Buying Guides

Best Oyster Delivery Services

Hama Hama Oysters is our top pick

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A couple enjoying raw oysters

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Perhaps the best part about using an oyster delivery service is cutting out the middleman. Not only do you get fresh, live oysters, but you can get them directly from the aquaculture farmers or fishermen themselves.

Oysters have a different flavor profile depending on where they are raised, when they are harvested, and their growing conditions. In the United States, the main sources of oyster farming and harvesting are along with the West Coast areas of Washington and California; the Eastern seaboard in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Chesapeake Bay, and South Carolina; and along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.

Trying different varieties is part of the fun. So order early from any of these oyster delivery services and get your shucking knives ready.

Best Oyster Delivery Services of 2021

Best Overall: Hama Hama Oysters

Hama Hama Oysters

Hama Hama Oysters

Why We Chose It: You can’t beat five generations of oyster farming to provide delicious shellfish to your dining table. Their commitment to quality, forestry, and clean waters is a wonderful added bonus, but these deliciously fresh oysters speak for themselves.

Pros
Strong farm-to-chef relationship
Environmentally sustainable farming methods

Cons
Can’t choose oyster varieties
10-dozen minimum for free shipping

Hama Hama Oyster Company has had a farm store since the 1960s. It's come a long way since store employee Myrtle (aka Hama Hama Oyster Mama) chatted on the CB radio with passing truckers. This family-owned company still has its farm store in Lilliwaup, Washington, along with several locations along the Olympia Peninsula. Luckily, it ships shellfish nationwide.

Hama Hama has a nice variety of sizes and flavors of oysters that vary seasonally. Shellfish varieties range from the namesake Hama Hama oyster, which is meaty with a clean, crisp flavor, to the sweeter and richer Sea Cow. It also offers clams, mussels, smoked oysters, and smoked salmon for that additional Pacific Northwestern flavor.

Best for Wild Oysters: Glidden Point Oyster Farms

Glidden Point Oyster Farms

Glidden Point Oyster Farms

Why We Chose It: This company supports Maine aquaculture by selling oysters from family farms along the Damariscotta River. Its Wild Dams grow free along the Damariscotta River, untouched by humans until they are harvested.

Pros
Good variation in oyster flavors
Free shipping on all orders

Cons
Can't specify which oysters to order
Minimum order is 100 oysters

Glidden Point Oyster Farms is more like a collective than one single farm. It's one of six major farms in one of the oldest shellfish growing areas of Maine in the Damariscotta River region. When you order from Glidden Point, you’re getting seafood from the Coastal Harvesters Collection of aquafarmers.

These wild oysters will vary in flavor, not only depending on the season but also based on where the oyster grew along the Damariscotta River. The Wild Dams are briny and capture that east coast Maine flavor. For a more predictable flavor, try one of the farmed oysters. The Glidden Point Topsider is a good choice, since they are surface-cultured (which means they are raised near the surface of the water and not the bottom), giving them a more buttery, lighter flavor.

Online orders include free overnight shipping via FedEx, but be sure to plan ahead; you have to order by 9 a.m. on Wednesday to meet the company's weekly shipping deadline. There is a 100-oyster minimum for all orders. Glidden ships on Thursdays for Friday delivery.

Best Subscription Service: Real Oyster Cult

Real Oyster Cult

Real Oyster Cult

Why We Chose It: Since this company ships oysters fresh from over 70 different farms (including its own), you get a wide variety—around 90 different oysters—from all across North America. What's more, you can opt for its subscription plan.

Pros
Subscription option of 20, 40, or 60 oysters monthly
Minimum order is just 20 oysters

Cons
Membership auto-renews unless you cancel

Sims McCormick and her husband Rob Knecht have their own farm in Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts. They compare oysters to wine and offer up the different flavor profiles and detailed descriptions. Since they source from 70 different shellfish farms, you get the breadth of their knowledge without having to do the research yourself.

