Following a history of maritime activity, Mystic, Connecticut has transformed from an old shipbuilding town to a seaside getaway with fantastic modern marine services. Dock at The Mystic Seaport or the Brewer Yacht Yard, which are walking distance from town.
A small-town tinged with nostalgia, Mystic remains true to its heritage by offering a variety of marine-themed adventures. From the famous Mystic Seaport museum to the aquarium and charters on the Mystic River, this quaint city is a destination you don’t want to miss.
Although the costumed interpreters populating the replicated Mystic Seaport village may live in the past, historic downtown Mystic has endless modern shopping and dining opportunities. Enjoy upscale seafood blended with South American flavors on the water at S&P Oyster Company. If casual and family-friendly are more your style, don’t miss a trip to Mystic Pizza, made famous of the 1988 movie starring Julia Roberts. Wind down the evening with dessert at “Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream,” serving homemade ice cream that is to die for.
Mystic, Connecticut is the perfect spot for a family vacation, accommodating children of all ages. Locate the big dipper in the planetarium, experience the sailor’s life at the children’s museum, or listen to stories by the villagers of Mystic Seaport, brought to life from the past.
Millions of years ago, glaciers buckled, folded and fractured the bedrock shores of what is now Long Island Sound. This ancient activity underlies the crook-and-cranny beauty that attracts boaters from around the world. It's a popular body of water, yet you can still find quiet pockets surrounded by the bounty of nature, particularly with the right timing. Here are some of the anchorages that many enjoy and suggestions for when it may be best to hoist the anchor, secure a mooring and gunkhole by dinghy while boating on Long Island Sound.
From Algonquin Indian paddlers to Great Gatsby-style parties in the Roaring '20s to the current protected bird colonies, these islands have held the hands of time. While boating on Long Island Sound, pay careful attention to the many hazards and substantial tide swings. Most of the islands are privately owned, but Chimon and Sheffield are part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and open to the public (except for nesting restrictions from April 1 to Aug. 15). There is an anchorage bowl southeast of Chimon Island. On the island's northwest, shallow-draft boats anchor at the beach while others stay farther out. Northwest of Sheffield Island, which is exposed to the southwest, is still a nice place to drop the hook.
Swallows swarm in fall, bald eagles nest in winter, and shad school in spring. In summer, the Connecticut River is all about boating on Long Island Sound. The southernmost towns provide some nice spots to anchor. Grab a mooring or gunkhole in your dinghy. Old Saybrook has several special anchorages, one of which is above the highway bridge between Ferry Point and Calves Island. The town of Old Lyme has two transient moorings in the anchorage north of Calves Island (two-night maximum). Near Essex, there is a short-term spot east of Nott Island (shoaling has been reported so watch your depths). For a longer stay, bypass the anchor and contact Brewer Dauntless Marina (860-767-8267) or Saybrook Point Marina, Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook (860-395-3080).
The shores become even more bucolic as you continue up the Connecticut River. Stunning Hamburg Cove in Lyme has always attracted those looking for a quiet place or hoping to rendezvous with friends. It is currently filled with moorings, so you should contact the harbormaster (860-434-0028) for your best options. To the north, Selden Creek makes you feel like you've gone back in time. Its natural protection makes it a popular hurricane hole for locals. The creek runs around Selden Island and has deep water for anchoring, yet many find it too narrow for swing room. To truly appreciate the environs, stay at a marina in Deep River or Chester Point Marina (860-526-1661) and gunkhole around the island by dinghy.
World-renowned seaports, fresh seafood and quaint villages define Noank and Mystic. One of the quietest anchorages is east of private Ram Island (it can get lumpy from easterlies). If you're up for a two-mile ride, you can dinghy to the municipal dock at the Mystic drawbridge. An anchorage closer to shore is across the channel from Ford's Lobster (860-536-2842), which also offers transient moorings. The anchorage just above Mystic Seaport holds about 4 feet of water, according to the harbormaster. The maximum stay is seven days, and there is a dinghy dock if you are visiting the Seaport. Moorings are available at Noank Village Boatyard (860-536-1770) or Noank Shipyard (860-536-9651). Nearby Bebee Cove and Palmer Cove are beautiful shallow water gunkholes to visit by dinghy.
