Connecticut has 96 miles (618 miles according to the NOAA) of idyllic New England shoreline, complete with small islands, lighthouses, and top East Coast beach towns. While the Nutmeg State may not be known first and foremost as a beach destination, vacationers and house hunters will be delighted to see the selection it has by the water.
When you’re ready to explore its sandy shores, from the state parks to private town beaches, venture to Connecticut for a trip to remember. Some of the favored seaside communities deserve a closer look.
Here’s a rundown of the top beach towns in Connecticut to live and visit, in no particular order:
Residents and tourists alike will attest to Madison’s lovely atmosphere. This town on the Connecticut coast is a popular place to visit because it is close to four public beaches and has a historic downtown.
Founded in 1826, the town of Madison was named after President James Madison. The city was known as East Guilford during the 1700s and is currently renowned as a pleasant area to live in or spend a few days on vacation.
You can splurge on a stay at the Madison Beach Hotel, pitch a tent at Hammonasset, and then dine on fresh clams and French bistro food at Bar Bouchée. Inside the state park is the Meigs Point Nature Center, which is another place of interest in the area.
Madison, Connecticut had a population of 17,691 people according to the 2020 census, but the city’s shoreline attracts an estimated one million tourists each year. Hammonasset Beach State Park, Surf Club Beach, East Wharf, and West Wharf are all public beaches in the area, while the neighboring private golf club owns the Madison Beach Club.
Despite being just two miles long, Hammonasset is one of Connecticut’s most extensive and picturesque beaches. Swimming, walking on the sand, kayaking, or building a sand castle are just a few activities available at these beaches.
West Haven, CT
West Haven enjoys having Connecticut’s longest beachfront open to the general public. Thanks to its proximity to urban conveniences, everyone can find what they’re looking for in this relaxed seaside town.
When it was first settled in 1648, West Haven was a component of the original New Haven Colony. Both sides used the town as a major starting point for raiding trips during the American Revolution.
Many of the town’s 55,584 (as of the 2020 Census) residents who have made it their permanent home take advantage of its beautiful coastline, delicious food, and charming downtown. Sandy Point is a great place to fish and a haven for both migratory and permanent wild birds.
There is always a beach to spread your towel on in West Haven since it is home to one-fourth of Connecticut’s accessible coastline. Tired vacationers may find solace at one of West Haven’s more famous coastlines, Seabluff Beach, or at neighboring Oak Street Beach or South Street Beach.
Bradley Point Park has a tiny sandy beach and a 1.7-mile waterfront trail leading to Sandy Point Beach and the Bird Sanctuary, both of which are popular destinations. Look out for breeding shorebirds like piping plovers if you visit the latter.
Fairfield, located between Bridgeport and Stamford, packs a lot of punch into its five miles of coastline. The coastal city will not disappoint if you’re searching for a long weekend spent on the beach or house hunting near the surf.
Fairfield, founded in 1639, has a rich history extending back to the Revolutionary and First World Wars. The town has 61,512 people (2020 Census), yet retains a modest vibe, with different neighborhoods, each with its own personality and flare, leading schools, and several dynamic civic groups.
If you’re in Fairfield over the weekend from June to October, be sure to swing by the Fairfield Farmers Market and browse the freshest products and homemade crafts. Throughout the summer, the beach also offers several family movie nights.
There are five sandy municipal beaches along this strip. Jennings Beach is the biggest and most popular, followed by Sasco, Penfield, South Pine Creek, and Southport. Non-residents must pay to park throughout the summer, but from October 1st to March 31st, beach admission is free, and pets and horses are welcome.
Waterford, located two hours from New York City and Boston, is 33 square miles of land in southeastern Connecticut surrounded by water on three sides and connected by two major interstate roads. While visitors come to admire the beaches and stunning scenery, this tranquil coastal town is better suited for seniors and families searching for a new home.
The English first arrived here in the 17th century and were part of the New London district until it broke off into its own town. Waterford earned its name from its location between two rivers, and locals lived in wigwams until they dug out plots for buildings. Today, the city has a population of about 19,571 (census 2020) and is known for its excellent schools, parks, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Waterford Beach Park has an approximately 1/4 mile-long sandy beach and a large tidal marsh. Guests are offered the unique chance to enjoy Long Island Sound from a natural beach that has not been altered in any way. Nothing beats a day at this picturesque Connecticut beach, whether wading in the cool waves or reclining on a beach chair.
The second popular beach is at Harkness Memorial State Park. Although there is no swimming there, it’s still a terrific place to stroll the beach, fish, sail kites, picnic, explore the gardens, or relax while admiring the sound.
Old Saybrook, CT
Old Saybrook is one of Connecticut’s oldest waterfront towns, located at the confluence of the long Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. The town has a lot of natural beauty and maritime charm in its culture and on its often overlooked gorgeous beaches.
Old Saybrook, which was founded in the 18th century, is a wealthy but pleasant town where people live. You can visit like a local or move there and make it your home. According to the 2020 Census, around 10,481 people were residing there.
