The Connecticut shoreline has been my go to place when I needed self-care and inspiration. I mean really, there is no denying the beauty of Connecticut’s 253-mile-long inviting and seductive coastline filled with quaint towns, lighthouses and picturesque beaches. I have also found the people in coastal Connecticut quite warm, friendly and unassuming. I’ve visited and fallen in love with Mystic, Old Saybrook, Branford and Essex but New London was not at all on my radar. Matter of fact, I never even considered that it could offer the appeal that the other coastal communities did. So, when I was offered the opportunity to explore New London’s historic waterfront district, I jumped at the opportunity.
My New London itinerary was very ambitious and listed almost three pages of attractions and activities that I didn’t realize existed. I took the Friday off from my job because I was hoping that would give me enough time to conquer most of the itinerary. Mother nature was less than cooperative that day, however, and I opted to avoid the torrential sheets of rain by staying put in my car. When my first view of New London came into view my honest reaction was “hmmmmmm”. The three-page itinerary that sat in the passenger seat along with my overnight bag kept beckoning me, however and I continued the route to Bank Street which runs parallel to the Thames River. A few minutes after the car made the left onto Bank my “hmmmmmm” quickly turned into an “Ohhhhhhh”.
I stayed in New London’s historic waterfront district for 3 days and two nights. The rain did not improve and it continued through the next morning. The rain was replaced by thick fog which completely engulfed the river the Gold Star Memorial Bridge and everything around it. All boating activities were suspended on the Thames River (which was part of my tour) until the fog finally lifted in the late afternoon. I didn’t conquer the itinerary. As a matter of fact, I barely started but from the little I saw of New London’s historic waterfront district I was impressed enough to record a video.
Why You Should Go to New London’s historic waterfront district
Eateries (over 30), unique one of a kind boutique shops, a museum, antique store, free parking and street art lined both sides of what I would later discover was the very walkable historic district in New London. It may not offer the “luxe” that other Connecticut coastal towns offer but New London is perfect one-day or weekend destination for families, couples, solo travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.
What You Can Do
History Enthusiasts – New London (known as Pequot until the name was changed in 1658) was founded in 1646 by John Winthrop and chartered in 1784. The whaling industry began there in 1784 and it is the home of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (established 1876) and it has also been the home of U.S. Navy Submarine base since 1917. Visitors can tour Fort Trumbull, site of 1781 attack led by Britain’s Benedict Arnold; the Custom House and Maritime Museum, the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse and the Coast Guard Museum are all in New London. You can also sail across the Thames River via the Thames River Water Taxi to Groton where you can visit Fort Griswold and the mysterious obelisk known as the Groton Monument. Along with great houses, there is a lot of historical sites, history New and historical attractions which is open to the public.
Adventure & Outdoor Enthusiasts – Ocean State Beach Park has a board walk, a swimming beach, mini golf and Alweife Cover Nature Walk, a 50-acre park where you can hike. Looking for something more romantic and quiet, then head over to Harkness Memorial Park. This historical mansion has a small swimming beach and a gorgeous sprawling garden that is great for picnics or walking. Head over to the Connecticut College Arboretum which offers 100 plus acres of flat walking trails. It’s a slow ride, but crossing the Thames on the Thames River Water Taxi was quite adventurous for me. We even had to yield to a submarine which cruised into the Thames with full naval escort. Of course there is always bicycling or you can wheel your way around New London on a segway tour run by Wheeling City Tours.
Art Enthusiasts– If you like art then check out the 18-20TH century pieces on display at Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Hygenic Art, located at 79 Bank Street has an outdoor amphitheater where you can listen to live music and view or buy contemporary art from emerging and established artists. If you love street art then swing by the New London Trolley Building and Visitors Information Center at 43 Golden Street and and grab a map of the mural walk which takes you through a self-guided tour of New England’s largest outdoor public art display. The walk takes you past murals depicting underwater spacemen, world renowned musicians and the new ‘Whale Tail’ fountain on The Parade Plaza.
Where to Eat and Stay in New London’s historic waterfront district
With over 30 different eateries, New London offers a diverse restaurant scene which will allow you to explore American dishes as well as dishes from the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Japan and even Jamaica. If you are looking to stick within the very walkable waterfront historic district, however, I would start the food exploration with breakfast at Fatboys Kitchen and Bar. Order the bananas foster waffle! If you like seafood, then head over to the very popular and awesome Daddy Jack’s where you will find a vibrant crowd of locals and tourists. Order the stuffed flounder. You can thank me later. Mambo Bar and Restaurant, which serves authentic Dominican dishes was a great find on Bank Street. I tried the garlic and shrimp mofongo and I have new found respect for green plantains now. Looking for sweets and coffee check out the very eclectic Muddy Waters or Sweeties, which are both located on Bank Street.
Holiday Inn New London, located at 35 Governor Winthrop Blvd, makes a great base from which you can explore New London’s historic district. The hotel offers free parking and is very short walking distance to Bank Street and other attractions. Pick a room on the fifth floor which is far away from the banquet halls (it was obvious that they hold a lot of events there) on the first floor and offers the best view of New London.
When To Go
Spring, Summer and early Fall are great times to visit New London’s historic waterfront district. You can also plan your visit around New London’s biggest events which include: Sailfest, Food Truck Festivals, Caribbean festival and their annual food stroll that is held in early May.
How To Get There
Located right off I-95, New London is easily accessible by car, ferry, boat, Amtrak, and Metro-North.
DISCLOSURE: I received gratis/complimentary service at the Holiday Inn, Thames River Water Taxi, Fatboys Kitchen and Bar, Daddy Jack’s Restaurant and Muddy Waters which allowed me to share my experience with you. My experience to New London’s historic waterfront district might be slightly different from yours but all opinions expressed are honest and were not influenced.