Maine, New England: The lobster capital of the US

Pity the poor Maine resident with a shellfish allergy. If it were me, I think I'd have to relocate. Everywhere you go in the seafaring US state that has declared itself the lobster capital of the world, the conversation turns to seafood. Who makes the best lobster roll? How much potato should be in the perfect clam chowder? How do you like your shrimp roll: hot and drizzled in melted butter, or cold and laced with mayonnaise?

It is a symphony of seafood, a fisherman's basket of fresh briny delights for those of us who love the ocean's bounty. In Maine, where the estimated value of the annual haul of lobster is $US500 million, it's also big business.

I'm spending the day in Boothbay Harbour as part of a Collette tour of New England's highlights. My fellow passengers and I have been given free time to explore this cute little waterfront town, a charming slice of small-town 'Merica complete with retro ice cream parlours and nautical souvenir shops. Anchors on everything from teacups to baby bibs.

Most of us have gone in search of lobster rolls for lunch. There's no shortage of restaurants and pubs with signs out front declaring their lobster roll the best, but I walk by them all and follow the water's edge around to an unassuming little hut surrounded by picnic tables.

Shannon's Unshelled is the favourite of hundreds of TripAdvisor's reviewers. Actually, "favourite" doesn't quite capture the fervour. "So fresh a wave almost hits ya!," writes one reviewer. Several more declare, "Without question, the best I have ever eaten!"

It's warm in the midday sun, too warm to even be tempted by the lobster stew on the menu, so I stick with my plan to order a lobster roll and take a seat while I wait for it to be freshly prepared.

Out it comes five minutes later, a toasted hot dog roll generously stuffed with succulent chunks of what must be an entire Maine lobster. Warm melted butter is served on the side, along with potato chips and coleslaw. It's simple, satisfying, New England on a plate.

An older couple at the next table smile my way and ask if it's my first time in Boothbay. They're beaming, heartily tucking into their rolls and considering splitting a third one. They've come direct to Shannon's from an attorney's office, where they have sealed the deal on a new house purchase. Now ready to swap busy Boston for small-town Maine, they're flush with the excitement of starting a new chapter.

"I can't say for sure we're moving here for the lobster rolls," the man says to me. "But they certainly have something to do with it."

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FIVE FUN FACTS ABOUT MAINE

1. Maine is the only US state with a single-syllable name.

2. Famous Mainers include actress Anna Kendrick and author Stephen King, who wrote his first novel, Carrie, while working as a Maine school teacher.

3. Several US presidents have retreated to Maine for some R&R. Presidents Bush, G and GW, regularly summer at the family compound in Kennebunkport, while the Obama family prefers Bar Harbour.

4. As the easternmost state in the contiguous United States, Maine's capital Augusta is the most eastern capital city.

5. Maine shares a border with just one other US state – New Hampshire. It is bordered on other sides by Canada and the Atlantic Ocean.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/usa

visitmaine.com

gocollette.com.au

TOUR

Collette's Colours of New England eight-day tour has 18 departures from Boston in September and October 2018. The guided tours visit scenic spots in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Fares from $3879 per person, based on double occupancy, not including airfare. See gocollette.com.au

FLY

There are no direct flights from Australia to Maine. Fly direct to LA, San Francisco or Dallas/Fort Worth from Australian cities, then connect on to destinations in Maine including Portland, Bar Harbour and Augusta. See qantas.com.au; delta.com

STAY

Boothbay Harbour, the boating capital of New England, is a quaint waterfront town in the south of Maine. There are plenty of accommodation options, with names clearly inspired by the life aquatic: Tugboat Inn, Fisherman's Wharf Inn, Cap'n Fish's Waterfront Inn, and Beach Cove, to name a few. See boothbayharbor.com

EAT

Shannon's Unshelled is open during the US summer months between Memorial Day weekend and Columbus Day weekend. Cash only, reservations not accepted. Open from 11am-5pm or until sold out. See shannonsunshelled.biz

Kristie Kellahan travelled as a guest of Collette.

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