Main Street has all the quaint cafés, gorgeous restaurants you’d expect to find in any New England town, and interesting antique stores where you can pick up some unique souvenirs. You can spend your time in town playing mini-golf, hitting the sandy beaches, or even seeing a performance at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, often known as “The Kate.”
Those in quest of breathtaking ocean vistas will be satisfied at Old Saybrook. Harvey’s Beach is one of the most beautiful local beaches and has superb facilities and quiet, shallow waters that are ideal for wading in. Despite its tiny size, the beach features changing rooms, a playground, restrooms, and a snack shop. If you go on a Friday night, you can catch a free outdoor musical performance.
New London, CT
New London, which is around 6 square miles in size, is a heritage whaling port that has remade itself as a delightful beach village. Not only is it a popular weekend destination, but anyone wishing to migrate to a coastal town may have their eyes set on this town.
The town was founded in 1651 and is situated on the Thames River. Because it was near several colonial trade ports, the city has been home to many wealthy people throughout its history. However, the 2020 Census shows that the town now has about 27,367 permanent residents.
Views of the river, fishing, and strolling along the boardwalk are all available at Fort Trumbull State Park. Take advantage of the park’s summer Monday night Cruise Nights event to see historic vehicles cruise along the shore while a DJ plays old favorites.
Ocean Beach Park is an iconic white sand beach located at the southern end of town. This beach has an arcade, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, waterslides, mini golf, and other amenities. When you’re done on the sand, go shopping at the local stores or get a bite to eat at a delicious restaurant.
New London is an excellent base for exploring the surrounding area. It also serves as the ferry terminal to nearby Block Island, where you may enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches if the whim strikes you.
Westport is a lovely coastal hamlet overlooking the Saugatuck River, which is ideal for a relaxing holiday or pleasant everyday living. This coastal Connecticut community is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to visit a beach town because it has three beautiful public beaches and an attractive state park.
Westport is also surprisingly natural for being about an hour’s commute from New York’s Grand Central Station. Sherwood Island State Park has 235 acres of wetlands, woodland pathways, and unusual tri-colored sand with black, brown, and red shades.
Alternatively, you may stroll down the town’s classic Main Street. There are several boutiques and fine-dining restaurants in this area, such as the world-famous Bar Taco, located on the river’s edge, and eat while watching the ships pass by.
Long Island Sound has many miles of shoreline, and Compo, Burying Hill, and Old Mill are the three town beaches. Lifeguards are on duty at Compo and Burying Hill Beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Those two beach areas are along the Saugatuck River and have a boardwalk and other sporting facilities. Old Mill, a little crescent-shaped beach only a short walk from Compo Beach, is the third beach, and if you wish to park here in the summer, you must get a parking permit.
Milford is the sixth oldest town in Connecticut and is situated in New Haven County. According to the 2020 census, this beautiful, beach town had a population of roughly 50,558 people and is renowned for its picturesque seaside towns.
Milford’s boosters say that the city has everything: a strong economy, nice waterfront neighborhoods, a busy harbor, and terrific public transportation. There are no entertainment options such as a casino, theme park, sports team, or major music hall, but that’s also why it’s such a beautiful place to live and a fantastic location to spend a peaceful Saturday.
Even if it’s not your permanent residence, a place where you can go for long walks on the beach, learn about the local culture and history, indulge in delicious cuisine, and chat with friendly regulars at the local watering hole may quickly seem like home.
There are a handful of beaches to pick from, including Anchor Beach, Walnut Beach, Gulf Beach, and Woodmont Beach. Another enjoyable activity is a trip to Charles Island. The island is 14 acres in size and is located near Milford. The good news is that you may stroll; the only caveat is that the tide must be low. It’s just 0.5 miles from the Milford shore.
East Lyme, CT
About 20 minutes south of Mystic is the town of East Lyme, which has cute shops, a historic colonial farm, great restaurants, great fishing, and beautiful beaches. According to the 2020 census, it had around 18,693 people and is the ideal balance of tourist and tranquil living.
Historians visiting East Lymes will enjoy the Thomas Lee Home, which was built about 1660 and is Connecticut’s oldest house surviving in its original condition. The town is split into two villages, called Flanders and Niantic, based on what the area offers.
The summertime influx of beachgoers causes Niantic’s population to skyrocket; the Flanders side of town, home to the town’s high school, apple orchards, and forest, is considerably less crowded. One of the perks of living in this town is the easy access to beaches around Long Island Sound, where the sea is just as welcoming as the locals.
East Lyme has numerous beautiful beaches worth visiting. Spend several hours on one of McCook Point Park’s two beaches before hiking up the surrounding bluff for a picnic lunch or along the nearby boardwalk.
Make time to rest on the white sands at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach, which can be reached through a short tunnel under train lines. In addition to its sandy shores, Rocky Neck State Park has hiking paths and a stone pavilion with panoramic vistas.
If you find yourself in picturesque Connecticut, stop by one of these wonderful beach communities for a relaxing getaway or a new place to call home.