Your Guide to the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl – A Claw-some Experience

March 14, 2024   No Comments »

Your Guide to the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl – A Claw-some Experience

March 14, 2024 No Comments »

Welcome to the shell-abration – where lobster is the center of attention. You might even say it’s the lob-star! Not only did I eat an incredible amount of lobster the week I was at the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl, but I also heard so many lobster puns – it was lobsteriffic!

I traveled to South Shore, Nova Scotia, for a week in February…yes, February—to take part in the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl festival. The South Shore Lobster fishing season runs from the last week in November to the last week in May, and the South Shore Lobster Crawl happens every February.

I’ve enjoyed many summer road trips to Nova Scotia, but this was my first winter visit. It may be cold in February, but you won’t even notice it with the abundance of fun activities and events during the festival. Actually, it’s a great reason to eat warm Lobster chowder!

Lobster Love

I have an incredible love of lobster, so when I heard of this festival, I knew I had to attend. I love the time and attention you have to take in eating lobster. Cracking the lobster and coaxing the meat out of the shells slows me down and puts me in the present. I like the challenge and tactile experience of it – I savor the food more that way. The Nova Scotia lobster meat is sweet and needs absolutely nothing with it, in my opinion, yet I’m not one to turn down a little melted butter!

nova scotia lobster

I’ve traveled all over Nova Scotia and the Canadian Maritimes for lobster, but I had never been there in the winter months – or for a lobster festival!

Winter is a great time to visit Nova Scotia – it’s the off-season for tourism, and they generally have pretty mild winters. However, when I was there, we actually did have a big storm – leaving the little fishing towns covered in a winter wonderland!

Regardless, traveling to Nova Scotia in winter is a great way to escape the summer crowds and get a much more local feel for the communities in the off-season. Sure – not everything is open at this time of year, however the joy and authenticity of traveling in the offseason outweighs that for me every time.

Lobster Fishing Seasons in Nova Scotia

Lobster fishing occurs off the coast of Nova Scotia year-round. It’s a ‘provenshell’ thing – Lobster fishing seasons are assigned by province throughout the year. This allows them to manage and conserve the lobster catch for future generations. And this is why no matter when you travel to Nova Scotia, you can get fresh lobster – even in the winter. It’s lobster season somewhere in Nova Scotia!

Winter in Nova Scotia

Lobster season in Southwest Nova Scotia runs from the last week in November to the last week in May. Lobsters caught in this area (Districts 33 & 34) account for approximately 40% of all lobster caught in Canada annually.

Why is Nova Scotia Lobster so Delicious

The colder the water a lobster lives in, the more firm and succulent its meat is. In addition, cold–water lobsters have big claws (as opposed to warm-water lobsters), and their claw meat can also be consumed. It’s often considered to be the best meat on a Nova Scotia lobster!

Nova Scotia has an abundance of cold-water lobsters—and that cold water is what makes them so good. In addition, the South Shore lobster, which is fished from November to May, experiences the coldest waters of the year. South Shore lobster is often the most coveted lobster in the world!

Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl
Picking up fresh winter lobsters for dinner!

Where to Eat Lobster in Nova Scotia

There are so many places to eat lobster in Nova Scotia that it’s too many to list. I’ve made many trips to Nova Scotia specifically for lobster, and here are a few of my favorite lobster shacks and markets.

However, the best way to find a place to enjoy a lobster-riffic meal is to check out the Nova Scotia Lobster Trail. The trail brings together a collection of 25+ restaurants, retail, and fisheries experiences that highlight the lobster! From lobster rolls to lobster tacos, lobster poutine to lobster fondue, lobster dinner at an upscale restaurant to a rustic lobster boil on the beach at sunset. Visit the Lobster trail stops, collect stamps, and win prizes!

Lobster Facts That Will Surprise You

The most surprising thing I learned at the Lobster Crawl is that much of the Nova Scotia lobster is exported. Some of it goes to China…and wait for it…Maine! That’s right – 60% of Nova Scotia lobster is exported to the US – primarily Maine!

