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Exploring the Connecticut Coast

Our southernmost location in New England is in the quaint little New England village of Essex, Connecticut, about five miles up the Connecticut River from Long Island Sound.  Many of our customers, new and old, ask us for advice on some cruising destinations along the Connecticut coast. 

So here are a few of our favorites.

Old Saybrook. 

Our neighboring town, located where the river empties into the sound, is a gorgeous little New England town dripping in character and quaintness. It’s the home of the Kate, the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (Miss Hepburn lived in Fenwick, down on the Sound) – a great place to catch some live theater, concerts or simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera.  The town is chockablock with restaurants, cafes, shops and summer fun.

Essex Village. 

Our town, just north of Old Saybrook on the west bank of the river, has a rich nautical history. During the War of 1812 against the British, the British Navy attacked the shipbuilding center of Essex and destroyed 28 vessels in what historians call ‘the Pearl Harbor of the War of 1812.’ It’s mostly peaceful these days, a wonderful place to stroll, sip, shop and sample some of the great seafood places.

Hamburg Cove. 

Just north of Essex Village is the lovely offshoot from the river known as Hamburg Cove. The entrance is a little convoluted, but is well marked. Once inside, there are plenty of places to drop anchor, enjoy a picnic, go for a swim and just generally enjoy life.

Selden Creek. 

A bit further north, where the river bends to the east, is Selden Creek and the Selden Neck State Park, accessible only by boat. Here, you can hike, enjoy the beach, camp overnight in the rustic accommodations and birdwatch to your heart’s content.

Swallow Remuneration. 

You’ve heard about the swallows of San Juan Capistrano in California, which return every year to their mating grounds? Well, here in Connecticut, we have a similar natural phenomenon.  Down on Goose Island off Old Lyme, our native tree swallows return every August, form a massive funnel of birds and descend into the phragmites to roost overnight. How and why they do this is unknown, since none of us are tree swallows, but boaters assemble offshore at dusk during the late summer weeks to watch the show. It’s pretty amazing.

Mystic and Noank. 

A few miles up the coast to the east of the Connecticut River are the twin villages of Mystic and Noank.  Both were centers of commercial ship building in the age of sail, and the Mystic Seaport Museum is a fascinating recreation of an 18th century shipbuilding village. Think of it as Plimoth Plantation but all about sailing ships and the people who made them. Nearby is the world-famous Mystic Aquarium, which is endlessly entertaining for kids of all ages.

Both Mystic and its neighbor Noank, which sits at the mouth of the Mystic River, are walkable towns with plenty to see, do and sample. Many of Mystic’s famous eateries are within walking distance of the town’s famous bascule drawbridge and the protected waters are popular with kayakers and boarders.

Noank Harbor is a lot less commercialized than Mystic. There are lovely views of Mason, Fishers and Enders Islands, a few welcoming marinas and there’s Ford’s Lobster, where boaters can pull up, tie up and order up. Think of Ford’s as the Bubba Gump’s Shrimp of lobster: if you ask the waitperson what’s on the menu, the list of lobster-centric items will take twenty minutes to reel off!

Esker Point Beach. 

This pretty little spot is found on Groton Long Point, which extends into LI Sound west of Mystic.  Thursday night is the time for the Summer SoundWaves concert series on the beach, and boaters by the hundreds like to tie up or anchor off the beach and groove on the sounds. Groton Long Point is a quaint little fishing village and there are some excellent beaches to enjoy. And just offshore are the Flat Hammock and North and South Dumpling islands – great places to explore with your boat. Just don’t disturb the nesting black-backed gulls, please.

Stony Creek and the Thimbles. 

Stony Creek is just one of dozens of little harbors that dot the Connecticut coast. It’s located between Sachem Head and Indian Neck. The village is quintessentially quaint and the town is a great launching point for exploring the Thimble Islands: more than a hundred islands, inhabited and uninhabited, lying just offshore. You can explore Money Island, where Captain Kidd is rumored to have deposited some of his ill-gotten gains, or Davis Island, where President William Howard Taft made his summer home. There are dozens of places to throw out the hook, have a picnic and watch the world go by, very slowly.

Black Rock Harbor. 

Continuing down the coast to the west, Black Rock Harbor is just west of Bridgeport. The Captain’s Cove Seaport is a busy and welcoming marina inside the harbor, with all the amenities, a great restaurant and the famous Tug Boat Bar, with stools arranged around the bow of an old tug.  Live music on tap, too.

Clinton Harbor. 

One of the coast’s hidden jewels, Clinton Harbor is tucked in behind Cedar Island, which makes for a protected harbor, and offers some great restaurants and surprisingly rocking nightlife.  During the day, you can recover at the nearby Hammonasset State Beach Park. 

That’s just a few of the boating destinations you will find up and down the Nutmeg State’s active coastline.  If you need more suggestions, please stop in and visit us at 33 Pratt Street in Essex.

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