Must-Visit Coastal Towns In Connecticut

A scenic view of the waterfront in Mystic, Connecticut
A scenic view of the waterfront in Mystic, Connecticut | © National Geographic Image Collection / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Christy Taylor
4 August 2020

Connecticut has a total of 24 towns along its shoreline on Long Island Sound, each offering something a little different. From the historic seaport of Mystic to swanky Westport and Greenwich; or quaint Old Saybrook to beachy Madison and artsy Old Lyme, here are just a few to explore.

Mystic

Mention the name Mystic and a few things come to mind. First could be the Julia Roberts movie Mystic Pizza. The actual pizzeria that inspired the movie still exists and visitors can grab their own ‘slice of heaven’. It also conjures up images of the historic Mystic Seaport. A leading maritime museum, visitors can board preserved ships including the world’s only surviving wale ship, the Charles W Morgan.

At Mystic Aquarium the must-see attraction is the sweet-faced Beluga whales, whose habitat is the largest in the US. The historic downtown area of Mystic is a food-lover’s dream with diverse restaurants, as well as shopping and a variety of other attractions.

Westport is one of Connecticut’s most prosperous towns | © KC Prints / Alamy Stock Photo

Westport

Originally a farming community, today Westport is one of Connecticut’s most prosperous towns. Overlooking the Saugatuck River, the downtown area has a little of everything with independent boutiques, high-end international retailers, local chains, restaurants and galleries. It blends New England charm with cosmopolitan appeal.

Along with shopping, for the sunseekers there is Sherwood Island State Park, Compo Beach and places to rent kayaks. Actor Paul Newman called Westport home until his passing in 2008. During that time he was active in the community, involved in Westport Country Playhouse and opening the Farmers’ Market.

Old Saybrook

Sitting at the mouth of the Connecticut River, overlooking the point of Long Island, is the state’s oldest shoreline town. The original birthplace of Yale, the town’s historic character has been carefully preserved. A walk down Main Street to the Fenwick Historic district is filled with opportunities to admire the classic homes, visit antique shops, boutiques or dine in one of the many restaurants.

Katharine Hepburn once called Saybrook home and is honored by the performing arts centre known to locals as ‘The Kate’. Snap a shot of the picturesque bleached white Lynde Point Lighthouse and make sure to enjoy a traditional Connecticut lobster roll before leaving.

Madison has two miles of beaches | © Susan Pease / Alamy Stock Photo

Madison

One of the main draws of Madison is the popular Hammonasset Beach State Park, which has two miles of beach, wetlands, woodlands, a boardwalk and nature centre. Its charming downtown area is pedestrian-friendly with a number of restaurants, cafés, boutiques and The Audubon Shop.

A popular haunt is RJ Julia Booksellers, praised as one of the best independent bookstores in the country. In the past it has hosted famous authors such as Anne Rice and Hillary Clinton. Make sure to stop by the Madison Art Cinema, Madison Green Historic District and the Deacon John Grave House.

Greenwich

Home to hedge funds and financial service companies, affluent Greenwich is where Manhattanites move when they want to live in the ‘suburbs‘. The tree-lined main street Greenwich Avenue is lined with an array of high-end shops and boutiques, along with popular chain stores, cute cafés and elegant restaurants. The small park makes for great people-watching.

Along with shopping, visitors can take in a match at its polo club, explore the nooks and crannies in adorable Diane’s Books, stroll Bruce Park and then visit the accompanying museum or enjoy one of the four beaches.

Old Lyme

Named after Lyme Regis in England, this beach town is famous for its past and present connection to the arts. In the early 1900s it was home to an artists’ community at Florence Griswold’s boarding house and the burgeoning American Impressionist movement. Today it has an art school, many galleries and still attracts practising artists.

Located some 10 minutes from town is Sound View Beach, which is accessible to the public (unlike others which are private), where visitors can swim, enjoy homemade ice cream at Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe or ride the carousel.

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