Things to do in Coastal Connecticut

ok time for my last Connecticut post… the less historical visited sites and things to do. Starting with Mystic. As the weather decided to rain on my parade a large majority of the time, we decided to kill one evening by “happy hour hopping” in Mystic (one town over from Stonington) so first stop was: 
1. The Oyster Club where they had oysters for 1/$1. Consequently I tried my 1st and last raw oyster. It was terrible but the cocktail sauce helped. 
2. Pizzete were they have $1 slices of cheese or pepperoni pizza. You can go here if you’re on a budget but still want some “Mystic pizza” haha
3. The last place we were able to squeeze in before 5:00, the Engine Room. Pretty delicious cheeseburgers for $5 and a very cool vibe. Probably my favorite of the 3 we went to.
And of course happy hour being what it is, there were select beverages available for decent prices at each place also if you’re looking for that. 

Next up: Avery Point for some lighthouse action. Plus Katie really wanted to show me her old college stomping grounds. 1st impressions: small but absolutely lovely. 
The stunning Branford house that serves as the student welcoming center for UConn Avery Point Campus. 
Although the building was locked up for summer (I really wanted to go inside) I definitely appreciated all the pretty details of the building from the outside. (and admittedly walked around peering in the ground floor windows like a total creeper.)

A stunning sunset back in good ol’ Stonington 

Right around the corner from both Mystic and Stonington is Ender’s Island. (every time I heard it I couldn’t NOT think of Ender’s game…) It’s a cool little Monastic Caltholic retreat on it’s own Island… kind of. You drive over a very narrow little road to get out to it.

A few very lovely buildings, almost like a school campus that is almost entirely surrounded by water. 
Supposedly there is a store where you can buy delicious jams. I searched for said store but as I was on a bit of a time crunch and had a dog with me that likely would NOT be allowed into buildings… we just walked around the whole thing for a quick stop. 

And now onto the hike around Bluff Point state park in Groton. (Right around the corner from both the Griswold battle field and Nautilus museum. Groton is happening place ya’ll!

This state park is used for all sorts of activities including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and general beach going although it’s a bit of a walk to the beaches.

 A snapshot of a deer in the more wooded section of Bluff point. Apologize for the blurr but it was all I could get with a very excited hound dog ready to chase after it. 

Some of the coastal views from the hike. From May-October, dogs are allowed to use the inland trails but not allowed on the beaches due to bird nesting grounds. (this being a wildlife preserve and all) so we mostly stuck to the trail but the views were still great. 
The main path is a loop that will follow the coast out to the point and then head back down through the middle of the peninsula called the Groton X-Town trail. I admit, this hike was really more of a trail walk/run but counting it anyways. (there was mud and wildlife haha) As you turn to go inland there are all these beautiful old stone barriers (fences) going this way and that and just about blending into the scenery; remenants of when this peninsula was a little farming community. There is even a placard in front of some of the larger ruins that mark where the Winthrop House (circa 1712) is. 
Overall loop hike length: 3.5 miles 

And finally the last great activity was kayaking out in Old Lyme. We went in the evening on one of the few days it didn’t rain lol and it was absolutely peaceful. Nothing like floating on a river with some drinks and good friends. Thanks again Katie!

I love kayaking! 
And that’s it for Connecticut (for now) folks! Onto NYC and Rhode Island posts! 

Visiting the COOLEST Connecticut history sites

OK Time for the ULTIMATE CONNECTICUT HISTORY SITE TOUR! First stop: The Nautilus Submarine Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

I kid you not, this is one of the coolest museums out there. (AND IT IS FREE!!!!)
Hours of operation: everyday 9-5, closed Tuesdays.
They WILL kick you off the property by 5:15. haha

As the sub part of the museum closes a bit earlier than the museum, we hit that up first.

They have a 20-30 minute audio tour that guides you around the sub. We didn’t have to ask “Permission to come aboard” 
Tight quarters, steep ladders, and tight spacers. Do NOT recommend wearing a dress or flipflops. (My dad taught me well so you know I was in my closed toed shoes) 
Back on top with the “Don’t tread on me” flag. 
The entrance to the museum. I LOVE the contrast of the smallest sub vs. the largest marking the gateway to the museum. 

Overall AMAZING museum for history on the Nautilus as well as Navy Submarine uses. They have family friendly activities including being able to look through a periscope to see real time “outside the museum” as you turn in different directions.
Left: a crazy “bomb” planter that people would literally pedal to power and would use to put explosives on the ocean floor.

Nautilus cool history: One of the first subs to be powered by Nuclear energy (as opposed to Diesel fuel) which allowed her to travel far greater distances submerged under water and at faster speeds. She broke quite a few records in her day, most notably as being the first sub to make a submerged transit of the North Pole in 1958.

