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Useful CT Shoreline Sites & Area Attractions

BRANFORD - CLINTON - ESSEX - GUILFORD - MADISON - OLD LYME - OLD SAYBROOK - WESTBROOK

BRANFORD

James Blackstone Memorial Library - 758 Main Street, Branford, 203-488-1441
The James Blackstone Memorial Library isn’t just a place filled with books. Built between 1893 and 1896 by railroad magnate Timothy Beach Blackstone, its stunning rotunda is decorated with Oliver D. Grover murals, making it one of Connecticut’s finest public buildings — and a truly novel place to visit. Open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Outer Island - 860-424-3034 (Access info from US Fish & Wildlife Service)
A vital part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge since 1995, Branford’s Outer Island — the outermost of the Thimble Islands and its jewel —is more than simply an unspoiled ecological preserve and refuge for migratory birds. Thanks to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the State of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Southern Connecticut State University and Central Connecticut State University, all of which have partnered to conduct research, provide education, and develop public programming, Outer Island is a place where students and non-students alike can enrich their connection to the natural world while building an understanding and appreciation for Long Island Sound’s unique resources. Visitor information is available on the website.

Thimble Island Cruises

Volsunga IV - 203-488-9978 or 203-481-3345.
Adrift on dry land? Then head to the town dock for one of three Thimble island cruises — Captain Bob Milne’s 40-foot Volsunga IV, which boards at “a quarter to” and leaves promptly on the hour daily (except some Mondays) July through the day before Labor Day. A native of Stony Creek, Captain Bob tells stories about such island visitors as Captain Kidd and Tom Thumb that are every bit as colorful as the scenery. Handicap accessible. Charters available. Groups of more than twelve should call ahead for reservations.

Sea Mist II - 203-488-8905
Also berthed at Stony Creek’s town dock is Captain Mike Infantino’s 45-foot Sea Mist II, now in its 40th year providing landlubbers with tours of the Thimble islands. The cruising schedule begins in May, expands in June, and includes hourly departures daily in July and August. With fall in New England beautiful, September cruises, as well as October tours (weather permitting), are equally enjoyable. And the Sea Mist II is available for two-hour evening charters and winter seal-watching cruises. Call for a schedule or visit the web site.

Islander - 203-397-3921
The third in Stony Creek’s popular trio of Thimble Island cruises is Captain Dave Kusterer’s 26-foot port launch, The Islander. Being a bit smaller, it offers sightseers a peek at many areas of the Thimble Islands not accessible on larger vessels. Carrying 18 passengers at a time on 45 minute excursions, The Islander leaves daily at “twenty minutes to” from 10:40 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. mid-June to Labor Day.

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CLINTON

Bluefin Charters - Foot of Grove Street, Clinton, 203- 421-7981 or 877-259-9920
Sportfishing enthusiasts will find themselves hooked on Captain Mike Marro’s 38’ Bluefin Charters. Conveniently located at Clinton Harbor, he and his boat — U.S. Coast Guard-licensed and fully insured — are equipped for both in- and offshore day charters (bait and tackle provided), as well as half- or full-day trips April through December.

Captain Elisha White House - 103 East Main Street, Clinton, 860-669-2148
“Old Brick,” as this historic home has come to be known, was built by Captain Elisha White in 1750, using bricks carried aboard an English ship as ballast. Filled with 18th- and 19th-century furnishings and artwork — and the oldest such dwelling on the Boston Post Road between New Haven and New London, the house is part of a campus that includes gardens, a tool museum, and a library. The library and archives are open most Wednesdays year-round from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The house itself is open by appointment only.

Chamard Vineyard - 115 Cow Hill Road, Clinton, 860-664-0299
Devoting a full 20 of its exceptional 40-acre property to growing fine grapes for premium table wines, Chamard Vineyard offers a warm welcome to visitors year round. Tastings and tours are held every Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.— and lunch or dinner at The Bistro, with its French-inspired farm-to-table menu, is a must. Calling ahead is recommended, especially during winter or holiday weekends.

