How to: Experience a New England-Style Clambake

by  Teresa Bitler | Aug 5, 2014
Seafood / margouillatphotos/iStock

Picture a summer evening on the beach with a bonfire. Add to that steaming clams, fresh lobster, live music, and maybe even s’mores, and you have a traditional New England-style clambake. These are typically in full swing across the U.S. during August and into September. Here are five ways to enjoy one:

On the Cape
On Cape Cod, Chatham Bars Inn has earned a reputation for offering one of Massachusetts’ best clambakes, held every Monday through Thursday in July and August ($75). Guests savor clam chowder, steamers, lobsters, and steaks before heading to the dessert bar for peach crumble, cinnamon and sugar donuts, and build-your-own ice cream sundaes. Reservations required.

Rooms with Gatsby-era elegance here don’t come cheap, from $445, but the beach views and top-notch service -- plus priority clambake reservations -- are worth a special splurge.

At the Farm 
Since Peleg E. Francis hosted the first clambake on his eponymous farm in 1890, guests have chowed down on clams with drawn butter, fish, onion, sausage, potatoes, and brown bread ($43). At this Rehoboth, Maine estate, lobster is also available at market price -- along with BBQ chicken ($17.95), hamburgers ($6.25), and hot dogs ($6.25) for those who aren't in the mood for seafood. While the farm's clambake is not on a beach, it has something other venues do not: an onsite clambake museum where you can learn more about the delicious history of clambakes and browse vintage tractors and farm equipment. The next public clambakes are scheduled for August 17 and September 14.

Like the Celebrities
When Food Network sent Rachel Ray to the island of Martha’s Vineyard, the celebrity chef made a point to stop by Winnetu Oceanside Resort. That’s because the family-owned hotel does clambakes right ($75). Wednesday night clambakes, available through August 27, begin with clam chowder, followed by steamed clams, optional lobster (extra $22), side dishes, and dessert. The evening ends with a sunset s’mores party and live entertainment.

Rooms start from $175, including free shuttle service to and from Edgartown, lawn games, and antique fire truck rides.

Down South
A clambake in Florida? You bet! The Atlantic Bar & Grill at the Four Seasons Resorts Palm Beach serves clams, lobster meat, chicken, Italian sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob family-style on lantern-illuminated tables just steps from the beach. Accompanying dishes compliment the evening's featured clambake, which can vary depending on what’s fresh. The meal always ends with a dessert jar in flavors like toffee mocha, "Dreamsicle," and s’mores. $45, reservations required.

Want to stay the night? Rooms at the resort begin at $230 this month -- not bad for a swanky Four Seasons.

On a Cruise
An evening with Cabbage Island Clambakes kicks off with a boat tour of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. After making your way to Cabbage Island, you’ll feast on New England fish chowder, steamed white clams, lobster, corn, onions, potatoes, and blueberry cake before returning to mainland. Clambakes ($59.95) run daily through September 7. Alternatively, if you’re in Massachusetts, Boston Harbor Cruises also offers Thursday evening clambakes ($85) through September 5. From Long Wharf in Boston, you'll sail to Spectacle Island to enjoy the festivities.

Bonus: For a Cause
Fire departments and small towns throughout the Northeast (and beyond) hold annual clambakes to raise funds for the community. What better way to support the destination you're visiting? Some upcoming clambakes for example: Bay Head Fire Department Station 14’s annual event in Bay Head, New Jersey on August 16; the Lionville Fire Company Annual Clambake ($30) in Lionville, Pennsylvania, on August 31; Put-in-Bay Fire Department Clambake ($25) in Put-in-Bay, Ohio, on September 20; and the Milltown Fire Department Clam Bake ($25) in Milltown, New Jersey, on September 27.

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