Hit the beach from your new apartment in New Haven: the Corsair guide
July 8, 2016
New Haven’s location on on Long Island Sound means you’re never far from the beach. Lucky for you, it’s all easy to get to from Corsair. With a little effort, you can even do it without a car! Here are a few picks for places to go for sun and sand near your new apartment in New Haven:
New Haven, CT
This is New Haven’s city-owned public beach, located in the neighborhood of East Shore on the southernmost point of town. As beaches go, its main draw is that it’s in town and free for New Haven residents. Think of it as a bonus amenity with your new apartment in New Haven. As a park, it has the expected features—picnic areas, grills, and playgrounds.
But what about the the lighthouse? Yes, there really is one here (that’s it pictured above) and it’s open to the public on occasion. You can usually tour it on New Year’s Day during the Polar Plunge. (That’s when the park is taken over by hardy folks who take a winter dip in the Sound to raise money for New Haven parks. It’s a must-do New Haven tradition, at least to watch.) Getting to the top of the landmark lighthouse is worth the short climb up 74 very narrow stairs—for the view and just to say you did it. Trivia: the official name of the lighthouse is Five Mile Point, so named for the distance to downtown New Haven.
What really makes this park special for many people, however, is the antique carousel, complete with hand-painted horses and circus-style music. The carousel shed, with its view to the Sound, is such a picturesque place that it’s a popular spot for weddings. But you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to visit. You can ride the flying horses in season for the bargain price of 50 cents.
Bonus tip: the New Haven parks department occasionally has kayaking classes here. They’re not always listed on the schedule, so keep an eye out on local events listings like the Daily Nutmeg or the New Haven Independent calendar. This is a nice way to see coastal habitats including Morris Creek, the adjacent salt marsh owned by the New Haven Land Trust.
Trip from Corsair: >6 miles: 16 minutes by car, 34 minutes by bike
West Haven, CT
These aren’t the most secluded beaches—the main drag of town is right behind you in most cases. But parking is easy and the presence of old-timey seafood places along the road (try the fried everything!) add charm. The town boardwalk—think pleasantly landscaped walkway, not a boardwalk in the sense of touristy beach towns—is also a nice touch. It’s worth noting that Sandy Point is a bird sanctuary that has views to downtown New Haven and East Rock.
Bonus pit stops: Get here via Long Wharf Drive and you can stop at the roadside taco trucks, a true gem of the New Haven food scene. (More on those here.) If you go by bike, you can use the trail through the New Haven Land Trust‘s Long Wharf Preserve, a small but interesting slice of nature tucked between I-95 and New Haven Harbor. Check out the educational signs and learn about horseshoe crabs and New Haven’s oyster industry, among other things. Then continue on to the Kimberly Avenue bridge and through West Haven and you’re there.
Trip from Corsair: ~8 miles. 15 minutes by car, 40 minutes by bike.
This park is everybody’s top pick of beaches near New Haven. No surprise there—it’s the largest of the Connecticut state park beaches and arguably the nicest. In addition to the beach itself, the park boasts a number of natural environments from marshes to woods, many with walking trails. Even though it’s a big public beach and can get crowded, it’s possible to find a quiet spot and surround yourself with nature here. In fact, the park is a noted birding area. (More on that here and here.) You can camp here, although reservations fill up fast in the summer. Get here via Route 1 and see some of Connecticut’s most scenic beach towns.
Trip from Corsair: ~25 miles: 20-30 minutes by car. 2 1/2 hours by bike for the ambitious and fit. (The still-in-concept Shoreline Greenway Trail will someday make the ride a little easier.) Or 55 minutes by train plus bike.
Bonus travel tip: What? Did you say train? If you don’t want to drive or bike that far, there’s an easier way right now. Bring your bike on Shore Line East, the rail line that leaves right from State Street. It’s a 30-minute train trip to the Clinton station, and then just 15 minutes by bike. (From Corsair, figure another 10 minutes from 1050 State Street to State Street Station.) There’s no extra charge to take your bike, but check the rules first for details.
Quick hits: farther afield from your new apartment in New Haven
West of New Haven, try Milford and Silver Sands State Park. There are also a few other options in town like Walnut Beach, although you’ll need to buy a membership pass. East beyond Hammonasset, there are several other worthwhile state parks. Rocky Neck and Harkness Memorial Park (which also has an old mansion you can tour) are two popular ones. We’re also told by a reliable source that Jacobs Beach, a town beach in lovely Guilford, is just a mile walk from the town’s train station.
For even more Connecticut beach options, see this low-tech map, or better yet, this directory. But if you’re going very far north on I-95, you might as well stick it out and go to Rhode Island. Which brings us to….
Long Island Sound is fine, but there are time when you want the Atlantic Ocean. For those times, get on I-95 and head here. This is the closest of the Rhode Island beaches, not far over the state line. You’ll have lots of company from other Connecticut people looking to get their fill of real waves and sandier beaches. (Out-of-state cars pay more for parking, so fill your car with friends and make it worthwhile.) Actually, you’ll have lots of company, period. The loud and lively strip along the beach has plenty of bars for that spring break feel.
If you want something a little more subdued, however, head a few miles farther into Westerly and the historic village of Watch Hill. There’s just one public beach, details here, and you’ll have to find your own parking. Still, it’s a nice and quiet counterpoint to Misquamicut and a good day trip. You’ll still be back in New Haven in time for post-beach pizza .
Trip from Corsair: 60 miles. About an hour by car. Long enough by bike that you should consider training for a serious athletic event if you can even attempt it.
Don’t forget your sunscreen.