East Coast US, New England, Travels

Exploring Connecticut’s State Parks (part V)

Well, it’s time for another post exploring the state parks of Connecticut. Today’s post will congregate around the western half of the Connecticut coast.

Connecticut doesn’t have the best coastline – especially compared to the beaches of Massachusetts and Rhode Island or the waves of the open ocean – but there are some pretty stretches of shoreline at these parks.

A word to the wise: the shoreline is the most populated area of Connecticut, so weekends at these parks are extremely crowded. We visited either during the middle of the week or in the off-season, and were spared the worst of it.

1. Sherwood Island State Park – Westport, CT
Sherwood Island is the most expensive state park we visited in our time in Connecticut (fortunately we had a CT state parks pass at the time to cover our entry fee), and it’s easy to see why, because it’s also one of the prettiest! Sherwood Island is disconnected from the mainland by just a few feet, but it’s an island nonetheless. The state park encompasses about 98% of the island, including a very long stretch of beach, wide open spaces, and about 100 picnic tables (and no, that’s not an exaggeration – I would never come here on a summer weekend, it would be far too crowded).

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Long Island Sound – Sherwood Island State Park, CT
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Marshy habitat on the inland half of Sherwood Island State Park, CT
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A cormorant suns himself on an offshore rock – Sherwood Island State Park, CT

2. Silver Sands State Park – Milford, CT
Silver Sands is just up the road (I-95 northbound) from Sherwood Island, and we easily combined the two into one afternoon. The park is about the same size as Sherwood Island, but much of it has been set aside as a nature preserve. We saw so many birds and other types of aquatic wildlife in just the couple hours we spent here.

During low tide, a sand bar allows access to Charles Island about 0.5 miles (0.9 km) off the coast. From May – September, the island is closed, however, to protect nesting birds. There is a lot of very important riparian habitat along the coast of Long Island Sound, as we learned about in our time exploring these parks, and it’s fortunate the state has taken measures to protect these key areas.

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Lone tree on the beach – Silver Sands State Park, CT
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Charles Island at high tide – Silver Sands State Park, CT
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Fiddler crabs – Silver Sands State Park, CT

Fun fact about the male fiddler crab: if he loses his giant claw, he’ll grow a new one on the opposite side. This is why, in the photo above, two of them have a large claw on the left and the other has it on the right.

3. Rocky Neck State Park – East Lyme, CT
Winter on Long Island Sound is cold, a fact we were reminded of when we visited Rocky Neck State Park in January. But we simply bundled up and braced ourselves against the biting winter winds in order to wander the beaches and walk a short trail through the woods in relative solitude.

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Long Island Sound – Rocky Neck State Park, CT
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Gentle waves roll against the shore at Rocky Neck State Park, CT
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Bride Brook – Rocky Neck State Park, CT
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Ellie Mitchell Pavilion, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps – Rocky Neck State Park, CT

4. Hammonnasset Beach State Park – Madison, CT
Pat and I went to Hammonnasset Beach in March, when we were down on the shoreline house-sitting for his aunt and uncle. It was a very windy day, and springtime in Connecticut isn’t exactly warm. But for some reason, we decided that a cool, windy run on the beach was in order.

Everything about that turned out to be a terrible idea. But the beach was really pretty, and even though we bailed on our exercise attempt after about 15 minutes, we did get to do some exploring.

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The beach & Long Island Sound – Hammonasset Beach State Park, CT
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Inland salt ponds – Hammonasset Beach State Park, CT

5. West Rock Ridge State Park – Bethany, CT
This park maybe doesn’t quite belong on this list, since it’s not actually a waterfront park. But from the top of West Rock Ridge, you can see out over the city of New Haven to the choppy waves of Long Island Sound. We hiked up to and along the top of the ridge on a weirdly warm December day a couple years back, and had the place almost entirely to ourselves!

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Lake Wintergreen – West Rock Ridge State Park, CT
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Konolds Pond as seen from the top of the ridge – West Rock Ridge State Park, CT
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View from a highpoint along the ridge – West Rock Ridge State Park, CT

To read the rest of my CT State Parks series, click here!

2 thoughts on “Exploring Connecticut’s State Parks (part V)”

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