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Welcome back to Connecticut’s Shoreline and the 13th annual edition of The Shoreline Book.

Connecticut’s geographical coast may stretch a full 110 miles end-to-end, but at the heart of it all are eight small towns collectively referred to as The Shoreline — at least by their residents. They insist that you aren’t truly at The Shore until you can actually feel the sea breeze or spot gulls circling overhead…smell the brine soaked mud flats at low tide…hear the quiet whisper of the marsh grasses in the late afternoon…or fall asleep to the ebb and flow of waves off in the dark distance. And in Branford, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, and Essex just upriver, you can.

But it’s more than just that.

Whether you’re here for the day, a week, or the summer, you’ll notice the difference — life being a little less hurried, a little less harried. And like many before you, that difference might even tempt you to stay, because that’s the magic of the place.

Indeed, The Shoreline is a place where the cross-town Boston Post Road is actually narrower than some downstate Connecticut driveways — and the speed limit happily accommodates mallard duck and tractor crossings alike. It’s a place where the wooden floors of a country market are worn by centuries of patrons and revered by proprietors who actually know the names of the folks who always shop there. A place where travelers can still leave a dollar under a stone in exchange for a clutch of fresh-picked snapdragons. And a place where one can count on grabbing a bucket of steamers or crabs right at the town dock.

Here, family names like Griswold and Blackstone and Reynolds, Platt and Meigs, Scranton, Bradley, Wilcox, Chittenden, and Lord have been prominent since the 1600s, with many historic homes still occupied by descendants who steward cherished centuries-old architecture with tasteful care and generational pride.

Oh sure. From time to time, squabbles erupt over cottage-to-water sightlines or disagreements over a project that may compromise marsh-sparrow habitat. And town meetings are lively events, punctuated as much by laughter as controversy, with sparring partners on either side of any argument often related — at least by marriage — for centuries. But mostly, The Shoreline is a community of neighborliness where newcomers find it easy to relax. And why not?

For some, it’s the way the water creates a calming perspective, and for others it’s how shingles weathered to a silver gray on cottage after cottage lean in against the wind, undaunted. Maybe it’s the promise of uncovering secret places among the hidden beaches and quiet coves, much like children thrill at discovering precious shells tucked beneath the driftwood and seaweed carried in on the tide. Or it could be the abundance of local wildlife, the shifting salt meadows, or the garnet sand beaches. But it doesn’t really matter. There is a beauty here, tangible and otherwise, that is not simply beguiling. It’s the stuff over which writers wax poetic. And it goes beyond even that.

Woven into this tapestry of The Shoreline’s small-town heritage, community, and nature are the subtle textures and colors introduced by the ex-urbanites who flocked here in earlier decades from the big cities. Indeed, the influences of New York and Boston are always present in the vast array of restaurants, shops, galleries, concerts, plays, and other cultural offerings readily available among the more simple diversions.

So if you live here, please keep The Shoreline Book handy, because just about everything you’ll ever need is in here somewhere. And if you’re just visiting for a bit, choose a path and follow it, using The Shoreline Book as your guide. There are no wrong decisions, so you can’t miss.

Either way, we hope you’ll enjoy not only what The Shoreline has to offer but what The Shoreline Book has to offer.

Photos by Jennifer Cardinal

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