For those not cool with the confined spaces on the sub, there is a lovely model in the museum with explanations of the various sub compartments. You can get a pretty good idea of what life was like on the Nautilus without having to step foot on it. 

From Groton we headed across the water to Fort Trumbull in New London. Looking back across you can see General Dynamics (manufactures submarines!) 

Fort Trumbull was a HUGE fort that I bet would be SUPER cool to explore, but alas we were there before it opened for the year.
Hours of operation: Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 21 through Labor Day. For entrance to the visitor center museum and for fort tours, there is a fee. 

The fort is considered a state park however and you are still able to walk around and enjoy the beautiful outside walls and ocean views FOR FREE!  The park itself is open daily from 9-8. So bummed we didn’t get to tour around the fort, but hey free is free and the outside was QUITE impressive.

History of the fort: The original fortification (nothing like the current fort) was completed in 1777 and was attacked/ surrendered to the British in the Groton Heights Raid in 1781. (Much more on that later) There is only one small building from that time period left which housed the battery. The current fortress was built from 1839-1852 and served many a purpose throughout the years including a Union headquarters for recruiting and training during the Civil War, as a headquarters for the many other forts in the area in the time after the Civil War, as a Merchant Marine officers Training school until WWII where lastly it was used as a Division of War Research that developed Sonar systems. It opened as a State park in 2000. 

My next favorite history spot is actually back in Groton at the Fort Griswold battlefield which I explored one day while Katie worked so Olive accompanied me instead. (so yes Dogs are welcome here as well as long as they are leashed.) Fort Griswold is ALSO a state park and the battlefield is free to explore and open daily. The monument and museum onsite is also free and open from 9-6 but closed on Mondays and Tuesdays which means.. I didn’t get to go in them. 🙁 (also like Fort Trumbull is only operational in the summer from Memorial day to Labor day)

BONUS THOUGH: Fort Griswold has a CELLPHONE Audio tour. and it is AWESOME. You just call (860) 424-4005 and select which stop you are at. (Unfortunately you do have to call again at each stop but there are only 5… so not a big deal) It took me maybe 20 minutes to listen and explore all 5 stops. The main gate and cannons at stop 2 (with the monument/museum being stop 1) 

It’s a bit small in this photo, but looking across the way you can actually see Fort Trumbull.

A summary of the battle here is that on September 6,1781 the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold led the British in a raid on the Groton area with troops of 1700 men to take down both Fort Trumbull and Griswold. The British forces were divided into 2 groups of around 800 men. Fort Trumbull fell first, after which the British were able to turn their full attention on Griswold. There were only 166 American volunteers defending Fort Griswold so to say they were the underdogs is an understatement for sure. This realization didn’t take long to sink in, however the British offered no quarter so the Colonel Ledyard led his men to continue in the battling in the fort’s defense. The fort did push the British back a time or two, however they still were able to overtake the Americans. When the British asked who was in command, Colonel Ledyard handed over his sword and said “You are now” and was reportedly then killed with his own sword. While some men were able to escape using the various dry moats around the fort, over 80 men were massacred as the fort was surrendered and another 60 men were “mortally” wounded according to General Arnold’s reports. The British losses were  45 men killed and another 145 men wounded causing General Arnold to complain of the high casualty rate on their side. As this battle occurred towards the end of the Revolutionary war, it was one of the last British Victories as only a few months later, General Washington led us to victory in Virginia.

This is the main gate into the fort. It was recorded that one British solider was able to successfuly scale the fort’s walls and opened the gate for everyone else to invade. The fort has sunk quite a bit in but still remains pretty tall, especially with the dry moat running around the outer edge. 

On the other side of the fort is a smaller tunnel entrance. 

 I absolutely loved the audio tour (if you couldn’t tell) as I actually remembered all of that information (though I did fact check my memory when I typed it all up) so I definitely recommend the audio tour. There are a few informational plaques that have a summary of the day’s events at the entrance to the fort. There is also a memorial plaque dedicated to those volunteers who fought at Fort Griswold, and another plaque within the fort dedicated to Colonel Ledyard (where it is said he was killed with his own sword)

A view from one corner looking at the inner fort with the monument in the background. The monument is super interesting as well as it was the FIRST obelisk monument built within the United States and was constructed from 1826-1830. It stands at 135 feet tall and has 166 steps, 1 step for each volunteer that fought in the battle for Fort Griswold. (I really wished it was open but alas… I was there on my last day, a Tuesday.)

Sooo there you have it, a lengthy overview of the incredible historic sites/museums that were all within 30 minutes of Stonington Connecticut. I’m glad that I was able to glimpse a bit more of American history both Revolutionary time periods and modern while I was visiting out there. As I visited over Memorial day, it was so much easier to ponder these battlefields and the men who fought on them.
Again price recap: All of these places are FREE (with exception to tours in Fort Trumbull which I wasn’t able to do anyways) If you are in the Connecticut area, I highly recommend a visit to each of these places.

