Eating well is a major part of why we travel. In our adventures, we tend to seek out local delicacies we don’t easily find at home. When it comes to committed seafood lovers, we may even choose destinations famous for ocean-fresh delights sourced right out of local waterways. With prime cold-water oyster months now upon us, here’s a rundown of North America’s top-10 cities famous for their fabulous salmon, lobsters, halibut, crab, and other seafood—and home to great restaurants serving the best catches. —Kelsy Chauvin
Maine may be the country’s largest lobster supplier, but there are loads of other crustaceans, bivalves, and fish keeping the local fishing industry (and hungry travelers) busy. In Portland, the Eventide Oyster Company offers a menu that reads like a Maine seafood to-do list, loaded with tasty ceviche, crudo, stews, clams and oysters on the half shell, and of course the all-time favorite, the brown-butter lobster roll.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Portland, Maine Guide
Cajun fishermen pull from the bayous, rivers, and gulf some of the country’s most flavorful and abundant seafood—in fact, Louisiana lands more fish than any other state in the continental United States. And while towns all along the Cajun coast cook up its crawfish, catfish, blue crab, and shrimp in amazing ways, New Orleans remains the South’s culinary capital. It’s impossible to rank the Crescent City’s great seafood restaurants, and for some, the best might be a simple fried-oyster po’boy from a corner deli. But for memorably delicious dishes that showcase the day’s freshest seafood in the most flavorful ways, head to Pêche or GW Fins.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Louisiana Guide
If you’re visiting Honolulu, odds are you enjoy the ocean and the delicious bounty it provides. So you’ll be delighted to sample the array of ocean-fresh Hawaiian fish and shellfish that await in Honolulu’s restaurants. (FYI, many of the best ones are inside hotels.) Tropical and Asian flavors are trademarks around here, and you’ll find a tasty, locally inspired selection at the beachside Duke’s Waikiki. You’ll notice its menus explain the daily catch’s preparation choices, but you’ll have to wait until your visit to hear which fish were brought in that day.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Honolulu Guide
The City by the Bay could never uphold that nickname without seriously good seafood. But in this California bastion of quality dining, one place stands out as being a favorite amid a sea of more touristy eateries: Scoma’s. Located on Fisherman’s Wharf, this former coffee shop may not be fancy to look at. But what is special about Scoma’s are the small fishing boats that dock just outside the restaurant to deliver fresh catches for real “pier-to-plate” dining since 1965.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s San Francisco Guide
WHERE: Nova Scotia
In the ongoing debate over which North Atlantic region has the very best seafood, you’d be hard pressed to outdo Nova Scotia’s coastal capital. The frigid, fertile waters off Halifax mean that restaurants like the historic Five Fishermen serve lobster, scallops, and fish caught that morning. The oyster selection changes daily, and you can watch master shuckers piling up platters of locally harvested bivalves.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Nova Scotia Guide
Few Southern destinations can claim better seafood than an island city like Key West. All over this compact town you’ll find fine-dining and casual fish shacks all keen to impress. Among its many stellar seafood restaurants is the Flaming Buoy Filet Co., where you can sample pink Key West shrimp in many tasty forms, Florida lobster mac-and-cheese, or a fresh-catch dish pulled from local waters that day, cooked simply to let the natural flavor shine.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Florida Keys Guide
Seasoned travelers are already familiar with Seattle’s top seafood stops, like the Pike Place Fish Market’s fish throwers, the throwback Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar, and amazing sushi joints dotting the local landscape. Take it to the next level by heading north to Ballard, where Chinook’s at Salmon Bay will show you just how good the seasonal—not to mention sustainable and wild—Pacific Northwestern seafood selection and preparation can be.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Seattle Guide
New England clam chowder: For many of us, this is the pinnacle of Massachusetts cuisine. Head to Neptune Oyster for a bowl made fresh to order with Wellfleet clams straight from Cape Cod. But don’t stop there, because this hotspot offers a huge raw bar and tantalizing menu of sustainably sourced aquatic fare that showcases exactly why Boston is the East Coast seafood capital.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Massachusetts Guide
WHERE: South Carolina
Encompassed by waterways that make up nearly 2,900 miles of coastal shoreline, Charleston’s exceptional culinary scene makes an even bigger splash thanks to its great seafood. In this historic city, you may stumble upon memorable dishes at any of its fine or casual restaurants. Head to famous Hank’s Seafood Restaurant, where you’ll find servers in white jackets serving Southern seafood platters, grilled oysters, or pulling out all the stops with its seafood tower—or bigger still, the seafood castle.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Charleston Guide
WHERE: British Columbia
Combining its seaside bounty with Asian influences, Vancouver capitalizes on ocean-fresh fish by serving some of the best sushi in North America. There’s a huge variety of both sushi-grade fillets and restaurants that serve it direct from the Pacific and surrounding bays—and unlike Los Angeles, Vancouver’s choices deliver more value for your budget. One of the city’s best is Miku, where you can try B.C. sockeye salmon, North Pacific albacore, prawns, oyster shooters, and more, all while overlooking Vancouver Harbour.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Fodor’s Vancouver Guide