Depending on seasonal business is challenging enough, but Rockport has another drawback: The town was "dry" until 2005. The dining scene, consequently, isn't nearly as varied or sophisticated as Gloucester's; if you're not ravenous, head there or to Woodman's of Essex.

My top suggestion for food comes from the "would be an insider tip if it weren't so crowded" file. The Roy Moore Lobster Company, 39 Bearskin Neck (tel. 978/546-6696), is a fish market that specializes in ultra-fresh lobster cooked in seawater and served with drawn butter and plenty of paper towels. The luscious crustaceans and a limited selection of other dishes (including clam chowder) are available to stay or go. Prices are exceptionally reasonable, thanks in part to the lack of atmosphere -- the small dining area is outdoors, and drinks come from the soda machine -- and the service at the counter is efficient and friendly. Roy Moore's is open daily from 11am until 6pm from late March through October.

Another seasonal favorite is the Lobster Pool, a classic clam shack at 329 Granite St. (tel. 978/546-7808; Follow Route 127 north along the peninsula past Halibut Point State Park to this family-run self-service restaurant with picnic tables, spectacular water views, and huge weekend crowds. It serves seafood "in the rough" as well as soup, salads, sandwiches, and homemade desserts. It's open from April through November, daily from 11:30am to 8:30pm.

Helmut's Strudel, 49 Bearskin Neck (tel. 978/546-2824), is known for its apple and cherry strudels -- served warm and a la mode if you like. Helmut's offers a variety of other pastries and a good selection of beverages, including apple cider, hot chocolate, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The outdoor seating area enjoys a great view of the harbor. No credit cards.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.