Nine-mile-long Fishers Island has a storied history as a retreat for the rich and famous and is still predominantly private. Often associated with nearby Connecticut, it is actually a hamlet of New York. You can enjoy the beauty of this little island by anchoring in the designated anchorage at West Harbor outside the mooring field. You usually find ample room, and transients are welcome to use the dinghy dock at the Fishers Island Yacht Club. The east side of uninhabited Flat Hammock is a nice spot, and you can dinghy to shore for a swim. East Harbor can be a serene place for smaller boats.
Port Washington has honed the art of welcoming boaters. Cruising boaters rave about this place. Tucked well into Manhasset Bay, you can anchor in the federal anchorage outside the mooring field or use one of the 20 town mooring balls (free for two days). Check in on VHF 9 or with Port Washington Water Taxi (VHF 9 or 516-455-0411), which services the entire harbor. Amenities abound, whether stocking up on supplies or heading over for a meal at the landmark dock-and-dine Louie's Grill & Liquors, you will have access to it all.
This protected dual-basin just north of Huntington was dredged into the spit and is surrounded by Caumsett State Park with the exception of one private 20,000-square-foot Tudor mansion. It attracts many a mariner on weekends. The surrounding area is largely a bird sanctuary and private property, so be sure to heed the signs if you explore in your dinghy. The entrance is tricky. Deeper draft vessels should enter at high tide only, and you may want to follow another boat in if it's your first time. Watch for the bar north of the entrance. The two basins inside are joined by a narrow channel. There is good holding ground in both but more depth in the southern basin. Depths in the narrow inside channel can go as low as three feet.
Not far from the Sand Hole, you may want to head past the fun little hamlet of Oyster Bay and into West Harbor, a well-used protected anchorage. The enforced 5 mph speed limit in the harbor maintains safety. These waters are part of the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a winter migration area for waterfowl such as black ducks, canvasback and longtailed ducks. In summer, they are replaced by another type of water-lover boaters. Although you won't find much in the way of shore access, the surroundings are tranquil. Even in the warmer climes, you see plenty of feathered friends, the protected piping plover likely among them.
As you approach Huntington Bay, to port is a long prong of beach that wraps around Eaton's Neck Basin, a lovely anchorage bordered by nothing more than nature and one of the oldest Coast Guard stations in the country. You cannot go ashore as the land is now a bird sanctuary. Both the Coast Guard station and the historic Eaton's Neck Lighthouse remain active. The entrance is narrow, and buoys are not charted (be sure to pay attention to them, though). There are good depths inside. The Coast Guard station and lighthouse horn that blasts above you in fog add a lively twist to this gunkhole.
South of Eaton's Neck Basin, round the West Beach spit and anchor in Price Bend, also known as Sand City. The area is popular with local boaters. Anchoring is possible around Sand City Island all the way up to the cove, but be mindful of shallow spots and shoals and rocks. The area is home to Hobart Park, which is reachable by road and has a large parking lot and public boat ramp all the way up in the most protected part of the cove.
The waters near Port Jefferson have plenty of action with ferries that transit hourly to and from Connecticut. Note that MountMisery Cove on the east side of the harbor, which used to be a popular anchoring spot, is now largely filled with moorings. A better bet for anchoring is to head west behind Old Field Beach where you find deep water, but you have to watch for a number of areas where mounds can bring depths as low as three feet. If the bustle in town is enticing you, bypass anchoring and head straight to Port Jeff where you can get a transient mooring from either the Port Jefferson Launch Service (631-796-4462) or the Port Jefferson Yacht Club (631-473-9890). Call ahead or contact either on VHF 68. For longer stays, dock at Danford's Hotel, Marina & Spa (631-928-5200).
Mattituck Creek is a lovely winding waterway with marshland, wading birds and osprey. However, don't get too caughtup in the surroundings, as you have to pay attention to the buoys in the narrow channel. The end of your journey boating on Long Island Sound brings you to the charming hamlet of Mattituck. There is a federal anchorage just off Strong's Water Club and Marina (631-298-4739). You can land your dinghy at the town dock or opt for transient dockage at the resort-like marina. The area is just on the other side of Peconic Bay, and a short walk or bike ride gets you to the village with restaurants and shops; wineries are nearby.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used for navigation. All mariners should use up-to-date information from the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and check local regulations on anchoring and shore access.
