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Stonington, Conn.: A True Find


Article and photo by Marc H.

Finding a great place by accident is one of the most exciting parts of travelling. That is why I like to wander along back roads and look on maps for small towns in interesting-looking locations. One such town that I discovered is a small village in Southeastern Connecticut named Stonington.

In the summer of 2001, we decided to take a ride down to Mystic, Conn., and see what it was like. I hadn't been there since I was a child, so I didn't remember much about it, except for the fact that it had a drawbridge and lots of boats. We headed out, happy that it was one of the nicest days of the summer.

It took about an hour and a half to reach Mystic from Boston. We parked on the outskirts of town and walked toward the main street. Mystic was a nice enough seaside town, but it was busy with tourists looking for Bermuda shorts, cheap trinkets, and fast food. We walked all over town but could not escape the crowds. Finally, after an hour or so, we decided that this was not the place for us. We headed back to the car.

It was still early in the afternoon, so we looked at a map and saw a place at the end of a peninsula next to Mystic called Stonington. Neither one of us had really heard much about it, so we decided to check it out.

The road to Stonington became progressively more pleasant. Soon we saw a sign pointing toward the village. We drove down a quiet road for a couple of miles, admiring the old houses and picturesque waterfront. Soon we crossed over a railroad bridge and saw a sign that said, "Borough of Stonington." Now the word "borough" instantly brought up thoughts of Brooklyn or Queens, but we soon realized that this was a slightly more peaceful place.

The first thing I noticed about Stonington was the almost perfect downtown area. Only in New England could you see a scene like this. The narrow main street was lined with antique stores, seafood restaurants, and beautiful old homes. We parked next to a public walkway that led to a pavilion on the water. The pavilion faced the west toward Long Island Sound. On one side was a weathered old cottage at the end of a pier. This seemed as perfect a spot as I had seen in a long time. Locals strolled to and from the pavilion to appreciate the views, and occasionally, a tourist or two would show up, in awe of the beauty of the place.

We continued down the main road and, after a few more blocks, it ended at a lighthouse and a beach. From here, we could see Rhode Island, New York, and the Connecticut coast. We were getting hungry, so we went back into town and had dinner at a terrific seafood place called Noah's. Afterwards, we walked around some more, finding a second main road that went parallel to the road that we had been on. This street has got to be one of the great streets in New England, with old homes and churches along both sides for several blocks.

We did not want to leave Stonington, but it was getting late and we had promised ourselves to go to Foxwoods, a huge casino just north of Mystic. The shock of being in a gambling place with thousands of drunk, desperate, chain-smoking people after being in one of the most peaceful places on earth was too much to bear. We soon left Foxwoods and headed back to Boston. 

I could not get Stonington out for my mind. I had to see the place again to make sure that it was as great as I thought it was. Thus, over the next two weeks, I returned twice. The first time I went with three others, and we explored more of the town. We wandered into an old church, relaxed across the water from a huge mansion, and spent time walking around the lighthouse and beach after the sun went down. The following week I went there with my family, who fell in love with the place. We spent a lot of time in the pavilion, admiring the piers, the fine seaside townhouses, and the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Later in the fall, I was supposed to fly to San Diego, but the trip was canceled partly because of the terrorist attack that had taken place two months earlier. So here I was in Boston looking for something, anything, to do. We took the day off from work and decided to see more of the Connecticut shore. Much of it was very nice; Essex, Old Lyme, Madison, Guilford, and Branford are all nice old villages on or near the ocean. But none of them had the same special feeling that Stonington had. So of course we ended up back there at the end of the day.

Stonington almost made up for my missed trip (although I still yearned for the beaches of La Jolla, Del Mar, and Pacific Beach). The village had an even slower pace to it in the late fall than it had in the summer. Woodsmoke filled the air, warm light emanated from the old whaling homes, and the smell of the sea drifted down Main Street. This time, we did not go to Foxwoods; there was no reason to be anywhere but in this utterly charming (and virtually unknown) New England village.

For more great articles and photographs by Marc H., please check out his fine web site .


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