It was Labor Day weekend and I wanted to get out of the house to enjoy the last weekend of summer. I was not sure where to go – there is actually a lot to do during this time in Massachusetts – but I wanted to explore something new.
What actually came to mind was an area of New England I had never really explored before – Connecticut – a place we normally drive through on our way to New York.
When people from Massachusetts think of summer gateways, they usually think of Cape Cod and Coastal Maine. But I never hear much about coastal Connecticut, so much so that I had to do some research before venturing out on our day trip.
The Ocean Enclosed Village
Our first stop of the day was at the picturesque Stonington Village, located in a small peninsula at the edge of the state, next to Rhode Island. I must say that by the time we had arrived, it was already mid-day since we left Boston a little bit later than usual.
The village is filled with very well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings and it is clustered inside a peninsula enveloped by the ocean. In its center, there is a tiny downtown lined with local shops where you can leave your car and walk – believe me, it is better to walk since its narrow streets were clearly not intended for cars.
While in town, we learned pretty quickly about the village's history, where it had been bombarded by the British during the Revolutionary War and then again in 1814, a conflict named the Battle of Stonington. Vestiges of this history is seen throughout the town with banners placed along its streets and antique canons displayed on its main plaza.
For some stunning coastal views, head to the tip of the peninsula not far from downtown. You will have extensive views of Narragansett Bay, some small islands and a multitude of birds alongside boats moving back and forth.
Tip: On your way in or out of the village, make sure to drive along its North Main Street scenic road. It is a short but stunning drive following vast green pastures, coves and sunflower fields.
The Ship Museum and Mystic Pizza
We drove for 10 minutes along the coastline, on Highway 1, before stopping at an extremely large complex: The Mystic Seaport Museum.
If you are the type of person - like I am - who is not found of recreation museums, please do not discard this place! Mystic Seaport has a notable collection of sailing ships and boats, all housed within a vast complex of original and relocated 19th century buildings.
The museum is also considered the largest maritime in the world, recognized for its preservation efforts and fleet of ships that include the immense Charles W. Morgan.
This is the last remaining whaling vessel in the country and walking above and below its quarters will give you a glimpse of the hard life sailors had to endure.
Close by is the Village of Mystic, where finding a parking spot during summer season is a trip in and of itself. This former shipbuilding village today is filled with tourists that come to enjoy one of the most famous towns in coastal Connecticut.
The busiest part of Mystic is its Main Street where we did some window shopping and competed with other visitors flocking into the town's several handmade ice-cream shops.
OMG Lobster Roll
The day was ending and we had one last quick stop before we ventured back to Boston. The village of Noank is just outside of Mystic and it is a calm and picturesque coastal town.
As we drove inside its quiet streets, we were welcomed by a motorcade of cars that we eventually discovered were heading to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough. This seasonal restaurant founded in the late 1940’s is located at the edge of town and it is a very popular destination for seafood - especially lobster rolls.
Try their OMG Hot Lobster Roll which comes with melted butter on a toasted bun. But keep in mind... they are only open from mid-May through September!
KEEP IN MIND
The Wrap-Up: I do not know why Connecticut’s coast is not as popular as other parts of New England, but we drove back to Boston wishing we had more time to explore its western side. If you wish to see this lovely coast while is not as overcrowded - hurry - because I am sure people will soon find out more about it!
For a Better Route: Do not take Interstate 95 as you go along the coast. In order to truly appreciate it, take smaller and inside roads such as Highway 1 and Route 156.
Complete the Drive: It is best to sleep, for at least one night, in a seaside town in order to be able to complete this entire coastal drive which goes from Stonington all the way to Greenwich. We were only able to explore the final stretch of Connecticut’s coastline since we did a day trip from Boston.