Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Connecticut is known for a lot of things. It’s home to one of the best universities in the world, and its fall landscape is famous around the country. However, this great state also has some of the best beaches on the East Coast.
Relaxing seaside vacations, exciting getaways in nature, and much more are all possible when you plan a trip to Connecticut’s shores. However, since it’s not usually the first state that comes to mind when people think about vacations on the coast, figuring out where you should go can be difficult. We’ve come up with a list of the top 15 beaches that deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.
Map of the 15 Best Beaches in Connecticut
1. Calf Pasture Beach
Calf Pasture Beach isn’t just a sandy place to enjoy some time by the water. It’s also an important part of Connecticut’s history. Initially, this 35-acre area was used for agriculture but then went on to be an important site during the Revolutionary War.
Of course, you don’t have to be a history buff in order to appreciate this part of the state’s shoreline. During the summer, the beach here is manned by lifeguards, so you and your family can splash around in peace. You can also go fishing, play softball, or simply go for a nature walk.
If you plan on taking your dog with you while you travel, remember Calf Pasture Beach has a no-dogs-allowed policy. There is an adjacent pet-friendly stretch of sand, though. Most of the time, this beach is calm and quiet, but on summer holiday weekends, it can be busy, so come early.
2. Clinton Town Beach
Clinton Town Beach is a calm and family-friendly beach where you can go for a swim, a walk, or just lay out and enjoy the warm sun without worrying about crowds. Beach passes are required to access the sand between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in September. You can purchase one directly from the gatekeeper at the beach’s entrance.
However, if you look up costs before arriving, be aware that parking and pass costs are higher for out-of-towners. During the rest of the year, you can freely head to the water, but swimming isn’t recommended. The water can be chilly, and there are no lifeguards on duty at that time.
3. Compo Beach
Compo Beach is a versatile stretch of Westport’s coast. During the summer months, between May and September, day passes are needed to access this part of town to help cover the lifeguard and maintenance costs. However, by paying that fee, you’re able to access the area’s volleyball court, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more. So it’s a great place to spend the day with your family.
The pass system also helps control crowd levels, ensuring there’s room for all guests. During the off-season, which goes from the day after Labor Day weekend until the following Memorial Day weekend, you can still access the beach without a pass.
All the amenities are still available, but the downside is that swimming isn’t the best idea. The water is cold and choppy during the fall and winter, so it’s better to stay on land at those times of the year.
4. DuBois Beach
DuBois Beach is small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in what it offers. During the summer, lifeguards are posted daily to make sure swimmers are safe. That, combined with the gentle waves that hit this part of the state, means you can swim stress-free, even if you have young children with you.
There’s even a small pier where you can try out crabbing and a dock if you want to go on a relaxing boat ride. As part of the Eastern Seaboard, DuBois Beach is a local favorite spot to catch the sunrise, but sunsets are still dramatic as well. Since the beach is small, you usually don’t have to worry about crowds either.
However, if you decide to spend a full day at DuBois, especially during the summer, remember to bring sun protection and a beach umbrella because there’s no shade provided.
5. Hammonasset Beach State Park
At 2 miles in length, Hammonasset Beach is the longest shoreline park in Connecticut. This means visitors have a lot of room to spread out and explore. The park is a favorite summer spot to go swimming and even try some surfing on the park’s gentle waves. The park is also equipped with boardwalk trails that let you stroll around the park’s land and admire the wildlife safely.
During the summer, you can stay on the beach to watch the sunset, even if you’re just visiting for the day. However, between mid-October and May, you’ll need a pass in order to stay after dusk when the entrance gate locks. The same goes for sunrise. If you have a camping or fishing pass, you can admire the sun coming up over the horizon, but otherwise, you’ll have to wait until 8 a.m. to get in.
6. Harvey’s Beach
It’s not surprising that Harvey’s Beach is often a contender for the best beach in Connecticut. It’s so tranquil and picturesque that it’s pretty close to what comes to mind when you think about East Coast beaches.
