the beautiful abyss. Hey, don’t judge me. It was 3 AM, I was wide awake.
A few Google searches later, low and behold, “The Maine Oyster Trail”.
Needless to say I didn’t fall asleep for another hour that night. Let’s just say that it was worth the dark circles. 😉
Over the next few years, I would set out on the coast, not far from home, eating my way across this amazing oyster trail in Maine.
A Fun Lesson in Maine Oysters
When you first set out on The Maine Oyster Trail, your goal is to eat delicious oysters, right? What you don’t expect, is to go on an adventure.
On this trail, you’re being welcomed by Maine’s seafood community of local farmers, shuckers, and small family owned businesses who all share the same passion for Maine oysters and protecting the ecosystems they come from. Luckily for us, they’re all too happy to share their knowledge of the oysters you’re enjoying.
If you’re interested in exploring the Maine Oyster Trail for yourself, read my guide, where I walk you through how to create your own oyster trail itinerary and share a predefined 4 day itinerary as well.
Every Oyster Has a Story
If you love oysters as much as I do, you enjoy the oyster’s story as much as the taste of them. Although, this couldn’t be said of the walrus from Alice in Wonderland. IYKYK. 😉
I love learning about where the oysters are from, their texture, size and the conditions that make them thrive. Each oyster has their own story.
What’s Your Oyster’s Story?
When you’re on the oyster trail in Maine, take the time to learn your oyster’s story. It’s easy, just examine the appearance of each oyster. This will give you clues about where it’s come from.
On a tour of Scully Sea Products’ farm in Edgecomb, co-owner and oyster farmer, Andy Rogers, gave me a fun and educational lesson in oysters.
He was explaining different oysters to me, telling me their names and living conditions, which we know based off the shell’s texture and size. It gave me a lot to think about.
Then, he got some oysters out. It was cool to think that they had just come from the very waters we were near. Each widely varied from one another. Then, it was time for me to guess their names!
Holding the empty shell of an oyster up to my face that I had just devoured moments before, I stopped to examine its texture, size and color, which is given based on its environment, diet, and genetics.
Based on its green color, I could tell that this particular oyster was grown in a mud flat in shallow waters with algae.
A few Maine oysters look like this, so I took a guess. I asked Andy, “Is it a Pemaquid oyster?”, to which he replied, “You got it!”.
When is the Best Season for Maine Oysters?
According to popular opinion, Maine oysters’ peak seasons are those ending in “r” (Summer and Winter). However, oyster aficionados argue about this a lot. Just ask Andy Rogers, who’ll tell you that his favorite oysters are in the Spring. Some even say oysters taste the best in the Fall due to the fat they store in preparation for Winter hibernation which makes them plump and sweet!
So, don’t worry if you didn’t get to try Maine oysters in the Summer! They’re tasty all year long!
How to Tell Where Oysters Are Grown in Maine
Each species of Maine oysters have different preferences for environments to grow in. The quality of the water is also a crucial factor that affects the oyster’s flavor and texture. Oyster farmers must carefully manage their farms to ensure that the water quality is optimal for oyster growth.
You can tell where a Maine oyster was grown by taking a closer look at it’s shape, size, texture and color.
If the oyster’s shells are green, most likely they came from a mud flat in shallow waters with algae.
Are they larger? Then, they were grown in a more sheltered area like a bay or a cove away from harsh ocean conditions and have a more consistent flavor profile.
Is the oyster’s flavor more complex? Most likely they grew in an environment offshore with strong currents.
The more I learned, the more I began to wonder how oysters are harvested.
How Do Farmers Harvest Maine Oysters?
The entire process from water to farmer to supplier to plate… it truly boggles my mind. The “oyster show” is both a science and an art. But, perhaps what I’m most fascinated by is the harvesting process.
The vast majority of Maine oysters start out their lives in hatcheries, where they are grown from the larval stage (microscopic organisms) to seed size large enough to sell to farmers. Farmers then purchase the seed and place them in mesh bags in the marine environment where they grow for 2-3 years.
