A handful of the choices are obvious — the unparalleled summer vibe at The Lobster Pool in Rockport, Mass., the energy at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, Mass., wherever your scents may lead you during a weeknight stroll within Boston’s vibrant Seaport District, or even an island oasis such as the Beachhead on Block Island or Brant Point Grille on Nantucket.
But when it comes to the plentiful choices for waterfront dining to enjoy this summer throughout New England, you might be missing what others consider a jewel in the Nile, an underappreciated gem that promises to provide its guests a special experience along either the Atlantic coast or the shoreline of a local pond, river or lake.
Nebo Lodge, North Haven, Maine
Only open beginning Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 6, Nebo Lodge is, indeed, a summer-specific destination. The small inn and restaurant is surrounded by water, located on the island of North Haven in the midst of the majestic Penobscot Bay, providing its guests with a cozy, quiet and scrumptious atmosphere all in one. The menu features Atlantic swordfish, organic ribeye, and, of course it being in Maine, a lobster dish with spring onion, cognac, cream and a crusty baguette. Round-trip dinner cruises from nearby Rockland are available each night, promptly leaving at 4 p.m. for a 5 p.m. arrival, and departing after your meal for a moonlit, 9 p.m. arrival time ($25). 11 Mullins Lane, North Haven, Maine, 207-867-2007, www.nebolodge.com.
The Eastside Restaurant and Pub, Newport, Vt.
Just a stone’s throw from Jay Peak Resort, this Newport institution has long been known for its generous portions and the soothing vibe on the shore of Lake Memphremagog. The Eastside serves lunch and dinner in a family-friendly environment with classic dishes such as chicken and biscuits, stuffed haddock and maple-baked sea scallops. There’s breakfast on the weekends, too, on Sundays, a breakfast buffet, served up at outside dining adjacent to the lively boat docks. If you’re out for a day on the lake, park your vessel and walk on up to Eastside for comfort food in a nautical environment, Vermont style. 47 Landing St., Newport, Vt., 802-334-2340, www.eastsiderestaurant.net.
Dolphin Marina and Restaurant, Harpswell, Maine
Family-owned and operated for more than 40 years, the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant, located 14 miles from Brunswick, is a haven for fresh seafood along the Maine coastline. Sitting on the edge of Pott’s Harbor, the restaurant offers sweet summertime views of Casco Bay and the islands within. The dining room has multiple levels, encased by a rounded wall of windows, providing 180-degree views of the water. On the menu, expect tantalizing options such as a seafood lasagna, steamed lobster and sautéed mussels. Open seasonally, April-November. 515 Basin Point Road, Harpswell, Maine, 207-833-6000, www.dolphinmarinaandrestaurant.com.
Martingale Wharf, Portsmouth, N.H.
Situated closer to the waterfront than any other building in Portsmouth, Martingale Wharf gives guests a taste of one of New Hampshire’s burgeoning culinary destinations with a scene that embraces the history and stature of the city in which it dwells. The property dates back to 1892, but the restaurant, while a relative newcomer, has its own stamp in the area. Self-described as “causal, yet sophisticated,” this is a place more known for fare such as Baja fish tacos, braised short rib and lobster rolls, all served with fresh, local ingredients. 99 Bow St., Portsmouth, N.H., 603-431-0901, www.martingalewharf.com.
Sprague’s Lobster, Wiscasset, Maine
Because sometimes a summertime, seaside destination should just be about the classics; hot dogs, chicken finger baskets, lobster rolls and clam fritters. You’ll find all that and more at this lobster shack located along Maine’s Sheepscot River, a picturesque setting that practically screams traditional New England dining along the water during the summer months of the year. There are a handful of picnic tables located along the boardwalk setting, with as little in the line of frills as there will be in pretension. This is simple, summer dining, and isn’t that really what it’s all about? 22 Main St., Wiscasset, Maine, 207-882-1236, www.facebook.com/spragueslobster.
Back Eddy, Westport, Mass.
The question often on the minds of visitors to Horseback Beach isn’t normally so much about what they brought for lunch, but whether or not they should stop at Back Eddy on the way home (Answer: Yes). This Westport favorite has built its reputation on a menu that is celebrated by both visitors and culinary colleagues alike, all served along the Westport River, all accessible by boats. Naturally, a variety of fish is on the menu, some dishes embracing the Southcoast’s rich Portuguese heritage, and local farmers’ fishermen are always the providers. During summer weekends, Back Eddy features an outdoor bar, raw bar and grille on the docks. 1 Bridge Road, Westport, Mass., 508-636-6500, www.thebackeddy.com.
My Place by the Sea, Rockport, Mass.
Located at Bearskin Neck, a rocky peninsula that makes its way naturally into Rockport Harbor, the romantic My Place by the Sea was recently named by Zagat as one of the top 10 Boston waterfront restaurants to check out during the summer. While we don’t argue with Zagat’s dining ratings, they do seemingly need a compass to point them north to Rockport and this multi-level restaurant with unparalleled sunset views. More praise comes from Yankee Magazine, which once called it one of the top eight restaurants in all of New England. Oh, the scene doesn’t hurt its ranking in that regard, nor do offerings such as grilled swordfish noissette, a freshly shucked lobster club and grilled, barbecue lamb chops. 68 Bearskin Neck, Rockport, Mass., 978-546-9667, www.myplacebythesea.com.
Boathouse Restaurant, Tiverton, R.I.
For some, Tiverton might just be a Rhode Island town that they pass through en route to Newport, but it also boasts one of the state’s best dining options. Al fresco dining gets kicked up a notch at the Boathouse, featuring dining with dramatic views of Mount Hope Bay. Open Table even described it as one of the top 100 best al fresco restaurants in America. There are seafood favorites here such as chorico-stuffed haddock and seafood scampi, along with turf offerings like filet mignon and roasted chicken. After dinner, guests are welcome to take a stroll along its scenic riverside dock, the perfect nightcap for an evening on the water. 227 Schooner Drive, Tiverton, R.I., 401-624-6306, www.boathousetiverton.com.
Town Docks Restaurant, Meredith, N.H.
A member of the popular Common Man chain of restaurants with locations throughout the Granite State, Town Docks is a Lake Winnipesaukee favorite, complete with free tie-ups for boaters to join in on the action. There is traditional seaside fare featured at this locale, open only during the summer, with favorites such as clam chowder, burgers, hot dogs and a sampling from “Big Rick’s Lobster Tank,” offered steamed or as a bake. Save room for dessert, as the ice cream is homemade, or just hang out at the outdoor tiki bar. 289 Daniel Webster Highway, Meredith, N.H., 603-279-3445, www.thecman.com/restaurants-and-menus/town-docks
The Skinny Pancake, Burlington, Vt.
Now with seven location throughout Vermont and New Hampshire (Hanover), the Skinny Pancake remains one of the Green Mountain State’s favorite dining spots not only along Lake Champlain, but also at an outpost at Stowe Mountain Resort. It’s the one in Burlington that gets the waterfront accolades though, of course, with the backdrop of the lake and the Adirondacks greeting guests to a morning view that can’t be compared. Say the same about the Skinny Pancake’s crepes, available all day in a variety of flavors (there’s the pizza crepe, the hot apple crumble and the Southern Gentleman served with fried chicken tenders and hash browns) as well as breakfast burritos or, perhaps, the four-ounce wheel of Jasper Hill Little Hosmer Cheese. 60 Lake St., Burlington, Vt., 802-540-0188, www.skinnypancake.com.