With restrooms, changing rooms, and even on-site shower stalls, you have all your basics covered to have a fun day. You’ll have an enjoyable time all year, whether you decide to go for a dip in the water, stay on the sand, or even head out for a little boating.
The tides really affect the landscape here, though. During low tide, the ocean recedes by yards and leaves behind muddy sand, so make sure to wear waterproof shoes or go barefoot. Though the tide’s ebb and flow is quite dramatic, the current here is gentle enough for swimmers and waders of all ages.
7. Hole-in-the-Wall Beach
Hole-in-the-Wall Beach used to be a secret coastal hideaway, but it’s now become a local gem and favorite hangout spot. However, it’s still a bit of a secret from tourists, so you can feel like a true “Connecticuter.” To get to the beach, you’ll have to walk through a small tunnel that passes under elevated railroad tracks. So, the name isn’t just tongue-in-cheek. It’s literal!
The beach isn’t huge, which helps it maintain its cozy, local atmosphere that makes it so family-friendly. If you plan on going, try to head out before noon or arrive to watch the sunset, since those are the least-busy times.
You do have to pay for daily admission to access the shore to help keep crowd levels down. Admission needs to be purchased on-site the day you’ll be visiting; you can’t book ahead.Hot Tip:
Check out our detailed guide to the best East and West Coast beaches in the U.S.
8. Jacobs Beach
For regular New England visitors and locals, Jacobs Beach is a classic spot to get some time on the sand. If you’re used to more curated beach towns, this quaint shore might take some getting used to, but it’s perfect if you want some peace and quiet to unwind.
The beach isn’t terribly big and is covered in a mixture of sand and pebbles, but there’s space to set out a towel, and there are even grassy areas to set up a picnic. The beach isn’t just for strolls and swimming, though. There’s a launching dock that can be used for motorless boats like canoes, kayaks, or paddleboards if you’d like to venture out a little further in the water.
The beach usually doesn’t get too crowded, especially if you schedule your visit for a weekday, and your day pass cost also covers the parking fee.
9. Jennings Beach
Jennings Beach has everything you need to have a fun day at the waterfront. The shore is wide and covered in soft sand, so even on days when there are a lot of crowds, you can roam the 27-acre site until you find a place to set up for the day.
On top of its spacious stretch by the water, the park offers other amenities as well that can add some extra convenience to your visit. From May until September, you’ll be under the watchful eye of lifeguards until dusk. You’ll also have access to a snack bar on the property if you want some refreshments or forgot to pack a lunch.
Your beach pass will also grant you access to the changing areas, restrooms, and even the shower, so you don’t have to worry about trekking sand everywhere.
10. Ocean Beach Park
Ocean Beach Park is a fun and vibrant part of New London. You’re near the boardwalk, which features a miniature golf course, play areas, and food options. There’s even a nearby swimming pool if you’d prefer to stay out of the salt water.
However, the main draw of this part of Connecticut is, of course, the beach. From the sand, you can get a spectacular view of the Long Island Sound, as well as a few of its islands. Since it has so many activities available, Ocean Beach is often frequented by families and young travelers, and it can get crowded during the spring and summer.
Instead, in the fall and winter, things tend to calm down quite a bit as some of the businesses close down for the seasons. Despite all the foot traffic, the coastline is well-kept and clean both on land and in the water.
11. Pear Tree Point Beach
Pear Tree Point Beach has 8 acres of land with the Goodwives River as its centerpiece. With parking, picnic areas, and beach access that have all been designed to be accessible to people with all different mobility abilities, it’s an excellent park for a wide variety of visitors.
There are even wooden chairs set up around the beach that are free to use without any additional rental fees. Remember, though, they’re first-come, first-serve, so you might want to make sure you have a folding chair or a towel to use in case they’re all taken when you arrive.
