You can’t talk about Connecticut without talking about boating. From the Long Island Sound to the Connecticut River, Connecticut is obsessed with its H2O. You only need to look to the water for a glimpse of everything from dinghies to yachts, power boats to sail boats, and every seafaring craft in between. The waters of Connecticut offer limitless marine adventures for any keen captain and crew. Discover quaint New England ports, anchor near the shore of a sandy isle, or just play all day on the waves and wakes. Whatever floats your boat, Connecticut has it.
Connecticut’s Long Island Sound
About a mile off the cost of Norwalk, Connecticut, and southwest Westport, Connecticut, in Long Island Sound, is a six-mile stretch that’s home to a chain of more than 25 islands. They are so enthralling it’s hard to believe they are just material left by glaciers about 17,500 years ago. But we’re so glad they’re there for us to enjoy. Although many of the islands are privately owned, two, Chimon and Sheffield, are part of a national wildlife refuge and open to the public (with the exception of a period between April 1 and August 15, when there are nesting restrictions). When you visit you can take part in many activities, including camping, kayaking, swimming, and of course, bird watching. But heed a piece of advice. While boating around these islands, be alert to reefs and mudflats as well as partially submerged boulders. And, of course, pay attention to the Sound’s substantial tide swings.
Old Saybrook and Essex
With a history that dates back to 1635, Old Saybrook sits in a sweet spot where the Connecticut River meets the Long Island Sound. This quintessential New England town is filled with friendly people, time-tested restaurants, artisan shops and beautiful beaches. And if you brought your clubs, check out Fenwick Golf Course, the semi-private course right on the Sound. Along these links is where Katharine Hepburn had her home – and locals are proud of it. Head into town and visit The Kate, the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center for a concert, live theatre and even simulcasts from the Met.
Neighboring Old Saybrook is the historical maritime jackpot of Essex Village (Essex is actually made up of three villages: Essex Village, Centerbrook, and Ivoryton). During the war of 1812, it was a major center of shipping and shipbuilding. As a matter of fact, in 1814 it was attacked by a foreign power and 28 vessels were lost. It’s known as the “Pearl Harbor” of that war. So come and stroll its shop-lined streets and drink in its pubs, and perhaps meet up with the ghosts of sailors, captains or pirates!
Noank and Mystic
Both world-renowned seaports, Noank and Mystic, are quaint and deeply historic villages that will take you back in time. Not such a bad thing – you’d be younger! Mystic’s charming waterfront district is chock full of colonial-era sea captain’s homes, church steeples and historic landmarks. There, you can shop, eat and be one with history.
Noank, which sits on a small, steep peninsula at the mouth of the Mystic River has a long and proud tradition of fishing, lobstering and boat-building. It’s also the home of many oyster aquaculture operations and scores of authentic seaside lobster shacks. Although next to Mystic, Noank has a personality all its own. Not all seaports are the same you know!
The Connecticut River
Hamburg Cove and Selden Creek
As you head up the CT River, you’ll come upon famous and languid Hamburg Cove in Lyme. This lazy location is the perfect spot to anchor and take a swim, or tie up to one or more of your friends’ boats. The approach from the River to the Cove might be challenging if this is your first go at it, but not difficult. Just follow the piloting instructions and marks carefully.
A bit farther north in Lyme, you’ll find Selden Creek and Selden Neck State Park. The park is an island that borders the Connecticut River, and is accessible only by boat. It even has four areas for primitive boat camping if you’re yearning to sleep under the stars. And the park offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and hunting.
Just across the river is the arty, boutique-filled town of Chester. This unassuming, slightly bohemian town, is filled with amazing eats, art-filled storefronts, and hand-grown and hand-made everything. It’s the perfect spot for home-made ice cream and window shopping. And just for fun, you can take a dinghy up Chester Creek to arrive in the town center in style.