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ESSEX

Essex Art Association - North Main Street, Essex, 860-767-8996
For more than half a century, the Essex Art Association has exhibited the works of its own gifted artists in its historic gallery above the village — and equally popular with residents and visitors alike are the Association’s four invitational and juried shows each season. Open daily 1 to 5 p.m. from April through October, admission free.

Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Ride - 1 Railroad Avenue, Essex,
860-767-0103 or 800-ESSEXTRAIN
Boasting a vintage steam locomotive and railcars, the Essex Steam Train delights passengers with a leisurely one-hour train ride along Connecticut’s beautiful Shoreline. Select the 2½-hour excursion, and the fun doubles with both rail and riverboat rides! Running from May through October, with special Easter and Christmas excursions, as well as an evening dinner train in warmer months, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Ride is just the ticket for kids of any age. Call for the schedule or visit the website.

Ivoryton Playhouse - 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, 860- 767-7318
When the lights go down and the curtain goes up at the Ivoryton Playhouse — America’s oldest professional self-supporting theater, the audience is always in for a real treat. To check out the current season’s shows, including an always great combination of comedies, dramas, holiday extravaganzas, and family productions, just visit the website.

The Pratt House Museum - 18 West Avenue, Essex
With its trove of remarkable local treasures, this small museum, owned and operated by the Essex Historical Society, offers visitors an intimate peek at the past through beautiful 17th- and 18th- century furnishings, exquisite ironwork from the former Pratt smithy, and an authentically restored herb garden. Open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. from June to Labor Day, admission is free.

Spectrum Gallery - 61 Main Street, Centerbrook, 860-767-0742
This uniquely colorful non-profit arts organization and gallery highlights the world-class talents of regional and national artists and artisans, exhibiting their paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed media in the gallery — and showcasing their finely crafted fabrics, glass, ceramics, paper, pottery, jewelry and more in the Artisan Store. Classes and events of all kinds, as well as summer camps for the kids, are the cherries on top.

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GUILFORD

Bishop's Farm Market and Orchards - 7355 Boston Post Road, Guilford, Farm Market, 203-453-2338;
pick-your-own info-line, 203-458-PICK (7425)
Established in 1871, Bishop’s Farm just keeps “growing,” with its pick-your-own orchards and fields, for those who fancy harvesting their own fruits and veggies…a wonderful farm stand and CSA memberships that make creating fresh-picked farm-to-table meals and canning easy peasy…over 150 cheeses…as well as both a bakery and kitchen, turning out some of the best breads, confections, soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees around. And to make this a truly vintage farm, they also have a sweet little winery with tastings and tours. Open year-round Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. Call ahead on their unique Pick-Your-Own Info Line at 203-458-PICK (7425) for crop updates.

Dudley Farm - 2357 Durham Road (Route 77), Guilford, 203-457-0770
So named for the Dudley family, which has worked this, their original homestead, for two centuries, the Dudley Farm’s eight buildings and remnant structures, including the 1840s farmhouse, an enormous U-shaped barn, and lush herb and flower gardens, draw those who love all things historic, those who crave the fresh produce available at their June-through-October seasonal market, and enough events and activities to make regular trips to the farm a must. Visit year-round Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And to find out what’s happening when, visit the website.

Thomas Griswold House - 777 Boston Street, at the corner of Lovers Lane, Guilford, 203-453-3176 or 203-453-4666
This 1774 saltbox boasts an original Guilford cupboard and a 10-foot-wide fireplace with two beehive ovens. An annual antiques festival is held here on the last Saturday in July, and there’s a Civil War encampment each year on the grounds. Open Mid-June to October, Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Guilford Art Center - 411 Church Street, (Route 7), Guilford, 203-453-5947
Imagined into being by local artists some 50 years ago, this exceptional arts center offers a palette of workshops and classes for adults and children that is both colorful and comprehensive, the most expansive public exhibition space between Old Lyme and New Haven, and its own shop, all of which are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Hours are extended for both the holiday exhibition and sale in November and December and for the summer Craft Expo on the green.

