A well-rounded Connecticut experience is a blend of its coastal communities, the river valley, and the gorgeous countryside. Here are some options to dip your toes in each landscape (and you can actually dip your toes, if you want):
The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
Visitors can hop aboard a vintage steam engine at the edge of a historical 1892-era train station. It rolls right into the Connecticut River Valley during a narrated 2.5-hour journey and winds through the quaint towns of Deep River and Chester. The passing scenery includes the tidal wetlands of Pratt Cove and Chester Creek as well as blue heron, swans, and bald eagles as they travel to the river valley from Canada and Maine during their migration period.
When the engine pulls into Deep River Landing, passengers move to the multi-level Becky Thatcher riverboat and cruise the Connecticut River—with views of coves, inlets, plentiful wildlife, and the rocky shoreline—for a little over an hour before returning to Essex Station via train. Other exciting experiences include the Holiday Dinner Train and the Chocolate & Wine Cruise.
From New London to the Long Island Sound, many lighthouses dot the Connecticut coastline, and visitors can stroll the beaches, take a ferry cruise, or visit the affiliated museums to see and learn about the fascinating coastal beacons. Ledge Lighthouse is a unique structure that was built in 1909 in Colonial Revival-style to reflect homes of the wealthy citizens who lived by the sea in New London. It helped navigate ship traffic in and out of the city’s busy port, and it’s allegedly haunted by the 1920s-era keeper.
The New Haven Harbor Light (aka Five Mile Point Light), built in 1847 at the entrance of New Haven Harbor, is a central figure at Lighthouse Point Park. The 82-acre beachside park is open year-round, and visitors can ride an antique carousel that is one of only 100 left in the world. It’s also a picturesque spot for picnicking and bird-watching, and it has a public boat launch, fishing pier, and splash pad.
Top photo: The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
Photos by Connecticut Office of Tourism