Coastal Central Connecticut Last Updated: July 2021
Coastal Central Connecticut takes you everywhere from the Thimble Islands to elegant seaside resorts, walkable beach towns and more. Below, discover a few of Central Connecticut's coastal towns and ways to enjoy them.
If you thought New Haven was strictly city, think again! New Haven offers beautiful coastal views and ways to get close to the water. Visit Lighthouse Point Park to discover 82 acres along Long Island Sound with swimming, nature trails, a bird sanctuary and an antique carousel.
While you’re there, make the most of your time and visit the city’s famed spots. Admire masterpieces at Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art, then savor flavors at The Anchor Spa, owned by Yale alumnus Karl Franz Williams, try the nation’s #1 pizza at Frank Pepe’s or eat at Louis’ Lunch, birthplace of the hamburger. For waterfront dining views, grab a bite (and great seafood) at award-winning Shell & Bones Oyster Bar & Grill.
Up for a detour? A trip to Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden offers a 1.5-mile scenic trail which leads to the stone observation tower on the peak of Mt. Carmel. From there, you’ll get an excellent view of Long Island Sound. Explore more spots to eat, stay, and play in New Haven below.
Branford is home to the Thimble Islands, where cruises aboard the Sea Mist and other boat operators run all season long. Stony Creek Brewery is located on the waterfront on the Branford River. The brewery has expansive outdoor seating, yard games and outdoor decks, as well as food trucks and live music on most days. Pull your boat or kayak directly up to the shore and enjoy! Next door, rent from Branford River Paddlesports, Kayaks and Tours and embark on a waterfront adventure.
Looking to get your toes in the sand? Visit Branford Point Beach and Stony Creek Beach, or connect with nature at the Branford Land Trust, which offers miles of walking/hiking trails and preserves. Explore more spots to eat, stay, and play in Branford below.
In Guilford, enjoy the stunning shoreline at Jacob’s Beach and Chaffinch Island State Park. Then go inland to explore the Guilford Green in the Town Center with museums, shops, restaurants, and historic house museums, including the Henry Whitfield State Museum—the oldest stone house in New England.
Take the kids to Bishop’s Farm Market and Winery for pick-your-own fruit starting mid-June, as well as freshly baked treats to take on the road with you. Want a truly unique dining experience? Grab a bite at The Place, where guests dine outdoors on tree stumps and food is cooked on open wood fire. Explore more spots to eat, stay, and play in Guilford below.
When in Madison, you simply must dip your toes in the sand at Hammonasset Beach State Park, the state’s largest shoreline park with 2 miles of beach, boardwalk, walking trails and more. Nearby, Downtown Madison is full of shops and restaurants for strolling, including the famous independently and woman-owned R.J. Julia Booksellers.
When it comes to seafood, Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale is iconic to the town. After you devour everything from lobster to clams, calamari and more, head to Ashley’s Ice Cream for fresh ice cream consistently voted some of the best in the state. And if you’re staying the night, the Madison Beach Hotel offers breathtaking ocean views, a spa, and on-site dining. Explore more spots to eat, stay, and play in Madison below.
Even though Essex is set along the Connecticut River, this town offers the quintessential New England beach town experience. Stroll a walkable, waterfront downtown complete with shops, restaurants and The Griswold Inn, one of the oldest continuously operated inns and tap rooms in the country.
Board the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat or even indulge your taste buds on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. Visit the Connecticut River Museum, which offers permanent and rotating exhibits, as well as daytime and sunset cruises aboard the ship Onrust. If you have theater fever, delight in shows at Ivoryton Playhouse or Goodspeed Opera House in nearby East Haddam (if you’re willing to take a detour). Finally, get a unique dining experience sampling a plethora of flavors at The Essex Public Market & Food Hall, the Connecticut shoreline’s first food hall. Explore more spots to eat and play in Essex below.
If you’re visiting the coastal town of Old Saybrook, Saybrook Point Resort & Marina is a must-visit. Set along an idyllic marina where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, the resort offers an award-winning spa, restaurant and unique accommodations such as the Lighthouse Suite, main inn or lux guesthouses.
Old Saybrook is home to the pristine Harvey’s Beach, a popular spot to enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming. After soaking up the sun, tee off at Fenwick Golf Course, enjoy shopping downtown, or catch a show at the historic Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. Explore more spots to eat, stay, and play in Old Saybrook below.