Let's do lunch on Plum Island

... Nice afternoon excursion to Joppa Flats

from Don Norris

That's not "Bob Lobster" -- it's the 'scenic view' when looking out the
dining room window ...

It wasn't a bright and sunny day, nor did my wife and I have any plans for the
day. She did produce, however, that morning's Boston Globe, displaying an
article describing a "Treat in Newbury: a lobster shack open in winter". It
took us about 30 seconds of discussion, another 30 seconds to grab a hat, warm
coat and camera, and we were off to Newbury.

Actually, Plum Island is mostly in Newbury, an island separated from the
mainland by the Plum Island River. The island itself is about five miles long,
and from its southern tip, one can almost boat across the Parker River to
Castle Hill and Crane Beach. Today the island is mainly a national park,
although there is a small town on the northern ocean-side. In fact it's those
landowners that are having so much trouble with erosion as the ocean waves eat
away at the beach.

But that's not the story we were after. We wanted some good seafood in mid-
winter -- both the Clam Box in Ipswich and Farnum's in Essex (both excellent,
but very un-fancy restaurants for seafood) were closed for the winter season.
So we were fortunate to try this new place (new to us) on Plum Island Turnpike
-- (now there's an overstatement, for this turnpike is a windy two lane road
that follows the soggy beach around Joppa Flats and the Merrimac River

And yes, the name of the place is "Bob Lobster", and it sits there quite alone
on the brink of Joppa Flats. A few yards further east is the bridge onto Plum
Island itself, yet most folks consider this section of Newbury as part of Plum

Bob Lobster or not, this is a place to see. After turning onto the turnpike
(otherwise known as "Water Street") one drives past Newburyport Airport, which
definitely is worth visiting. I've been there many times, trying to scrounge a
ride in somebody's airplane. There is an office, a couple of hangers, a large
bundle of small airplanes lashed down, and a single runway that runs east and

This Delorme map shows where "Bob Lobster" is. Go up Route 1 for a lovely
ride. About a mile short of the Newburyport circle, take a right on
Hanover Street (it's well marked with signs), over the railroad tracks,
straight into Newbury and the traffic light at Route 1-A. Go straight across,
and when the road ends, take a right on Water Street, otherwise known as the
Plum Island Turnpike. Pass the National Wildlife Forest HQ, the airport, and
just before the big bridge, you will see "Bob Lobster" on your left.

One day a few years ago, I was poking my nose into airport business when I
happened to see a plane coming in from the ocean-side, from the east. I
looked at the windsock, and yes, there was a stiff wind coming in from the
ocean -- the same direction as this fellow in his two-person airplane was

Several others had noticed this anomaly, and stopped to see if he could make
it. It was obvious that, as he crossed the river, he was fighting that
tailwind to get down. I'm not a pilot, but I've flown in small planes enough to
know this fellow was coming in the wrong way.

Several other people stopped what they were doing to watch. Could he make it,
or was the wind going to carry him onto the road, or into the water. We could
see the pilot was struggling to lose altitude -- without much success. He
crossed the east end of the runway at about 150 feet.

There were some fifteen people now sort of running parallel to the runway,
knowing that if he could get the plane down, he would land really long. He
finally forced the plane down with about 200 feet left of paved runway; after
that, he was going to plow through some heavily-overgrown wetland.

Which is exactly what happened, the plane rolled past the running spectators,
and into the heavy brush. We all expected him to nose over in the soft ground.
But no, he plowed his aircraft through the tangle, coming to an upright stop in
the muddy brush. Eventually the pilot and his passenger climbed down, ignoring
the growing crowd.

So much for that story -- back to directions to Bob Lobster.

You ain't nobody unless you've posted your business card on Bob's bulletin
board. Next trip we're going to bring a SilverStringers card ...

Another interesting stopping place is the headquarters/museum of the Plum
Island Nation Wildlife Sanctuary, which will be on your left as you drive
eastward. There are many interesting displays and a load of info about both the
local and migratory birds.

Another mile or so down Plum Island Turnpike, on the left side, is a lone
building, seated on a small chunk of landfill. Here is Bob Lobster. There were
several cars there on this Saturday afternoon, and we noticed the place filled
up rather quickly. We ordered one $18 dinner plate of fried scallops, and asked
the girl if we could have an extra plate: "We're saving our money," my wife
said, "and do you mind if we have our own wine?" The girl was really gracious,
and said that they frequently get "a lot of older folks" splitting a meal.

The dining room consists of half a dozen picnic tables with benches, which we
are expected to share. The view was of an old fishing shack, a float that was
iced in, and Joppa Flats. The scenery was, um, a gray day, of lots of ice (it
was early February), and the ancient fishing shack.

Dinner was excellent, understanding that we were in Bob Lobster in the middle
of winter. Our scallops had been laid on their side and sliced so that they
formed disks -- dipped in batter and deep fried. And with an abundant serving
of fries and red sauce, lunch was delightful. (Our 'wine' came from a large
thermos and tasted like a Tom Collins).

It was a fine lunch, and we shared our table with a couple only a few years
younger than us.

Along the refuge road, you'll see several viewing points on the right, and
three or four parking pull-offs on the left -- with a plank path winding off
eastward through the dunes and the forest -- to Plum Island Beach. Maybe a
quarter mile or so walk, depending on which path you happen upon.

Part three: After lunch, we drove across the big bridge to Plum Island proper,
taking a right turn at the first (and only) intersection. This road led us
south to the Plum Island National Wildlife Park, and after flashing our old-age
ticket at the old lady Ranger, we drove slowly the four miles through this
wondrous bird sanctuary. It being cloudy, a late Saturday afternoon, a cold and
dreary day, we saw not a single bird in this four-mile bird sanctuary.

But it was a pleasant tour. On our left were the forested dunes of Plum Island,
and on the right, the meadow-like marshes that is, we believe, a flyway for
endless numbers of birds. We stopped at several of the viewing points, but saw
not one bird. It was obviously Bird's Day Off.

All in all it was a delightful drive; taking Route One north from Melrose
(instead of Interstate 95) permitted us to mosey along at a reasonable speed and
to enjoy the endless hills along Route 1.

As for Bob Lobster, we give it two thumbs up.

March 1, 2013

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