gt032018gtspring-5001.jpg

A panoramic view of the Long Island Sound at Greenwich Point Park in Old Greenwich.

It’s hard to call anything in Greenwich, one of Connecticut’s best-known towns, a hidden gem, but Old Greenwich is just that. Bordering Stamford on a jagged strip of land jutting into Long Island Sound, the neighborhood has its own small downtown filled with shops and restaurants. A far cry from the glitz and glamour of Greenwich Avenue in downtown Greenwich, the area has a relaxed, New England-beach-town feel, yet is only about an hour’s drive or train ride from Manhattan. For visitors, there are plenty of dining and shopping options as well as the beautiful beach on a peninsula where you can look at the New York City skyline and enjoy water views on three sides.

gt0526gtparade

The Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department Memorial Day Parade passes down Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich in 2015.

gt060718binneybikes-5001.jpg

The bridge at Binney Park Pond in Old Greenwich.

“Old Greenwich is a quaint little community that has some amazing shops, restaurants and activities,” says Laura Calabrese, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent in Old Greenwich. She says new residents “fall in love with the small-town charm, the easy lifestyle, and accessibility to New York City.”

nh071117bzcafe-304.jpg

Chef and co-owner Kane Xu stands outside his restaurant, Beach House Cafe on Sound Beach Avenue.

gt092916bzproperty-5003.jpg

Customers enjoy a cup of coffee outside Sweet Pea's Baking Company.

Food & Drink

For a relatively small area, Old Greenwich features some elite dining options. The critically acclaimed Le Fat Poodle (203-717-1515, lefatpoodle.com) lives up to the hype. On our visit, we enjoyed the chicken banh mi and chicken paillard as well as the restaurant’s excellent namesake cocktail, The Fat Poodle, made with jalapeño-infused tequila. Locals also rave about the Beach House Cafe (203-637-0367, beachhousecafe.com), which offers a mix of various cuisines, from seafood to flatbreads, in an upscale setting. Another town favorite is the Lugano Wine Bar & Salumeria (203-990-0955, luganowinebar.com), an Italian tapas restaurant that specializes in cured meats. For something more casual, visit neighborhood pizza shop and Italian restaurant Sound Beach Pizza and Delicatessen (203-637-1085, sbpizza.com) or try the sandwiches and bagels at Upper Crust Bagel Shop (203-698-0079, uppercrustbagel.com). You can also stop in at Sweet Pea’s Baking Co. (203-990-0009, sweetpeasct.com). A breakfast-and-lunch spot with a true cafe feel, it has standard coffee but an excellent atmosphere and pastries.

gt070816ogsales-5005.jpg

A bargain hunt outside Back 40 Mercantile during the Old Greenwich Merchants Association Sidewalk Sales.

gt092916bzproperty-5001.jpg

Shoppers walk down the Sound Beach Avenue business district in Old Greenwich.

Shopping

One of Old Greenwich’s strengths is its stroll-ability. This walker-friendly feel is powered in large part by its boutiques and shops. Back 40 Mercantile (203-637-0240, back40mercantile.com) offers a mix of upscale products for the home as well as clothes, jewelry and gifts. All items are sourced from small-scale purveyors and are organic and/or are made with sustainable practices. During our visit, a baby onesie with the words “Locally Grown” caught our eye. Up the street you’ll find Fred Boutique (203-344-9533, thefredshop.com), a high-end women’s clothing store featuring brands such as Rebecca Taylor, Misa Los Angeles and Love Shack Fancy. There is also The Village Ewe (203-637-3953, thevillageewe.com), a full-service needlework studio with needlepoint canvases from more than 50 designers that offers custom painting and stitching services. Many folks from the neighborhood were walking their dogs through town on our Saturday visit; some likely got their snazzy haircuts at Snip Doggy Dog (203-990-0770, facebook.com/snipdoggydog).

gt070918gtfireworks-5026.jpg

Fireworks are displayed at Binney Park.

gt061918todsbeach-5006.jpg

Folks soak up the sun on the beach at Greenwich Point Park.

The Beach

From the commercial center of Old Greenwich, if you keep traveling toward the water, you’ll end up at Greenwich Point Park, a stunning beach and 147-acre park on a stretch of land extending into the Sound. There are views of New York City’s skyline across the water as well as swimming and year-round walking and cycling options aplenty, as well as an annual kite-flying festival in late April. With water on three sides of the park, there are many selfie opportunities. The park is also home to Bruce Museum’s Seaside Center. Open year round, the free museum dedicated to the science and animals of the Sound has a live-animal touch tank and dioramas of summer and winter birds, fish and other local species, as well as other attractions. The park was once the estate of J. Kennedy Tod, and is called Tod’s Point by the locals. Former estate buildings and structures are visible today, including a lake he had constructed from a tidal marsh, complete with a road around it, and castle-like stone retaining walls.

gt042218kites-038.JPG

The annual Greenwich Kite Flying Festival on the beach at Greenwich Point.

On a less sunny note, access to Greenwich Point was at the heart of a famous legal case over beach access in Connecticut. Brenden Leydon, a Stamford lawyer, brought a suit against the town after being denied access to the beach while jogging. The state Supreme Court in 2001 ruled in Leydon’s favor, and ever since, Greenwich Point and other town parks have needed to allow some access to non-residents. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. To get access to Greenwich Point from May 1 to Oct. 31, non-residents must purchase both a beach pass and a parking pass. Beach policies and fees are evaluated yearly, but in past years daily parking passes have cost $35 and a beach pass has been $7. Neither pass can be purchased at the beach. They must be bought at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center (90 Harding Road) or at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center (449 Pemberwick Road) Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 203-622-7817 for information. Believe us, getting a pass here is worth the effort.

gt092818kayaknyc-5001.jpg

A man kayaks in front of the New York City skyline off the shore of Greenwich Point Park.

REAL ESTATE

Houses do not come cheap in this Greenwich neighborhood. Here’s what you can get, according to Coldwell Banker’s Laura Calabrese:

For $365,000: One-bedroom, one-bath, 905-square-foot condo at the Greenwich Green Apartments.

For $1,695,000: Five-bedroom, five-bath, 3,730-square-foot shore Colonial on Sound Beach Avenue, on less than a quarter-acre.

For $12,999,000: Six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath, 7,180-square-foot home on Binney Lane. This home comes with your own private dock and sits on just over an acre in the heart of downtown.

Schools

Old Greenwich School is an elementary school for residents with an A rating on niche.com. After elementary school, Old Greenwich children go to Eastern Middle School, which also has an A rating from niche.com and is ranked ninth in that site’s list of best public middle schools in the state. Greenwich High School is ranked No. 7 on niche.com’s list of best public high schools in the state and has an A+ rating from the site.

This article appeared in the April 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University