The park gives you a great view of the nearby boat harbor, so you can watch them sail in the distance. At the same time, you’re still far enough away that you don’t have to worry about pollution or getting in their way while swimming.
12. Rocky Neck State Park
Rocky Neck State Park’s beach is one of the best and most versatile in New England. With rivers, marshes, and open water, all spread out over 708 acres, it’s a perfect getaway spot for nature lovers.
Its signature white sand is soft and cushioned but still offers enough support to let you walk comfortably along the waterfront, especially if you come in the winter when it’s too cold to swim. Though the water is safe and shallow here, especially close to land, the on-duty lifeguards that keep watch during the summer add extra safety.
Keep in mind, though, the official beach season ends after Labor Day in September, after which you’ll have to swim at your own risk. There are also designated swimming areas in the park that are considered safe. No matter when you decide to take a dip, only swim in these zones.
13. Sherwood Island State Park
As Connecticut’s first state park, Sherwood Island is a historical place to spend a beach day. The park consists of a 238-acre territory. That land is split up between wooded areas, marshy wetlands, and, of course, saltwater beaches that offer visitors the chance to swim, fish, or just go on a leisurely walk.
If you want to have a peaceful and relaxing time, you can find a quiet and more secluded part of the shore to spend the day. On the other hand, if you prefer to be more social or have a child who thrives off of being around others, you can come during the summer when there are plenty of families around.
If you’re looking forward to having a nice picnic on the sand, you don’t even have to rely on premade food since there are grilling areas onsite.
14. Silver Sands State Park
With 297 acres of land, much of which is made up of beaches, dunes, and marshes, Silver Sands State Park is a wonderful place to go to get some fresh air and some time in nature. There’s a boardwalk that lets you explore the marshy areas, and at low tide, you can even cross to the small island that serves as the park’s bird sanctuary.
As a more natural beach, there are no rowdy parties on the beach, and crowds don’t usually get too bad. So, it’s a versatile shore that’s perfect for all sorts of visitors, from families to groups of friends. If you can’t visit a beach without going in the water, Silver Sands lets you go for a saltwater swim, or you can have a relaxing day of fishing if you’d prefer to stay a little drier.
15. Waterford Beach Park
Waterford Beach Park offers its visitors a chance to visit Connecticut’s coast in its natural state. The beach is nearly 0.25 miles long and is known for its extensive sand dunes.
Just because the beach is natural doesn’t mean you have to give up amenities, though. There are restrooms and nearby food options if you want to have a picnic on the sand. Like many beaches in the state, a pass is needed during the summer, but the views you get of the water and the peaceful ambiance are worth it.
During the summer, the water is warm enough to go for a swim, but even in the winter, you can still have a day full of fun looking for shells and exploring the coastal plains. You can even bring dogs on the sand between September and April.
Clearly, Connecticut deserves to be at the top of more people’s beach getaway lists. With shorelines that range from pristine and curated to natural and untouched, there’s something about the state’s coast that will appeal to anyone. We hope that this list has brought you a step closer to planning your own Connecticut beach trip.
Featured Image Credit: Clay Banks via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Connecticut has some of the nicest beaches on the Eastern Seaboard. You can find natural stretches of shoreline as well as developed beach towns with more amenities. The beaches here also tend to be on the family-friendly side, so there aren’t many rowdy parties.
You can swim in the water at many Connecticut beaches. Most safe areas have gentle currents and relatively shallow water. However, some places might be dangerous for swimmers, so double-check with locals and authorities that you can swim somewhere before you go into the water.
As part of the East Coast, Connecticut has warmer water than its West Coast counterparts. However, that’s only during the spring and summer months. Before May and after mid-October, the water will typically be too cold for swimming unless you have a wetsuit on.
Connecticut has very clean beaches, both in terms of the water quality and the shore. Most parts of the state put great effort toward minimizing the amount of pollution that occurs in the area to allow safety and fun for both local and out-of-town beachgoers.
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