• Lobsters take 6-8 years to reach market weight (~ 1 lb) and are capable of living 100 years.
• Lobsters must molt (shed their shells) to grow. During their first year, lobsters can molt as many as 10 times.
• Lobsters aren’t naturally red. They turn red when they are cooked. Normally they are brown to olive green in color but have been known to be yellow or even blue!
• A lobster’s teeth are located in their stomach and taste with their legs.
• A female commercial-sized lobster might carry 8,000 to 10,000 eggs. Only .01% of those eggs actually survive. Fishermen are required to put back any female carrying eggs.
• The largest lobster ever recorded was caught in Nova Scotia in 1977 and weighed 44 pounds!
• Lobster moved from poor man’s food (served in prisons)to one of the most coveted goods in the world in a span of 40 years.

Eat Lobster at one of my favorite places on this 1 day Cabot Trail Itinerary!

South Shore Lobster Crawl Festival

The festival’s hub is Barrington, the Lobster Capitol of Nova Scotia. However, the festival has events all month long that run from Peggy’s Cove to Barrington. Barrington’s shores are amongst the richest in the world and lobster has been the economic backbone of communities in this area since the 1800’s. It makes sense to celebrate the region in its most important season.

Secondarily – the Lobster Crawl Festival is about increasing tourism in a normally slow time of year. The Crawl is relatively new and is growing and changing each year. It’s as if the festival itself molts – getting bigger and better each year! More and more businesses are participating as the festival grows in popularity.

See Lucy the Lobster Predict the Weather

Move over Punxsutawney Phil, Lucy the Lobster is poised to take your weather job! At 8 AM on Feb 2nd in Barrington (ahead of Phil waking up) we got up early to witness Lucy the Lobster come out of the sea and look for her shadow predicting more weeks of winter or an early spring. This cute event brings out a bunch of locals, news channels, and visitors to experience the morning festivities. The energy at the event is Claw-some! I enjoyed the hot chocolate and even got my Shell-fie taken with Lucy!

Month of Lobster Crawl Events

I love a good theme, and the South Shore is definitely on ‘lobster theme’ in everything they do in February – it’s impressive. There are lobster art classes, lobster cottages you can stay at, lobster food tours, lobster trivia nights, lobster cookie decorating, and more.

South Shore Lobster Crawl Events

In addition to Lucy the Lobster’s weather prediction, the big events of the month are some of the food competitions, such as the Lobster Roll Off and the Lobster Chowder Showdown. Local restaurants and chefs compete for bragging rights in South Shore, and everyone wins because you’ll also get to try some of the entries yourself! They sell tickets to the food events and the ticket also gives you a chance to taste some of the food too.

Lobster Roll Off

Since I was a guest of Nova Scotia Tourism on this trip, I was also asked to be one of the judges for the Lobster Roll Off. The thought was that since I was an outsider who loved lobster, I would be impartial—I didn’t know any of the restaurants or chefs—or anyone for that matter!

Considering I watch an inordinate amount of Top Chef, I felt like I was meant for this food judge role! I summoned my inner Padma Lakshmi and forced myself to eat 8 different lobster rolls, judging them on presentation, taste, and WOW factor. It was a hard job…but someone had to do it!

I loved judging the competition and all of the rolls. The winner for 2024 was the Emerald Light Restaurant team from Shelburne. They entered a unique surf and turf combo with lobster meat and steak in the roll. In addition, it had a pretty big wow factor! I preferred the simpler ones with lots of texture and tradition, but they were all great.

Take a Tour

I’m naturally a curious person – so when we took a tour of one of the big lobster-holding facilities, I was fascinated! Fisher Direct’s modern facility, located in Shag Harbour, is fitted with state-of-the-art technology that allows them to efficiently hold, sort, grade, and export live lobster to anywhere in the World. I had a million questions and loved learning from the experts and seeing how the lobsters find their way from the ocean floor to my plate! They offer these tours during February for the festival.