Medad Stone Tavern Museum - 197 Three Mile Course, 203-453-2263
Medad Stone built this beautiful tavern on Three Mile Course in 1803, absolutely certain that the Boston Post Road would be rerouted and his selected location would prove opportune. Sadly, that didn’t happen — so Medad’s Tavern never opened. Well, not then, anyway. After serving as a private dwelling for two centuries, it was placed in the hands of the Guilford Keeping Society, which restored the property and now welcomes visitors on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4:00 p.m. between June and September, as well as by appointment. Admission is charged.

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MADISON

Allis-Bushnell House - 853 Boston Post Road, Madison, 203-245-4567
Now home to the Madison Historical Society, the Allis-Bushnell House, which was built in 1785, has also been home to a series of prominent local families, including that of Cornelius Bushnell, a founder of the Union Pacific Railway and chief financier of the USS Monitor, the first iron-clad warship, which was commissioned during the Civil War. Here, history comes to life, thanks to a series of downstairs rooms carefully appointed to illustrate colonial days, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War era, and the Colonial Revival — and the Docents, whose colorful stories of what it was like way back when are vivid and engaging. There are guided tours every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Memorial Day to October 1st.

Lenny and Joe’s Flying Menagerie Magical Carousel - 1301 Boston Post Road, Madison, 203-245-7289
They say what goes around comes around, and that’s never been more true than the handmade carousel at Lenny and Joe’s in Madison, the proceeds from which have all gone to charity. And so far, those proceeds — collected from just $1.50 a ride, have added up to well over a million bucks. Give it a whirl.

Hammonasset Beach State Park and Meigs Point Nature Center - Off the Boston Post Road at exit 62 of 1-95, Madison, Park: 203-245-2785
What draws residents and visitors to Hammonasset Beach State Park? Well, it’s the state’s longest public beach, with two miles of direct shorefront, as well as nearly 1,000 scenic acres. Then there are the boardwalks and pavilions and picnic shelters that encourage folks to explore a little and relax a while. A campground, playing fields, nature center, walking trails, and bike paths extend an appealing invitation for longer stays. And Meigs Point Nature Center, with its fresh and saltwater aquariums, a marine touch tank, and live amphibians and reptiles offer all who visit a peek at what lives beneath the Sound and within the nearby marshes. The park is open daily year-round from 8 a.m. to sunset. The campground is open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. And the Meigs Point Nature Center is open from late April - September 30, Tuesday - Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Off season hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday. (Alcohol is not permitted.)

Susan Powell Fine Art - 679 Boston Post Road, Madison, 203-318-0616
Voted Best Gallery to Buy Art, Susan Powell Fine Art represents 40 nationally known and emerging artists and has over 30 years of experience creating private collections, with art for all budgets. Exhibitions afford a brush with gifted artists whose landscapes and marine imagery, still lifes, figuratives, depictions of New York City, and abstract oils have won both coveted awards and devoted followers.

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OLD LYME

Florence Griswold Museum - 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, 860-434-5542
A National Historic Landmark, this celebrated museum, which is set on 13 acres along the Lieutenant River, was built in 1817 and eventually became home to Miss Florence Griswold. Having run it as a boarding house for gifted painters, the house has long been considered the home of American Impressionism. Indeed, the museum features an outstanding collection of American Impressionist works — including the original artworks her talented lodgers painted directly on the dining room wall panels, and guided tours provide a wonderful accompaniment to the visual riches. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. between June and December, and Wednesday through Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. between January and May. The first floor of the main house is wheelchair accessible.

Griswold Point and Great Island Roger Tory Peterson Wildlife Area - Parking off Route 156
They call it the “great” outdoors — and here are a couple of the many reasons why. This shallow saltwater estuary is ideal for kayaking and canoeing. The beautiful sand spit, a protected nesting site for piping plovers and least terns, offers wonderful hiking. Visitors can observe Connecticut’s largest colony of osprey from late March through autumn months. And feel those sea breezes. Open year-round, dawn to dusk. Great Island is accessible only by boat.