Real Oyster Cult is a great choice if you want to enjoy these oysters for a date night or don’t want to commit to three dozen or more oysters (which is usually the minimum elsewhere). And you’ll get these curated oysters directly from the company's Boston shop. The company delivers on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the minimum order is 20 oysters.

Best for East Coast Oysters: Cherrystone Aqua-Farms

Cherrystone Aqua-Farms

Cherrystone Aqua-Farms

Why We Chose It: Five generations of the Ballard family have been raising their baby oysters in Virginia to ship directly to restaurants for decades, and now they ship their collection of sweet and salty oysters direct to consumers.

Pros
Oyster varieties range in flavor
Ships four days per week
No extra cost for shipping

Cons
Prices are higher than other oyster purveyors

Chad Ballard is the fifth-generation member of his family to farm oysters in Virginia. The family takes its shellfish raising seriously and maintains sustainable practices so that its oyster farming has no impact on the wild shellfish population of the region.

Cherrystone Aqua-Farms grows a wide variety of oysters, including its historic Watch House Points, which have a briny flavor with hints of light melon and cucumber. Its Chinus and Misty Points also start with a salty flavor but finish with a lighter, grassy note. Its Chincoteague oyster has a sharper, brinier flavor.

Shipping costs are built into the price. Keep in mind that if you don’t order by 10 a.m. on Thursday, your oysters won’t be shipped until the following Monday.

Best for West Coast Oysters: Hog Island Oyster Company

Hog Island Oyster Company

Hog Island Oyster Company

Why We Chose It: The signature Hog Island Sweetwater oyster is the epitome of what a Pacific Coast oyster should taste like. The Hog Island Oyster Company offers a special holiday pack in the winter, but you can get its California-fresh oysters at other times of the year as well.

Pros
Oysters are sustainably farmed
Signature oysters are both briny and sweet
Grilled oysters available
Monthly subscriptions available

Cons
Shipping is expensive
You can only order bags of 36 or 60 oysters
The shop tends to sell out quickly

Located in the small town of Marshall off the coast of Northern California, Hog Island Oyster Company was started by a couple of Marine biologists with a dream. Since 1983, this five-acre shellfish farm has grown to 160 acres and now sells in excess of five million oysters and clams every year. Many of those bivalves end up on the menus of local San Francisco and Napa restaurants.

As founding members of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition, the company maintains sustainable aquaculture techniques without compromising on time or flavor. Its signature Hog Island Sweetwater oysters may not be the largest on the market, but they are incredibly flavorful. Due to growing conditions off of Tomales Bay, these oysters are a little brinier than those grown in less salty waters. Each oyster takes years to grow because of hand-farming practices.

Oysters are shipped in bags of either 36 or 60. Another option is to sign up for a monthly subscription, which sends you one 36-count bag. Subscriptions last for three, six, or 12 months. You can also purchase clams, mussels, prawns, black cod, and halibut.

Best for Southern Oysters: Lowcountry Oyster Company

Lowcountry Oyster Company

Lowcountry Oyster Company

Why We Chose It: Based in Green Pond, South Carolina, Lowcountry Oyster Company ships some of the freshest oysters and mussels from the coast of this southern state. It grows oysters sustainably in floating cage farms and harvests them daily.

Pros
Oysters are harvested to order
Oysters ship with 24 hours
Shipping costs are included

Cons
Small variety of oysters

Founder and owner Trey McMillan is a fisherman who became an oyster farmer. He opened Lowcountry Oyster Company in 2017 after a life-changing trip to the Chesapeake Bay in 2015. Sustainably farm-raised in South Carolina’s ACE basin, Lowcountry’s signature cup oysters are briny and full of flavor.

The company's shellfish is 100 percent traceable and sustainable, and it takes great pride in these bivalves. Lowcountry only grows oysters and mussels and has fewer varieties compared to other purveyors, but the quality is top-notch.