These oysters are all hand-harvested from the bags as they are sorted, cleaned, and brought to market. Maine does have a handful of farms that practice bottom culture, which involves spreading oyster seed over the ocean floor, and managing the oyster farm bed.
These products are by and large harvested using a mechanical dredge. Some farmers do harvest bottom culture oysters by hand, particularly those who work in the intertidal zone. However this is certainly the minority. The vast majority of Maine oysters are surface cultured in floating bags, and originate in hatcheries.
The History of Oyster Farming: How Oyster Cultivation Has Changed Over the Years
Oyster cultivation in Maine has evolved significantly over the years from wild harvest by hand or with the help of small boats to aquaculture.
However, as demand for oysters grew and wild populations declined, oyster farmers began to experiment with aquaculture methods.
Today, with dozens of growers and an estimated 80 million oysters produced annually, Maine is a leading producer of farmed oysters in the US. Thanks to advancements in technology, farmers are not only able to manage water quality, control disease, and optimize growth better than ever before, they can also produce oysters that are more consistent in size, flavor, and texture, while reducing the environmental impact of oyster farming… Impressive, right? 🙂
My Favorite Adventures on the Maine Oyster Trail
I get so excited as soon as a dozen oysters land on my table. The presentation is what does it for me… All the delicate oyster shells thoughtfully arranged on ice in a circle. If the shucker did a good job, the sea water is even intact. I’ve had the pleasure of exploring all four of the coastal regions of Maine. These are some of my favorite adventures so far….
Portland & Saco Bay
- The Shop | Portland, ME
This is one of my favorite oyster spots for the fun way you order your oysters. They give you a list of oysters on a clipboard and a pencil to check which oysters you want, which by the way, are so fresh, they practically wave hello from their shells before you slurp them down! In the Summer, sit outside on the patio, which has a nice, easy going atmosphere.
123 Washington Ave. in Portland, Maine
- Wolfe Neck Oyster Company | Portland, ME
I had the pleasure of meeting Hillevi Jaegerman, who is the farm manager and co-owner of Wolfe Neck Oyster Company, a two acre farm in Casco Bay. My mom had one request on Mother’s Day, an oyster brunch and that’s just what I gave her. I called a day in advance and arranged to pick up a few bags of oysters from the cooler outside Hillevi’s house.
Grown in sunken, bottom cages, Wolfe Neck oysters are smooth and robust with full bodied flavor. These briny beauties from Maine are the perfect combination of salty and sweet, with a crisp finish.
How to buy their oysters:
Call (207-838-7126), email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or arrange to pick up oysters through their website, wolfeneckoysters.com. Give at least 3 days notice to arrange pick up. Oysters are available for purchase year-round. They also deliver nationwide.
Midcoast & Islands
- Scully Sea Products | Edgecomb, ME
If you’ve never sat at a counter to watch oysters being shucked in front of you, are you even an oyster fan? Scully Sea Products will do even better! As a raw bar and farm, they’ll shuck the oysters for you while you’re overlooking the river they came from and if you ask nicely, maybe Andy will start the clock and do it in under a minute. He is an oyster shucking champion after all. You didn’t hear it from me. 😉
I spent a lovely afternoon at the oyster farm but it was a trek downhill to get to the water, I’ll tell ya. I was huffing and puffing, it sure was worth it though! Co-owner and farmer, Andy hooked me up with dozen after dozen with amazing oysters ranging from Appledore, Damariscotta Flats (Belon) and Norumbega to Dodge Cove, Ring Point and Damariscotta Wild Oysters. It was such a treat! He even fired up the grill and laid on the garlic herb butter. I was in heaven! That, and the beautiful view of Damariscotta River, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Andy was so entertaining. I loved listening to him talk about how much he loves oysters and the process to farm them.
Check out their online store, where you can have goodies like clam chowder and oysters by the dozen shipped to you across the country. They want everyone to try their oysters, so there’s no minimum order. Or, visit their Oyster & Lobster Market on their farm, which offers local varieties of fresh oysters, littlenecks, steamers, & lobsters as well as shucking tools, gifts, sauces, & frozen prepared foods.
