A Glance at Connecticut’s State Park Beaches
Posted on May 5, 2014
Write-up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb
Late spring tranquility and solitude along Connecticut’s state park beaches will soon give way to wall-to-wall people on colorful blankets, or in sand chairs soaking up the sun and enjoying the surf. Here’s a glance at some and what they have to offer.
HAMMONASSET STATE PARK, this two mile beach on 1288 Boston Post Road in Madison is the state’s largest. A popular vacation camping site, it has 550 grassy campsites, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection which oversees the state park system. Generally, campsites are booked well in advance. Hammonasset has a boardwalk, swimming, saltwater fishing, bicycling, carry-in boating, walking trails, concessions, showers, picnicking and Meig’s Point Nature Center. A variety of restaurants and night spots can be found along Boston Post Road as it runs into neighboring towns – a favorite is Lenny and Joe’s in Westbrook.
OCEAN BEACH PARK located at 1225 Ocean Street in New London was arguably the state’s best known beach at one time. In its glory days of the 1950s and 1960s is was said to have been ‘the‘ Connecticut shoreline destination complete with an arcade, amusement park, mini golf, a ballroom/restaurant, concessions and a half mile boardwalk. Before being torn down for renovations that some say went awry, its famous clock tower was a meeting point for generations (as part of a “Save Ocean Beach” movement efforts had been underway to rebuild the old icon), and, the park’s once annual Polka festival is said to have been legendary. Though not the Grand Dame of its heyday, Ocean Beach still has many of those features that made it a magnet for summer fun. Tops among them, ocean swimming in the Atlantic and a view of Long Island Sound as ferry boats pass by at regular intervals. Plus there is an Olympic size pool and concerts, dances, volley tournaments and Fourth of July fireworks that are still held there. A new nature walk and bird-watching observation deck has been added. Outside the park, about a mile down Ocean Ave. is Fred’s Shanty, a neat little hot dog and clam shack that puts out a good tasting New England Clam Chowder – parking is tight and a bit tricky.
ROCKY NECK STATE PARK in East Lyme can be reached by taking exit 72 off I-95. It is about three miles west of Niantic village. It has beautiful white sand and offers swimming, picnicking, a concession stand, camping, scuba diving, saltwater fishing and in the winter, cross-country skiing. A great spot to try for a casual bite to eat is Dad’s Restaurant, a screened in roadside stand in nearby Niantic where a cool breeze often comes in off the water.
As well, public beaches can be found at the 234 acre SHERWOOD ISLAND STATE PARK in Westport and SILVER SANDS STATE PARK in Milford.
Season passes for the state parks can be purchased at a nominal fee, currently $67 for residents and $112 for non-residents. In addition, the Charter Oak Pass is available for free to Connecticut residents age 65 and older and a lifetime free pass is available for disabled state veterans with military service related disabilities.