Shipping costs are included with each order.

Best for Holidays: Island Creek Oysters

Island Creek Oysters

Island Creek Oysters

Why We Chose It: Island Creek Oyster farmers grow their shellfish in the cool waters of Duxbury Bay, off the coast of Massachusetts. This means that the oysters typically do not spawn and are flavorful even in the summer months. 

Pros
Free overnight shipping
Popular holiday packages
"Block Party" includes 100 oysters and caviar
Variety of other local seafood available

Cons
More expensive than other services
Holiday items sell out quickly

Started in 1995 by Skip Bennett, a native of Duxbury, Massachusetts, Island Creek Oysters now provides over 10 million oysters to restaurants and oyster lovers all over the world. Although people said growing oysters was a bad idea, Skip got lucky; Duxbury Bay has ideal conditions for growing these bivalves. The cooler waters not only ensure thicker shells, larger oysters, and extra glycogen (sometimes called “oyster fat”), but also keeps the oysters from spawning. This means the oysters are delicious even in the summer months when other locations have to pause harvesting.

Island Creek Oysters are usually larger than their West Coast counterparts because of the cooler temperatures. They start with a briny flavor but finish with a sweeter, buttery taste.

Other items the shop sells are caviar, Maine lobster, and littleneck clams. Shipping costs are built into the price. For the holidays, plan ahead and order early, since Island Creek's holiday packs sell out quickly.

Final Verdict

There are a surprisingly large number of options for oyster delivery, and all of them provide safe and quick shipping of oysters from all of the oyster-producing waters around the United States. We recommend starting with Hama Hama Oysters because of the variety and flavors its oysters offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Oyster Delivery Services Ship Fresh Oysters?

Oyster delivery services pack live oysters on ice packs inside insulated styrofoam containers. They are all shipped overnight or via two-day shipping to ensure the freshest catch for your dinner table. Fresh oysters will usually keep for seven to 10 days in the refrigerator, although it’s best to plan your shipment to arrive a day or two before serving.

How Much Do Oyster Delivery Services Cost?

The price for oyster delivery varies depending on where you are located and the number of oysters you want sent to your door. Most services average about $90 to $100 for 50 oysters, shipping included. They are cheaper per shell than you would get at a restaurant and just as fresh, if not fresher.

Are Oyster Delivery Services Sustainable?

Most oyster delivery companies farm their own oysters, so they usually run their businesses with sustainability in mind. Most oysters that arrive at our tables are usually farmed; wild oysters are generally left alone.

The United States has strict guidelines for how and when wild oysters can be harvested. Most of the aqua farmers keep sustainability in mind, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes sense for their own future livelihoods as well.

Where Do the Best Oysters Come From?

Oysters grow best in estuaries, bays, and certain water conditions. Of course, there are oysters from both coasts and the Gulf coast as well. All of them have their unique flavor profiles. Maine has highly sought-after coldwater bivalves, while Louisiana boasts the largest oysters in the country. It depends on how you like your oysters.

When Is the Best Time to Buy Oysters?

Although oysters are available year-round, it’s best to avoid buying them from warmer climates in the summer in terms of oysters’ reproductive cycle. These delicious bivalves usually spawn during the warmer months, May through August (although in the Gulf of Mexico, they can spawn all year, when the waters are warm enough). During their spawning time, they get fattier, softer, and less flavorful. Those harvested during the cooler months or in cooler waters have a bright flavor and lean texture.

In addition, a bacteria called vibro parahaemolyticus grows to higher levels during the summer. It’s only a problem if you eat them raw, so if cook or barbecue your oysters, there's no need to worry. If you know you’re getting your oysters from farmed purveyors or from cooler waters, feel free to enjoy your oysters year-round.

Methodology

We conducted extensive research on each company’s websites along with outside review sites and considered freshness, taste, and availability. We also reviewed delivery methods, price, and the quality of oysters that each service ships, along with sustainable practices.

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