Let’s Eat!

The real joy of the Lobster Crawl festival for me is the chance to eat lobster! I normally prefer my lobster prepared steamed with maybe a little butter – keep it simple. However, during the festival, I had the opportunity to try lobster prepared in many different ways and even some new ways that I had never heard of!

Ways to Eat Lobster on the South Shore Nova Scotia

With Beer at Boxing Rock Brewery in Shelburne: Boxing Rock is a social hub of Shelburne. The big space has a bunch of delicious craft beers, and during the crawl, they serve up some delicious lobster meals. Try their chowder and lobster dip and their barrel-aged beer—it was delicious. And don’t miss the new Shuck Off Lobsteriffic Blonde beer, which is refreshing. When you go, be sure to read up on the origin of their name…it’s a great maritime story!

For Breakfast at Kiwi Café in Chester: Lobster is on the menu year-round! Be sure to try the scrambled eggs with lobster and freshly baked bread, and spend some time at the cute gift shop full of lobster gifts.

Experience the Wow Factor Lobster Roll at Emerald Light Restaurant: It was the winner for a reason…it’s delicious! But – make sure you save room for dessert. I tried every one of their desserts…yes – you read that right…all of them – and I couldn’t pick a favorite! This cute restaurant is relatively new and is a perfect addition to Shelburne for some upscale dining.

Go Traditional at Captain Kats in Barrington: You’ll be in the lobster mood as soon as you walk into Captain Kats with its maritime décor. Choose your lobster fresh from the tank – but don’t choose Lucy! Lucy the lobster actually lives in the ‘spa’ at Captain Kats for the rest of the year after the weather predictions. This special restaurant in Barrington was opened to honor a tragic accident in the fishing community. You can’t get more local than this.

Try creamed Lobster at the Salt Banker on Cape Sable Island: This was new to me – creamed lobster sounded a bit weird, but what’s not to like about butter, heavy cream, vinegar, and lobster? This dish started as a staple that fishermen would prepare on board when they were out at sea and is also often served at Christmas time in the region. It’s traditionally served on toast. It’s rich and delicious and worth every calorie! Follow it up with the Salt Banker’s homemade ice cream.

Kilted Chef recipe for Traditional Creamed Lobster

Indulge in the Lunenburger at the Grand Banker in Lunenburg: The Grand Banker Bar and Grill is in the heart of historic Lunenburg. That’s where you’ll find their signature dish, “The Lunenburger”: 6 ounces of hand-formed fresh local ground beef, smoked mozzarella, smoked bacon, baby spinach, generously topped with Nova Scotia lobster (all knuckle and claw meat), and tarragon butter sauce. Served on a local artisan bun and picked with a bacon-wrapped scallop! All I can say is – go hungry!

Lunenburger lobster hamburger
The Lunenburger – it’s more than a handful!

Nova Scotia South Shore Winter Things to Do

So maybe you can’t eat lobster 24/7 – darn. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other things to do in between meals.

Take a drive around Cape Sable Island and walk along Hawk Beach. Do some bird watching, or just watch the waves roll in. Also, be sure to stop at a boat harbor on the island (there are many) and check out the famous Cape Islander fishing boats. The boat was designed and built on Cape Sable Island in 1907. It has been modified from its original design over the years to adapt to the present-day requirements of the fisherman, but the hull of the boat has remained basically the same.

Visit the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown. The museum honors black loyalists who arrived in 1783, making Birchtown the largest free black settlement in North America at that time. The history there is stunning and something you hear very little about normally.

Check out Shelburne’s historic waterfront buildings. It’s as if time has stood still on Dock Street. You’ll find a great coffee shop, the Dory Museum, and the Museum by the Sea. When I was there, it snowed overnight, and Dock Street was covered in snow and so quiet—I loved it! It’s just another reason to go in winter!