FOUNDED IN 1635 and known as one of the oldest settlements in Connecticut, the quaint seaside town of Old Saybrook, 27 miles west of Mystic, sits where the Connecticut River meets the Long Island Sound. Saybrook Point was the site of a prominent fort and an important coastal trade center during the 1700s and 1800s for vessels from river boats to ocean ships. Present day Old Saybrook is as charming as ever, dotted with clapboard houses, boutiques, antique stores, galleries, and cafes that brim with history.
Old Saybrook is proud to have been the home of legendary film star Katharine Hepburn. In 2009, the town opened "the Kate," otherwise known as the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Center, which hosts theater productions, screenings and lectures about her life.
The town's coastal location affords ample opportunity for water activities. To the southwest is Harvey's Beach, a perfect spot for the entire family to cool off on a hot day. Kayakers will love exploring the North Cove and South Cove, both very protected.And there's plenty of non-water fun to be had too. In this bike-friendly town, cycle along the 10-mile loop out to Saybrook Point for breathtaking views, meandering along Long Island Sound as you go. Be sure to make a detour to check out Lynde Point Lighthouse, which sits at the mouth of Connecticut River. Ready for a game of golf? Stop by the Fenwick Golf Course, completed in 1896, to play a round. The waterfront Mini-Golf at Saybrook Point will make everyone in the family happy.
If you are in town during the last weekend of July, be sure to visit the 51st Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, which features more than 150 artists and crafters. And every Wednesday at 7 p.m. throughout the summer, Main Street hosts Concerts on the Green, a series of live music.
In July, my family rolled four wheelbarrows filled with bedding, frozen meals, and enough clothing to last two and a half weeks, down the docks of Harbor East Marina in Baltimore, Md. When my dad started planning this trip, my first thought was no thanks. I was starting college next fall and wanted to spend the summer working and seeing my friends. As the summer dragged on and my plans quickly crumbled, I realized a change of scenery was exactly what I needed. It didn't hurt that my family recently purchased Sababa, a 59-foot Prestige 560 with a hotel-room-sized cabin, fly bridge and a swim platform with a dinghy.
Sababa, would be our home as we traveled up the coast from Baltimore, arriving at Constitution Marina in Boston, Mass., to visit my sister at camp. I had a few years of sailing experience under my belt, as my dad's enthusiasm for everything boats and water led to the purchase of a sailboat when I was eight. As my siblings and I grew up, my parents traded in the sailboat for a powerboat, and we embarked on week-long excursions on the Chesapeake Bay or to the Hyatt River Marsh Marina in Cambridge, Md. This was the most ambitious trip we'd ever taken.
We left Baltimore for Cape May, N.J., a six-hour boat ride through the Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal. I spent time on the fly bridge, reading and watching the waves. I forgot how much I missed the feeling of the wind in my hair. I thought about the days ahead of us and was looking forward to taking sunset photos each night.
While my dad docked at Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May, N.J., I helped my mom and my 15-year-old brother Benny, prepare the fenders and throw the bow line to a dock hand. We ate dinner on land at La DoÃ±a Mexican Restaurant, passed fudge shops on the boardwalk and watched couples slow dance to the Cape May String Band. At sunset, we hopped on the trolley and walked over a bridge back to the marina, watching the strawberry moon swell above the trees.
We left the peace of Cape May for the bustle and flashiness of urban life. Dolphins greeted us as we entered the Golden Nugget Atlantic City Marina in Atlantic City, N.J. While my dad played poker at the Borgata, my mom, Benny and I took a jitney to the boardwalk, where Benny and I shared Polish water ice and decided it was too hot to play mini-golf.
We took Sababa north from the entertainment capital of the Jersey Shore, to the city that never sleeps New York. We docked at MarineMax at Chelsea Piers with an itch to explore the city. We shopped in Times Square, ate vegan comfort food at by CHLOE., and saw School of Rock on Broadway. We all agreed there was something incredible about watching a group of 10 year-olds more talented than we'd ever be.