A few days relaxing in Stonington Borough

After the craziness of flying multiple times within less than a week and seeing SO many sites, a couple days of R&R at my gal pal Katie’s house was definitely due. She lives in the cutest little New England town called Stonington Borough. Monday,Tuesday, and Wednesday I spent the majority of my days sitting on the couch like a bum  blogging and trip planning but I did make it out on the town when it wasn’t raining.

As Katie lives right on the edge of the borough, no car needed to explore the town which is itty bitty and very walkable. Points of interest: Museum Lighthouse and Stonington Point (for history buffs) the shops and little streets for those looking for shopping or charm, and of course the cute little beach! (which I was dying inside that it turned so cold for the time I was there. I really wanted to swim!)

Stunning super expensive homes on the water
The cute Old Lighthouse museum

The museum is just before you reach Stonington Point and while I’d like to claim I went in, the $10 entry price was a bit steep to me for the size but for here’s a bit of info on it: The lighthouse itself was built in 1840 and was in active service until 1889 when beacons were added to the breakwaters, but even then it housed the light keepers until 1909 when it was abandoned. It was purchased by the historical society and made into a museum in 1927 and houses numerous lighthouse artifacts (from other lighthouses) and

other pieces of maritime history. Most interesting artifacts involve cannonballs and artifacts from when the British attacked Stonington in 1814 (part of the war of 1812, more on that later) It has been open 6 months every year since then (besides most of WWII which I found interesting) and visitors can climb the 29 steps to the top where the view lends itself to 3 states.
Hours of operation: May 5 – October
Open Daily from 10am – 5pm, CLOSED Wednesday

And as I was saying just past the lighthouse you reach the point with a fun little beach and wonderful bench area! I had a lovely relaxing sit watching a few divers come in on the beach.

(still wish it had been warm enough to swim.. or sunny to sit on the beach but alas, I was cursed with no great weather… more on that later. haha)

HISTORY LESSON* The battle of 1814 (part of the 1812 conflict still.. I know I know…. the years don’t match but yall the war of 1812 was actually.. longer than a year. Officially started in 1811, it went until Feb 1815 when a peace treaty was signed) 
ANYWAYS, so as alluded to in the memorial at Stonington point, on August 9th around 3 PM, the Brits arrived from Fisher’s Island Sound and stopped just off Stonington Point. Captian Hardy of the British sent a message via two rowboats offshore that the residents had 1 hour to leave as he did not want to “destroy the unoffending inhabitants residing in the Town of Stonington.” HOWEVER Those brave defenders of Stonington would not abandon their town and decided to fight so they pulled out their two cannons (Kept from previous skirmishes during the Revolutionary war) to return fire on the British. The whole conflict here lasted 3 days with the two sides intermittently firing at each other. Clearly the British were off to a better start as they had much better guns and many more cannons but after all was said and done, the Americans had a fire brigade so efficient, that out of the many buildings the British artillery flew through, not a single one burned down. The British in turn lost a few men and sustained enough damage to their ships, they turned around and left. 

The lovely beach at Stonington Point
If you couldn’t tell from the 1st picture in this post, I’m obsessed with those purple flowers (called Wisteria) It was EVERYWHERE, but undoubtedly this tree was my favorite
The very famous 2 cannons that defended the town in both the Revolutionary War, and war of 1814 1812

One of my favorite things about this town is how so many of the building have the date they were constructed and who the original family is plus their occupation. As this was a seaport you can imagine a large majority of the “big” houses were Captains, rope makers, and merchants. The oldest house I came across was 1767!

A picture of the lovely feline Abby who kept me great company while I blogged and laid about. 

Also I didn’t tack this onto Sunday’s Boston post (cause well it was after we got back from Boston) But I had an AMAZING time riding Katie’s horse, Bradley in Old Lyme. For those of you who know me, you know I LOVE animals and I’ve loved horses forever, Having such a terrific friend like Katie, finally gave me the kick in the pants to finally start taking lessons. Those lessons paid off big time when I got to ride her beautiful horse! (and not fall off him cause he was seriously HUGE)

So cost breakdown: (and I apologize cause this is INCREDIBLY convoluted as I’ve split my Connecticut activities into multiple posts with more to come.) Basically priceless on everything!
Lodging: Wonderfully comfortable bed in a guest room at Katie’s mansion of a cute old house
Meals: I ate groceries all day long and will have more info on the post on Mystic from when we went Happy hour hopping there: But I think we can just round to like $35 for 2 dinners out…. (This is not very exact… I apologize)
And walking around Stonington was obviously a free activity (with more Connecticut free activities to come!)
Total cost for Monday-Wednesday: $35ish