Take a walking tour of Old Town Lunenburg. This UNESCO-recognized town was founded on shipbuilding. The tour is filled with fascinating history and 18th-century and Victorian architecture. Its colorful homes and churches will transport you back in time.

Visit the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg. This is one of my favorite museums in Nova Scotia. It’s full of history and information on the fishing industry. You’ll even be able to talk to retired fishermen from the community to get first-hand stories of the treacherous waters. This is also where the famous Blue Nose ship docks.

Go to the lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove. This is one of the most popular tourist spots in the summer in all of Nova Scotia. However, in the winter – we were the only people there! It’s a great time to have this iconic destination to yourself!

Take a dip at the Hydrothermal Spa at Oceanstone Resort. There’s nothing better than relaxing after a big lobster meal in the hot pools or saunas at Oceanstone Resort! The outdoor spa has a ‘thermal circuit’ you can follow from sauna to cold plunge pool to hot tub that will leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Where to Stay for Lobster Crawl Events

Since the Lobster Crawl events take place all over South Shore, I’ve provided some options in different towns. I suggest a few days in one of these places and use it as an anchor…yes…yet another pun.

Starboard Inn & Portside Lounge – Barrington
Starboard Inn Chalets & Motel is located on Nova Scotia’s scenic South Shore in the beautiful seaside community of Barrington Passage. Enjoy many nearby beaches and ocean views, or walk the relaxing path across from the Motel to the ocean.

Check prices and availability for The Starboard Inn | Read reviews for The Starboard Inn on Trip Advisor

Loyalist Inn & Suites – Shelburne
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in small-town charm at the Loyalist Inn. This central location offers a range of amenities to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

Check prices and availability for The Loyalist Inn | Read reviews for The Loyalist Inn on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Shelburne

The Quarterdeck Beachside Villas & Grill
The Quarterdeck is one of Nova Scotia’s hidden treasures. Centrally located on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, the Quarterdeck is just a 1.5-hour drive from Halifax, Yarmouth, and Annapolis Royal. Perched on spectacular Summerville Beach, a mile from one of the province’s nicest white-sand beaches, the Quarterdeck has been a popular travel destination for more than 85 years.

Check prices and availability for The Quarterdeck Resort | Read reviews for The Quarterdeck Resort on Trip Advisor

Lunenburg Arms Hotel and Spa
Nestled in the heart of historic Old Town Lunenburg on the South Shore region of Nova Scotia, Lunenburg Arms Hotel & Spa allows you to savor the sights of the beautiful seaside town as you indulge in an exceptional relaxation experience.

Check prices and availability for The Lunenburg Arms | Read reviews for The Lunenburg Arms on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Lunenburg

Oceanstone Seaside Resort – Peggy’s Cove
Nestled into a seaside community minutes from Peggy’s Cove, you will find a premier resort destination for rest and relaxation. Stay at their amazing inn rooms or cottages perfect for larger groups. All have a kitchen and great access to hiking trails. You can even see the ocean from your window.

Check prices and availability for the Oceanstone Seaside Resort | Read reviews for Oceanstone Seaside Resort on Trip Advisor | Search for other hotels in Peggy’s Cove

Winter is a perfect time to visit Nova Scotia. It’s just as beautiful in the snow as in the summer. Not only will you have the popular places, hotels, and restaurants to yourself, but you’ll also get some of the best cold-water Nova Scotia fresh lobster!

Check out my winter gear packing list – it will keep you warm in Nova Scotia winter!

The Lobster Crawl festival lived up to my expectations in every way – with every single calorie. And quite honestly – I never got tired of eating lobster. A few days at the Lobster Crawl festival, and these tasty crustaceans will claw their way into your heart! It’s a perfect winter foodie vacation that is full of culture and opportunities to meet and interact with locals in a meaningful way.

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Your Guide to the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl

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I was a guest of South Shore Tourism and Nova Scotia Tourism for this trip.  However all lobster love and opinions expressed are mine!

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