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Spring & Summer Fun: Things to do in Connecticut

A summer vacation to the Connecticut shoreline is full of New England charm but just a short drive from New York and Boston. We're not talking about Connecticut's Gold Coast (Westport, Greenwich, etc) but rather about the more relaxed and authentic bit of the Connecticut coastline located between New Haven and Rhode Island on Long Island Sound.

A superb place to call home during your visit is the lovely Water's Edge Resort & Spa located in Westport, CT (203-226-5800). This turn of the century resort sits on a hill with flowing, manicured laws that lead down to a tranquil, private, sandy beach. You can choose to stay in one of the rooms in the main building or in one of the resort's private cottages, ideal for an romantic getaway.

If you are of the fun on the beach persuasion, then the Water's Edge Resort is strongly recommended. The shore is tranquil and easy to wade in because it is protected by the Long Island Sound. The sand is a beautiful white and there are lots of complimentary chairs and umbrellas to lay under and relax. Check out the stars at night with a crisp glass of Chardonnay from the full bar on the beach. If you want to pamper yourself in a romantic setting, it doesn't get much better than the Water's Edge.

Another nicely renovated hotel with lots of charm and a private beach is the historic Lighthouse Inn in New London, CT (860-443-8411). Although smaller than the Water's Edge, the Lighthouse Inn is designated as a Historic Hotel of America, and the restaurant draws in tourists and locals for its excellent cuisine. Indeed, the historic architecture and fine food is one of the chief draws of this locale. The chef was named one of Connecticut's best in Connecticut Magazine… Try the Long Island Duckling or the Seared Veal Medallions. If you are looking for an inexpensive weekend getaway, The Lighthouse Inn will do in a pinch.

So, now that you have a place to stay and a private beach, what else is there to do? Well, our favorite summertime sport in Connecticut is eating clams, of course! Little "fish shacks" that are only open during the summer abound in each little town and village along the coast that serve up the ubiquitous fried clam roll (whole clams only, please…no clam strips!…served on a toasted hot dog bun) as well as other summer seafood delights. Here are some of our favorites:

"The Place" - Guilford, CT - (203-453-9276)
This really is the place…dine outdoors (tree stumps serve as chairs arranged around cable-spool tables). The centerpiece of the yard is a giant barbeque pit that pours out amazing grilled seafood (and steaks)…but the barbequed clams are our favorite. Bring your own bottle of wine (they don’t serve liquor) and rub elbows with the locals…it is packed on weekends, so try a weeknight if possible…although even if crowded, it is still worth the wait. We highly recommend The Place for as a relaxed evening thing to do. Take in an early movie then head over here for the authentic outdoor grilled experience in a fun setting!

"Captain Scott's Lobster Dock" - New London, CT (860-439-1741)
Located in a marina on Shaw's Cove, this little joint (outdoor seating only) serves up both hot buttered lobster rolls and cold lobster salad rolls, but we were more impressed by their fried clam roll. They also sell fresh seafood if you would like to try your own hand at cooking some summer seafood treats.

"Fred's Shanty" - New London, CT - (860-447-1301)
Probably more well known than Captain Scott's (possibly because of its more prominent location?) although most locals will argue that this is the best of the fish shacks for miles around. The scallop roll was just as tasty as the clam roll, and, again, outdoor seating provides a view over a marina.

"Hallmark's Drive Inn" - Old Lyme, CT - (860-434-1998)
Just a little ways south on I-95 from New London, you will find the picturesque little colonial town of Old Lyme. There is a small art museum here and antique shops are the main attraction on the small main street (Lyme Street), but our destination was Hallmark's drive in. The calm roll here was excellent, although the most expensive of all of the rolls that we sampled. There is seating both inside and out (nothing fancy) and a view of a lighthouse in the distance. Halllmark's, now open year round, is also famous for its homemade ice cream.
During the summer, there is always a crowd.

Have you had enough seafood? Well, another fun excursion would be to visit the historic downtown of Mystic (north of New London off I-95). Once a busy whaling port, the downtown area is speckled with boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and you can even board a sailboat for a day or evening excursion.

Mystic Seaport
Also of note in Mystic is the Mystic Seaport, a museum set up like an old whaling town, and the Mystic Aquarium, which has a great outdoor section with seals and beluga whales. The Mystic Aquarium has been remodeled and now boasts some of the most wonderful exhibits. You might think of the Aquarium as a place for children, but give it a try, we are sure you will be charmed taking a relaxed stroll through the complex. Walk, enjoy each other's company... have fun!

The historic downtowns of the villages of Essex, Old Lyme, and Stonington are also quite charming, although smaller than Mystic.

If you are looking for a relaxed summer or spring getaway, this little section of the Connecticut shoreline is a great place to explore…especially if you love seafood!

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