We left New York a day early to avoid thunderstorms and headed to Norwalk Cove Marina in Norwalk, Conn. By now we were a seasoned crew. Every morning, we repacked our suitcases and secured the toiletries in the bathroom since we were cruising at a speed of up to 24 knots. We docked with all the lines and fenders on the starboard side. After fueling up, I grimaced and slid on plastic gloves to pump out the waste holding tanks. We showered, having to close our eyes because the water had bleach in it, and drank from our two-gallon cooler, which we had to refill at every stop. On land days, my dad and I went for a run before exploring the new town. At every port, we struck up conversations with shop owners, gallery keepers and waiters about our latest adventure. We stayed out until 9 most nights. By day five, I hadn't taken a single photo of a sunset.
Half an hour into our departure from Norwalk, my dad burst into the cabin and exclaimed that our chart plotter had no data. He navigated with his phone to Mystic, Conn., where we docked at Fort Rachel Marina, ate at the famous Mystic Pizza, paddle boarded up to town and spent four and a half hours touring historic boats and replicas of Old Mystic. Departing Mystic, Conn., our radar was still not working properly so we used dad's phone as our main source of navigation to Martha's Vineyard, Mass. A heavy fog had decreased our visibly to less than quarter of a mile. We slowed to seven knots, blasting the horn every minute. I looked out for crab pots as we exchanged a few rounds of honking with a fishing boat, which materialized from the fog like a ghost ship and disappeared just as quickly. Some people were less adept at handling the pressure. Over the radio, we heard someone say, Go faster, you moron. As we started laughing, my dad reminded us that everything that goes wrong on a boat is the end of the world. You can't take anything somebody yells at you personally. After docking at Oak Bluffs Marina, we escaped the mask of fog covering the waters of Martha's Vineyard and explored the town of Oak Bluffs. We toured the cluster of fairy-like wooden houses, known as Gingerbread Houses, visited The Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest operating carousel in the United States, and then took a bus to the nearby town of Edgartown.
Leaving Martha's Vineyard, Mass., we headed to Nantucket, Mass., and secured a mooring ball at Nantucket Moorings. We took the dinghy to town for a bike tour, visiting the lighthouse on Brant Point, (officially named Brand Point Light and the second-oldest lighthouse in America) and passing by Tommy Hilfiger's former home. The next day, we walked along the beaches of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge as seagulls and seals waded in and out of the water. A stop for vegan strawberry-Oreo ice cream at The Juice Bar cost me another sunset picture. I was starting to doubt I would ever get one.
After traveling two hours to Falmouth, Mass., we docked at the Kingman Yacht Center in Cataumet, Mass. That night, the sun turned red and the clouds gold and orange. I took pictures until the sky went dark. At our second-to-last stop in Providence, R.I., my dad finally bought a chip with the missing chart data. We visited with my aunt and uncle, took my little cousin for a dinghy ride and celebrated my brother's birthday with Indian food at Rasoi in Pawtucket, R.I.
Finally, we tied up at Constitution Marina in Boston and spent the day at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, sipping bubble tea while the Boston Piano Kid played Billy Joel. The day before my flight home, we rented a car and drove to New Hampshire to visit my sister, Tamara.
She was freckled and had a sore throat, but she gushed about her activities at camp with a huge smile. I walked around camp speechless, seeing the path I used to run and the lake where I avoided free swim. Before I knew it, I was hugging my sister goodbye and driving back to Sababa to pack. It poured the next morning. My dad walked me to the Lyft car so I could get to the airport to begin the journey back home to Baltimore. Once I returned home, I had to deal with a dead car battery and then had to drive an hour to teach Zumba, while my family got caught in a storm and had to take shelter in a cove. Although lucky to be home, I missed the most eventful part of the trip and realized it was the first of many family moments I will miss in college. I recalled my childhood memories of the sailboat picking up speed, how my brother, sister and I put our legs against the table to avoid tumbling to the other side as the boat heeled over. I'm grateful for the new memories I made with them before I leave home.
Elana Rubin is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University, where she will major in writing seminars. Her first book, Culture Shock, is available on Amazon.