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Sherwood Island State Park is a rare combination of both an inland park with vast fields, trees and trails, and a beach destination.

Connecticut’s first state park, Sherwood is a peninsula that juts out into Long Island Sound, and there are beaches on either side of the point. West Beach is less manicured, rockier and more rustic, with good fishing spots and views along the southwestern coast of Connecticut and Long Island. East Beach is long and wide with soft sand, a perfect spot to throw down a towel, plant an umbrella, or set up a beach tent for a long afternoon of soaking up the sun on a pristine day.

The grassy fields are equal parts shady and wide open. The open areas are conducive to throwing a football, flinging a frisbee or just putting down a blanket and catching some rays without the sand and seaweed side effects. (Just watch out for the geese.) Plenty of picnic tables and charcoal grills are set up under tall trees for a barbecue and respite from the sun. Not in a picnic-basket-packing mood? On your way in, when you exit I-95 go the opposite way from Sherwood Island and hit up the family-owned local institution Sherwood Diner on Route 1. It’ll be open on both your way in and out of the park.

If you’re one of those who needs to fit in some exercise every day, even on a day trip, Sherwood Island has more than 6 miles of paths and trails for walking, running and biking. And since it’s a peninsula, you can safely assume the views are spectacular.

There’s a nature center on a hill behind East Beach, with a purple martin sanctuary on its front lawn. Inside the building exists what can best be described as an awesome high school science fair, with fish, snakes, turtles, crabs and reptiles, and exhibits on birds, rocks and shells. You can also learn about the history of the park and the surrounding area, and educational programs are offered as well.

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The fees for entry to the park are $9 on weekdays and $13 on weekends and holidays ($6 after 4 p.m.), with slightly higher rates for out-of-staters.

On a somber note, a living 9/11 memorial on the point honors those with Connecticut ties who lost their lives on that terrible Tuesday. When standing in front of and facing the memorial stone, you are oriented toward Manhattan. The smoke rising from the Twin Towers was visible that day, and for the days following, and Sherwood Island was established as the staging area for Connecticut’s relief efforts. An exhibit in the park’s main pavilion was constructed with materials from the World Trade Center.

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.