How to buy their oysters:
Contact Scully Sea Products via phone (207-633-3599), their website, or pick up on location at 707 River Road, Edgecomb, ME, 04556 (no pre-order required). Oysters are available from April-December, 7 days/week with no appointment necessary.
- Shuck Station Raw Bar | New Castle, ME
This is a great, chill spot if you want to hang out and slurp on some oysters and prosecco as you listen to music outside in low, slung back chairs and people watch. They also have favorites like Oysters Rockefeller. They offer 8-12 oyster varieties in addition to other seafood, wine, beer and spirits. Call ahead. Walk ins only, no reservations.
You can also take an oyster farm tour with them or, drop by and pick up some oysters from their shop indoors.
68 Main Street, Newcastle, Maine
- Spa Day at Glidden Point Oyster Farm | Edgecomb, ME
What better way to experience an oyster farm than with a spa day? At Glidden Point, I got to enjoy a sauna experience in between taking a dip in the oyster cages. We even got to shuck and eat delicious oysters right on the water. Read about my fun adventures here!
- Damariscotta River Cruises | Damariscotta, ME
I had a blast! You start off at Schooner’s Restaurant, which is a delicious and relaxing seafood spot in itself. It’s almost like they sit you there to rev up the excitement! Then, you walk down the pier, hop on the boat and ride around Damariscotta River.
They have a bar on boat for beer, wine and spirits. You can also purchase fresh oysters, which are shucked right on board in front of you. We were treated to a narrated tour of the floating oyster farms surrounding us. We also stopped and got a look at seals! Overall, it was a fun boat ride and I learned a lot more about oysters.
If you’re still hungry, there are lots of seafood spots in town to choose from. See what you can find! I highly recommend Schooners back on the dock for live music, the atmosphere outdoors is very relaxing, lively and upbeat on the weekends overlooking the water. Go inside by the restrooms to see the largest lobster ever on display!
40 Main Street, Damariscotta, ME
Downeast & Acadia
- Bar Harbor Oyster Co. | Bar Harbor, ME
Located in the pristine and protected waters of Mt. Desert Narrows, Bar Harbor Oyster Co. is a great stop for anyone looking to pick up some oysters year-round.
The first year I was a Mainer, it was a completely wild and unfamiliar experience for this city girl to go to someone’s house, head to their garage’s fridge and drop money in a bowl for a few bags of oysters and homemade mignonette. It made Christmas so special and has since become a tradition in my family. We love shucking them at home together. They sell shuck knives there, or you can buy off Amazon. I’ll admit, I just took a screwdriver and it did the trick. You just have to shimmy it! Wear protective gloves novices!
Bar Harbor Oyster Company’s Bar Harbor Blonde oysters are meaty, briny, and sweet. It pairs perfectly with some mignonette, which you can pick up at the farm. Another fun adventure you can book is a kayak tour of their farm over the Summer with Maine State Sea Kayak which starts in Hadley Point Beach, Bar Harbor.
105 Seabury Drive, Bar Harbor, ME
Place your order via phone, 207-812-0885
Beyond the Oyster Trail
While you’re in Maine, there are so many other adventures to be had!
Other Seafood and Outdoor Activities to Enjoy in Maine
- Take a lobster boat tour and have yourself a lobster roll or seafood dinner in Kennebunkport
- Explore coastal towns like Old Orchard Beach, where you can spend the day at the beach and strolling the pier for seafood, music, shopping and amusement park rides.
- Check out Maine’s lighthouses and see the most photographed lighthouse in the world, located in Portland. Then, have an epic seafood dinner at Damillo’s or Scale’s in town. Book a 2 hour bike tour to all the lighthouses here.
- Plan your next trip to Maine in the Winter!
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That’s a Wrap!
I can’t recommend the Maine Oyster Trail enough! It’s so much fun to take excursions and tours while slurping on delicious, fresh oysters right from the sea and talking to the people that harvest them for a living. I walked away with a much greater appreciation for Maine sea life and the oyster industry.
Thank you so much for being apart of this journey with me! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.
Until next time… keep it real.
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