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overhead shot of three rows of shucked oysters in Sweden

The inimitable French Michelin-starred chef Paul Bocuse claimed the world’s best oysters come from the deep, icy waters of Sweden’s western-sited Bohuslan Coast, a lesser-traveled archipelago composed of some 10,000 islands. On a quest to taste them for myself, I board a fishing boat captained by Pers Karlsson who runs eco-tours and fishing expeditions that begin in his curry-colored boathouse in the charming village of Grebbestad. We lunge through rolling waves, collecting oysters, lobsters, and crabs at intervals. A pile of knobbly shells grows tall on the deck. At last Pers grabs a Goliath-sized one, takes a knife, slits its lips, and pries it open. I hold the huge half-shell in my hand, awe-struck by its size. 

“You’ve got an old man, there,” says Pers, as I stare at the silvery interiors. “These aren’t just the best, but the biggest oysters on earth. They’re complex, full of minerals. Go on. Try it. He’s got a kiss from the sea for you.” I put my lips on the rough shell, breathe in the oyster’s briny aroma, then tease out a slime of seafaring goodness with my teeth. “Chew it,” suggests Per. “Slower,” he says, watching me intently. “Do you taste it?” I do. It’s the best kiss — I mean oyster — of my life.

What would you do and where would you go to slurp up the best oyster of your life? To suck down that gooey bivalve in all its gelatinous delicious brininess — tossing it right down your gullet? I’d go most anywhere. There’s no stopping this aphrodisiacal obsession. It’s primal. Read on for some of the best places to savor the legendary bivalve mollusks.

Sweden

overhead shot of a cluster of oysters laying on a bed of greenery and a bottle of porter in sweden
Image by Madeleine Landley / Westsweden.com

Visit the village of Grebbestad, one of the most captivating seaside towns on western Sweden’s scenic Bohuslan Coast. Marked with Iron Age history, the town has been the domain of fishermen for eons. From the icy waters come half of the lobsters caught in Sweden and 90 percent of its exceptional oysters. Eat them straight from the waters on an outing with Everts Sjöbod Grebbestad, a family-owned business. 

Croatia

Croatia might be best known for its beaches. But Ston, an ancient city in Dalmatia, surrounded by medieval fortified walls, draws epicureans for its greatest asset: sweet, fat oysters. Overlooking the shoreline, the captivating town can be reached from Dubrovnik by car, but why drive when you can take a boat? On Adriatic sails between Dubrovnik and Split (and vice versa)  Cruise Croatia stops in Ston, where guests can disembark for a variety of oyster experiences. Walk along the coast to tour an oyster farm. Or, sail to the middle of the estuary in a characteristic wooden boat to join the fishers as they pluck the mollusks from the water. Try them the Croatian way with a squirt of lime, accompanied by local wine. 

Tasmania

overview shot of a farm next to a body of water surrounded by trees with mountains in the background in tasmania
Courtesy of Saffire Freycinet Tasmania

With spectacular nature, rural pleasures aplenty, a heady gastronomic scene, unique wildlife, vineyards, tea shops galore, and towns with Georgian houses stacked along glimmering beaches, Tasmania purportedly has the cleanest air in the world. But bivalve buffs will want to travel to Australia’s island state for the equally clean oysters. Experience unspoiled nature amid Freycinet National Park at design-centric Saffire Freycinet, a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia. Slip on waders to experience a fascinating tasting tour at Freycinet Marine Farm, incorporated in your all-inclusive stay. You’ll splash into the water, indulging with feet submerged in delectable oysters pulled live from their beds.

England

Polishing off a platter of oysters has been a tradition in Kent’s funky, ancient port town of Whistable since Roman times. Purportedly, the Roman soldiers fell so hard for the succulent local mollusks in 80 AD, they sent them home to Rome by the dozens. Luckily, the Kentish oysters you feast on today will be fresher. Uniquely delicate and sweet, Whitstable’s oysters hail from the frigid waters. Nibble them in an array of the picturesque town’s oyster houses, most poised on the seafront.

Seattle

closeup overhead shot of someone holding a tray of shucked oysters laying on a bed of rocks in seattle
Courtesy of Thompson Seattle

Positioned on the mouth of one of the shortest, most frigid rivers in Washington State, Hama Hama Oyster Company, a sixth-generation family-run shellfish farm, lies on the Olympic Peninsula. Using low-impact farming, they nurture the landscape to conjure  gastronomic magic, producing pristine oysters that mirror the terroir. Taste them during an outing to Hama Hama organized by urbane Thompson Seattle, the city’s most urbane hotel. After a transfer to the oyster company, you’ll take an expert-led tour, get shucking advice, and relish the flavors of nature in harmony. Back at the hotel’s Conversation Kitchen and Bar, you’ll indulge in a curated Champagne and oyster happy hour in celebration of the region’s largesse.

Eyre Peninsula

Craggy and dramatic, the Eyre Peninsula juts into the unbridled Southern Ocean. Exposed cliffs, bone-white beaches that meander forever, and sand dunes define this otherworldly end-of-the-world location. Toast its profound soulfulness with a glass of local wine and oysters from the pristine, crystalline waters of Coffin Bay, perfect for oyster growing thanks to good tidal flow and abundant plankton. Nourished by the nutrient-rich seawater, the oysters stay in mesh bags for up to 18 months, then mature in trays. You’ll wade out in hip waders for the adventure with Coffin Bay Oyster Farms. 

California

two white baskets of shells at carlsbad aquafarm in california
Courtesy of Carlsbad Aquafarm

Shellfish can be a tell for a clean lagoon, according to scientists at the Carlsbad Aquafarm, the only facility of its kind in Southern California. Built to monitor the health of the Aqua Hedionda Lagoon, the farm works jointly with USC Wrigley Marine Lab to  breed oysters that can endure the ocean’s environmental challenges. Visit the Aquafarm and the neighboring ecosystem on a Farm Discovery Walk tour.  You’ll learn about  harvesting techniques for their homegrown oysters, as well as have a shucking class and an oyster sampling — complete with lemons and hot sauce.

Featured image by Madeleine Landley / Westsweden.com