The Best Places to Go Clamming near Boston
Rake in clams and steamers by the quart—as long as you don’t mind digging through the mud.
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Whether they’re steamed, fried, or the main component of a hearty chowder, clams are a New England staple. They can be found at nearly every seaside restaurant—from casual, on-the-beach eateries to five-star spots overlooking the water. But you don’t have to treat yourself to a seafood dinner out to enjoy these briny bivalves. You can go clamming yourself all along Massachusetts’ extensive coastline. You’ll need a large rake, a bucket, sensible shoes (for wading through the mud), and a clam gauge to measure the size of the many, many clams you’re sure to dig up.
But you can’t just start digging wherever you think looks promising. Most towns have strict regulations governing where, when, and how much clamming is allowed. And more often than not, you need a local recreational permit to harvest clams. Luckily, they can be bought at the local town clerk’s office, and short-term permits are available for tourists and non-residents. Once that’s squared away, you’re ready to start clamming—and these spots are open for the season, filled with an abundance of shellfish just waiting to be found.
Annisquam River, Gloucester
Hundreds of clams burrow right below the surface of the tidal flats (also called mudflats or clam flats) along the Annisquam River. All you have to do is find them. While some areas are restricted during certain times of the year, the area around Rte. 128 is open year-round (but only on Mondays and Thursdays). Starting at Oakes Flat and Trunnel Cove, and working your way south towards the Sandbar, lightly drag your clam rake through the mud until you feel something. Or, if you’re a little more adventurous, start digging with your hands.
Permit required; non-resident daily permit $25; City of Gloucester
Back River, Duxbury
Duxbury is known for its shellfish (Island Creek oysters, anyone?), and that includes clams—quahogs, steamers, and razor clams, to be more specific. They’re abundant on nearly every stretch of coastline in Duxbury. But for the best spot, head to the tidal flats just north of the Powder Point Bridge. Start looking about an hour before low tide for clams nestled under the sand. Per Duxbury regulations, all digging must be done with conventional tined tools or by hand, and all shellfish harvesting of any kind is prohibited on Sundays.
Permit required; non-resident seasonal permit $140, Duxbury Police Department
Lewis Pond, Yarmouth
Just north of Seagull Beach you’ll find Lewis Pond—a popular spot for summer clamming in Yarmouth. Wading shin-deep into the pond on a Sunday afternoon (the only day the town permits recreational clamming), you’ll find hard-shell and soft-shell clams ripe for the picking. An entire family can work under one recreational permit, which allows you to gather up to ten quarts of each type of clam per week (equivalent to about ten pounds). For seafood lovers, that’s enough to make quite a nice Sunday supper.
Permit required; non-resident seasonal permit $80; Town of Yarmouth
Plum Island, Newbury and Ipswich
Anyone who’s willing to get their hands dirty in Plum Island’s tidal mud will be rewarded with bivalves as far as the eye can see. Well, not literally—because they’re deep underground. But after a bit of work, you’ll be able to grab at least a few on the island’s lengthy beach and in Plum Island Sound. Make sure to get there early, because parking is on a first-come, first-serve basis. More importantly, it’s also part of the Parker River National Wildlife Reserve, which means you need a secondary permit. But the harvest will be well worth it.
Permit required; non-resident daily permit $20, annual permit $150; Town of Newbury or Town of Ipswich. Permit also required from the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge; free with recreational permit.
Point Judith Pond, Narragansett, RI
At low tide, the mudflat at Point Judith Pond is a favorite for quahogging—or clam digging specifically for quahogs (large, hard-shell clams that are perfect for chowder). Along Galilee Escape Road, the expansive flats are abundant with both quahogs and steamers (smaller, soft-shell clams). But clamming isn’t as easy as it seems. Bending down and digging through the mud with your hands is a bit of work. Although sometimes it can be as rewarding as a treasure hunt.
Permit required for non-residents; fourteen-day permit $11, annual permit $200; Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Sengekontacket Pond, Oak Bluffs
On the opposite side of the state beach, spanning from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs, Sengekontacket Pond is a perfect spot for bucketfuls of shellfish—they just have to be of legal size. Make sure all quahogs you dig up are at least one inch thick, and all soft-shelled clams are at least 2 inches thick (this is where your clam gauge comes in handy). The shells of soft-shelled clams, or steamers, break easily, so be careful digging around with a rake. For a foolproof method, sift through the mud with your hands instead.
Permit required; non-resident one-week permit $30, two-week permit $55, one-month permit $80; Dick’s Bait & Tackle through the Town of Oak Bluffs
West Bay Inlet, Barnstable
Clamming is possible on almost every stretch of coastline in Barnstable. But not every area is open. Permitted areas may change every year due to rainfall or poor water quality (making shellfish unsafe to eat), so pay attention to any and all signs before you start digging. Bridge St. Landing is where most kids (and adults, too) first learn to dig for clams. But really any shoreline along West Bay is a hotspot for shelled creatures. Just make sure you’re clamming on a Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday, the only days recreational clamming is permitted in Barnstable.
Permit required; non-resident seasonal permit $70, non-resident annual permit $140; Town of Barnstable
Cape Cod Bay Coastline, Eastham
On Cape Cod, clam digging is tradition. For residents and non-residents, clams are part of the Cape experience. For the majority of visitors, it’s eating the clams that’s most common; but for those looking for a challenge, digging for them yourself is ingrained in the culture. All along Eastham’s west coast—from Sunken Meadow Beach to Thumpertown to First Encounter Beach—is open for clamming every day of the week, and the peak time to go is mid-July to August. Although winter clamming is allowed for those immune to cold weather.
Permit required; non-resident annual permit $75, weekly permit $30; Town of Eastham