Great Drives Along the Connecticut Coast Last Updated: November 2023
Everyone knows that busy I-95 and U.S. Route 1 follow the Connecticut shoreline from Greenwich east out to Stonington, but there are a lot of lesser-known routes that’ll give you the flavor of the coast and sometimes take you right down to the water. Here are several recommendations to get you started.
Route 136 – Darien to Westport
Also known as Tokeneke Road, Route 136 heads south from Exit 12 off I-95, eventually getting to the coastal section of Norwalk that’s known as Rowayton.
- Rowayton: Here you can get an excellent meal at The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood and wander side streets down to the Sound.
- South Norwalk: From Rowayton, continue on 136 into historic South Norwalk, where shops, restaurants and the Maritime Aquarium await.
- Overnight: The trip ends on Post Road East (U.S. Route 1) where you can spend the night at the Inn at Longshore.
Routes 337, 142 and 146 – New Haven to Guilford
At Exit 51 off I-95, take Route 337 south; you’ll pass New Haven’s East Shore Park and Fort Nathan Hale Park as you begin this tour.
- Lighthouse Point: Here you’ll see not only a fine old lighthouse but also a carousel that’s open for rides in summer.
- Indian Point: Follow Route 337 to 142 in Branford to 1N to 146 to Indian Point, where you can order a shore dinner at Lenny’s Indian Head.
- Stony Creek: After 146, keep an eye out for Thimble Islands Road, which goes to charming Stony Creek and a tour of the Thimble Islands.
- Guilford Green: Now it’s on to Guilford and the famous Guilford Green (shopping, history) then not far, a bed cozy awaits.
Route 154 – Old Saybrook to Haddam
This trip follows both the Connecticut coast and the Connecticut River. Begin by taking Exit 66 off I-95, then Route 1 north a short way before finding 154.
- Fenwick: Head south on 154 past Harvey’s Beach to the historic retreat of Fenwick (where Katharine Hepburn came for the salty breezes).
- Saybrook Point: Next it’s up to Saybrook Point, where you can see Fort Saybrook Monument Park and stop for a meal at Saybrook Point Resort & Marina.
- Old Saybrook: Now it’s north into central Old Saybrook for shopping, strolling and many good places for something to eat.
River Valley: Finally it’s up through the beautiful Lower Connecticut River Valley, lined with charming towns and many attractions.
Route 156 – Old Lyme to Niantic
This side trip heads south toward the water on Rte. 156 from Exit 70 off I-95.
- Picnic Spot: As you head south, take a right onto Ferry Road, at the end of which is a little-known picnic area on the Connecticut River.
- Rocky Neck: Next on 156 you can visit the funky shoreline community of Sound View Beach and then swim or hike at Rocky Neck State Park.
- Niantic: It’s on to Niantic, where there’s a remarkably used book store called the Book Barn and a long boardwalk along the water.
- Dinner and Room: Try The Black Sheep, Skippers Seafood, or Sunset Ribs. The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is a good place to stay.
Route 213 – Waterford to New London
Here’s a short, simple loop off of U.S. Route 1 that brings some true waterfront pleasures.
- Harkness Memorial: Take 213 south from Route 1 to Harkness Memorial State Park, formerly a magnificent 230-acre summer estate.
- O’Neill Theatre: Practically next door is the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre Center. If you’re a fan of theatre, check out the offerings.
- Ocean Beach Park: Take 213 to Ocean Avenue in New London, then go south to Ocean Beach Park for a sandy beach, rides and a boardwalk.