The Carousel at Old Lyme - 75-81 Hartford Avenue, 860-434-3908
Grab a seat on the vintage Allan Herschell Carousel at Old Lyme’s Sound View Beach, Connecticut’s best public beach — then get ready for some fun! Dating from 1925, this beautiful merry-go-round features twenty carved horses on which to ride, along with two stationary seats. And yes — there are brass rings just waiting to be grabbed by those flying by! Walk next door and there’s more fun, because The Carousel Shop offers 32 flavors of JJ Lawsen’s Gourmet Ice Cream, yogurt, premium soft serve, or sherbet, as well as gifts and beach items, with some neat casual clothing at the Carousel Shop Too. A perfectly splendid time will be had by all (especially the kiddos).

The Chocolate Shell - 18 Lyme Street, 860-434-9727
Appropriately self-described as “the sweetest destination in Old Lyme,” The Chocolate Shell is where those addicted to the melt-in-your-mouth wondrousness of chocolate in any and all of its many forms flock year round. A heavenly little place where kids can stock up on vintage candies like Abba Zabba, Air Heads, Bubble Tape, Double Bubba, Candy Necklaces, Ice Cubes, Peanut Chews, Soda Bottles, and Swedish Fish. And for the young at heart, there are nostalgic candies, hot chocolate, gourmet Belgian chocolate, gifts, as well as a whole line of event favors and corporate gifts — plus gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and even sugar-free confection collections, so no one ever goes home disappointed! Just follow the sticky fingerprints.

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OLD SAYBROOK

General William Hart House - 350 Main Street, Old Saybrook, 860-388-2622
Built in 1767 by affluent trade-ship owner General William Hart for his new bride, Esther Buckingham, this beautiful home was among the earliest in Old Saybrook — the first settlement on the state’s southern shore. Now fully restored and home to the Old Saybrook Historical Society, the house and its award-winning 18th-century flower and herb gardens are open weekends from 1 to 4 p.m. from June through August. A lovely place to pass some time and soak up some history.

Harvey's Beach and Town Beach - Great Hammock Road, Parks and Recreation: 860-395-3152
Offering 100 yards of year-round shorefront access — and in the summer months a bathhouse, restrooms, and outdoor showers, Harvey’s Beach provides sun worshippers and swimmers, strollers and shell seekers, and even those digging their way to China (or building the biggest sand castle ever) all the wonders of the seashore with all the comforts of home. Open Memorial through Labor Day, lifeguards are on duty on weekends only until June, then daily through Monday, September 3, 2018. There is a daily fee for non-residents in season. Nearby, the Town Beach has lifeguards, restrooms, a concession, and a picnic shelter, with parking in-season for residents only.

Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center (The Kate) - 300 Main Sreet, Old Saybrook, Tickets: 877-503-1286
Located right on Main Street in Old Saybrook’s historic theatre and town hall, the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center — also known as The Kate — is an intimate 250-seat theater and museum honoring Katharine Hepburn, the town’s most celebrated resident. Made possible through funding provided by the town of Old Saybrook and donations raised by trustees of the center, the center’s programming is a superbly eclectic mix of professional theater, dance, and music. Indeed, something for all ages and everything it should be.

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WESTBROOK

Stewart B. Mckinney National Wildlife Refuge - 733 Old Clinton Road, Westbrook, 860-399-2513
Home to more than 280 species of resident and migratory neo-tropical birds, the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, comprising seven other Connecticut shoreline sanctuaries, is headquartered in this pristine 192-acre habitat of salt marsh, grassland, and forest. Open year-round, humans are welcome from half an hour before dawn to half an hour past dusk. Make time for a visit.

Westbrook Fife & Drum Muster - Westbrook
When the Ancient Mariners and their cronies march down the Boston Post Road in tri-cornered hats and black leather boots as they have ever since 1959, it’s easy to believe that if you’re patient, General Washington or the Marquis de Lafayette will appear on horseback just behind them. No wonder the Westbrook Fife and Drum Muster, along with the fifty or more fife and drum corps who join them as they encamp here, draw a crowd of thousands every fourth weekend of August. Best put it on the calendar because it’s really quite an experience.

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