Southeastern Connecticut Shore – for the whole family’s vacation

lighthouse at Noank

Connecticut's rocky shore at Noank, where the Mystic River flows into Long Island Sound

Connecticut’s shore is rocky so its beaches tend to be of modest scale. Tucked into coves, or bordering river deltas they have relatively safe swimming conditions for the very young and old alike. At low tide, beach walking is easy on the hard-packed wet sand. At high tide, there are few waves except during stormy periods.

Low tide is a joy for all who love discovery. Try to catch a razor clam! You’ll see it squirt and think, “I’ve got it!” But sensing your footstep, the clam shoots down deeper into the bottom, never to be found. A different squirt could turn up a quahog; a big, ridged, hard-shelled clam that makes tasty chowder (pronounced “chowda” in Boston). And what youngster could resist squeezing those strings of seaweed that hug the rocks, thrilled to hear the juicy pop?

Even being sedentary at the shore gives pleasure. Take a beach umbrella, sit near the waters’ edge where you can cool your feet and read a good book, scan the horizon or watch the nearby swimmers

Fun and games for active family members are provided at most beaches with areas set up for volley ball, basketball, picnics, hiking, biking, and of course, scampering across the rocky coastline.

Most town beaches have daily fees or parking passes during season (mid-June to Labor Day).

Stalking Seafood:

Abbott's hot lobster roll

100 % lobster on a hot roll at Abbott's in Noank

A visit to this area is usually prompted by a traveler’s yearning for the perfect clam chowder or lobster roll. Our return here was no different. Accordingly, a trip to Abbott’s Lobster In The Rough in Noank was essential. We were not disappointed, having ordered the hot lobster sandwich; a large portion of buttered lobster on a toasted bun. Seated at a bench overlooking the harbor and adjacent shipyard on a sunny, breezy day assured us we had made the right choice.

If you’re up to do-it-yourself, an outstanding fish market in Groton and Noank is Grossman’s – their lobster bisque and clam chowder are unbeatable. Buy two quarts hot; have one for supper and freeze the other for another memorable meal.

Company picnic at Abbott's in Noank

A beautiful day for a company picnic at Abbott's in Noank

Groton’s other pleasures, to mention a few:

There are parks for every persuasion – a large safe park to challenge the hottest skateboarders; two beach parks (Esker and Eastern Point); a par 3 golf course by the airport; the regulation Shennecossett Golf Course nearby; plenty of fields for team sports; and to top it all off – “Central Bark” – a fenced area where dogs can romp leashless, separated by size, while their owners watch the shenanigans in shaded comfort.

Zbeirski house on Eastern Point Beach, Groton, CT

Zbeirski house on Eastern Point Beach, Groton, CT

Molly and T-Rous at Abbott's

Chocolate lab Molly and black lab T-Raus enjoying life at Abbott's Lobster in the Rough

Reading at Avery Point

Some beachgoers prefer to just read while enjoying the smell of salt water and the sound of seagulls.

The new Groton Senior Center has programs for everything the Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t cover, including day trips to nearby attractions and long trips to far-away places.

We’ve signed up for a boat tour of the Thimble Islands – a cluster of “dumplings” just off Branford, CT. Many inhabitants commute by boat to their work in New Haven and further afield.

The Senior Center is also sponsoring a trip in 2012 to Vietnam, so you see, their horizons are boundless.

Across the Thames River, the U.S.Coast Guard Academy has just completed renovating the Leamy concert hall, where their renowned band frequently gives free concerts. It is a masterpiece of acoustical woodwork – many shapes, sizes and placements, all designed to give the orchestra’s sound incredible depth. About the Band and their scheduled trips.


Hotels and motels – in Groton, none are outstanding. I expected a garden atmosphere at the Hilton Garden Inn, but that simply referred to their bedding (?). The Quality Inn has all the amenities associated with the chain. Smaller inns along the Gold Star Highway are clean and less expensive. In checking with Trip Advisor or other rating sites, remember to consider the reviewer; several either have an axe to grind or ulterior motive for giving a bad review. Caveat emptor.

Impressive nearby lodging is available at the two casinos run by American Indian tribes:
The Mohegan Sun – sponsors of the women’s basketball team, The Sun (many former UCONN stars), and the more lavish Foxwood – owned by MGM Grand Hotels. Both are full resorts with spas, etc.

For a list of nearby B&Bs, all lovely, and mostly historic see B&Bs near Groton (from Westbrook to the Rhode Island border, including Mystic and Stonington) see links below.

For those of us with medical concerns:

The Pequot Health Center in Groton provides emergency aid, laboratories, and an out-patient surgery department. It is connected to the Lawrence and Memorial Hospital of New London.

And if you do decide to look into 65+ housing in the area, here, alphabetically are a few choices:
Academy Point – Assisted Living in Mystic
Mytic River Homes – Affordable Assisted Living in Noank
Odd Fellows Home – Affordable Independent and Assisted Living in Groton
The Regency – Assisted Living, Respite and Short Term Care in Groton
Windham Falls Estates – Senior Independent with Home Health Care available in Groton

All photos: © 2011, Gail Hunter

Other References:
Groton Parks and Recreation Progarms
From the Smithsonian Marine Station on hard clams
Connecticut’s new travel website
Visit the Mystic Seaport

Links to related Striped Pot articles:

Gail Hunter’s New England & Florida articles




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