Connecticut Summer Beach Guide
Connecticut is home to 84.5 miles of sandy beaches along the Long Island Sound shoreline. And if you’re like 95 percent of Connecticut residents, you probably live within 50 miles of the Sound—so there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of the state’s beautiful coastline. Of course, if you prefer the fresh water of lakes, there are some beautiful spots across the state, too.
Rena Calcaterra, the marketing and public relations coordinator for the Connecticut Office of Tourism, says that the state’s shoreline communities are a boon for water sports and offer a quieter, less rough surf that lends itself to use by families. The Sound is ideal for kayaking, waterskiing, swimming, windsurfing and more.
“One thing that always comes to mind is that there’s always so much activity on the water,” says Calcaterra.
So, where will you head this summer?
Hammonasset Beach, Madison
The crown jewel of shoreline parks with more than two miles of beach, Hammonasset hosts more than a million visitors each year who swim, sunbathe, boat, fish, picnic or simply stroll the boardwalk. Visitors can also check out the nature center at Meigs Point, and enjoy the 200 species of birds and other shore creatures who dwell in the 600-acre salt marsh.
Hammonasset is also popular with campers, with sites filling up quickly each year, so check ahead.
Silver Sands Beach, Milford
Rumor has it that Captain Kidd once set foot on Charles Island, just off the coast of Silver Sands State Park—and left a grand treasure behind. Try as they might, no one has ever found it. Still, beachgoers can walk out to the island at low-tide on the tombolo—though be careful to leave yourself plenty of time to walk back before it’s covered by water again.
There’s also plenty of beach for sand-castle building, laying out and swimming. If you are into water sports, Silver Sands is a good spot, too. “You can kayak out to the island,” says Calcaterra.
As for the treasure, you won’t be able to look for it in the summer—the island’s interior is off-limits until August 31 because of heron and egret rookeries there.
Admittance and parking is free at Silver Sands. However, because of Hurricane Sandy damage, the popular boardwalk is closed.
Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme
The white sand of Rocky Neck State Park, and the clear water, look like something you’d see in the Caribbean. But this Long Island Sound beach is a close-to-home option that offers camping, hiking, fishing, a snack bar and more.
There are parking fees at Rocky Neck, and if you want to camp, there’s a fee for that as well.
Bluff Point State Park, Groton
Bluff Point State Park is a coastal reserve with a mix of wooded hiking, biking and horseback trails (yes, you can bring your horse and ride!), along with amazing wildlife viewing—and beautiful undisturbed Long Island Sound coastline.
At more than 800 acres, access to the beaches at Bluff Point are by foot or non-motorized vehicle only. There are no parking fees.
But regarding horses, Calcaterra says that during the summer, horses are generally not permitted on the beaches.
Ocean Beach Park, New London
Ocean Beach Park is a beautiful white sand beach located on the Atlantic Ocean. The 50-acre park includes amusement rides, an arcade, an Olympic-size freshwater pool, miniature golf, a water slide and a spray park.
While there, you can also take in a theatrical production. “Along the ocean in Waterford is the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center,” says Calcaterra, who notes that some of the complex’s theaters are right on the water adjacent to Ocean Beach. “It’s just a wonderful night to go there and watch a production that’s something that a writer is really just working on. You may see it on Broadway someday.”
There’s an entrance fee, and additional charges for some activities.
There’s also plenty of beach and water activity inland—tubing on the Farmington River, kayaking on the Connecticut River, canoeing on various lakes and fishing almost everywhere. “We have over 10,000 miles of rivers and streams and over 4,000 lakes and ponds,” says Calcaterra.
There are spots located across the state like Squantz Pond in New Fairfield, where you can swim, boat, fish and scuba dive. At Lake Waramaug in Kent, Warren and Washington, there’s also boating, fishing and swimming, as well as the opportunity to camp overnight. Pattaconk Lake in Haddam offers similar opportunities.