East Lyme is a charming seaside town in Connecticut, known for its coastal village of Niantic. This village has been a vacation hotspot for more than a century. The town is a picturesque blend of sandy beaches and beautiful parks, including McCook Park and Rocky Neck. It offers panoramic views of the bay from places like the Niantic Bay Boardwalk. East Lyme caters to all age groups with a wide range of activities. It promises a unique allure and lasting memories. So, let’s explore the best things to do in East Lyme, CT, and discover its unique charm.
- Explore East Lyme, CT for a unique summer destination with something for everyone, from Bay Boardwalks to Rocky Neck State Park!
- Shop and dine your way through the charming Niantic Farmers’ Market or The Book Barn.
- Unwind in nearby towns like Old Lyme, Waterford, or Montville and experience all southeastern Connecticut has to offer!
A Brief History of East Lyme, Connecticut
East Lyme, a quaint little town tucked away in New London County, Connecticut, started its journey in 1839, born from the union of two villages, Niantic and Flanders. Once upon a time, it was all about fishing, shipyards, and quarries. But then, the railroad came along in the mid-19th century, connecting it to the big cities of Boston and New York. And just like that, East Lyme transformed into a summer hotspot, a seaside paradise, if you will. The irresistible allure of the Niantic Bay and Long Island Sound, with their sandy beaches and the irresistible charm of a small village, started pulling in visitors like bees to honey.
In one corner, we have Niantic, a bustling nook known for its lively atmosphere. This stands in stark contrast to the tranquil Flanders side. Here, the main attractions are apple orchards, a high school, and a forest.
Flanders, once a humble farming area along the Old Post Road, derived its name from the woolen mills developed there. These mills bore a striking resemblance to those in Flanders, Belgium. The heart of the village was Flanders Four Corners, located at the intersection of Chesterfield Road and Boston Post Road. This location pulsated with the rhythm of local life. However, Flanders began to lose prominence as Niantic started to shine with the growth of commercial fishing and the construction of the Shore Line Railway. The construction of Interstate 95 in the 1950s further pushed Flanders into the background, leading to the loss of many original historic homes. Subsequent commercial construction at the Four Corners area compounded this decline. It’s like the village was playing a game of hide and seek – and losing.
Modern East Lyme, Connecticut
Today, the town of East Lyme wins accolades for being one of the most livable towns in Connecticut. The New York Times, among others, has highlighted their schools, especially East Lyme High School.
The Best Things to do in East Lyme, CT
With so many wonderful attractions and activities to enjoy, East Lyme is a true gem in southeastern Connecticut. Whether you’re:
- strolling along the scenic Niantic Bay Boardwalk
- exploring the wildlife trails in Rocky Neck State Park
- delving into the area’s rich history at the Samuel Smith Farmstead and Thomas Lee House
There’s something for everyone to enjoy in this captivating coastal town.
Without further ado, let’s explore the top attractions in East Lyme, CT!
Niantic Bay Boardwalk
Ever heard of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk? This mile-long gem is a hot spot for both locals and tourists. It’s like a red carpet rolled out next to Amtrak’s shoreline railroad tracks, offering killer views of Niantic Bay. It first opened its arms to the public in 2005, but had to take a brief hiatus around 2011 due to some Amtrak construction and Hurricane Irene’s tantrum. But fear not, it’s back in action and better than ever!
The Niantic Bay Boardwalk is not just another walkway, it’s THE walkway to hit when in East Lyme. It’s a 1.1-mile catwalk connecting the Hole-in-the-Wall Beach at McCook Point Park to Cini Park on the other edge of the village. And the boardwalk offers jaw-dropping views of Long Island Sound. Perfect for a lazy walk, a sandy picnic, or a little retail therapy at the nearby boutiques and eateries.
Rocky Neck State Park
Immerse yourself in the natural splendor of Rocky Neck State Park, a picturesque patch of shoreline boasting a sandy beach, wildlife trails, and an intriguing past. Home to herons, cranes, mute swans, and majestic ospreys, this park offers a true haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers alike.
Take a wander through Rocky Neck State Park and you’ll trip over its history, possibly literally. From its early days as a fishing village to its current status as a summer retreat, it’s had quite the glow-up!
McCook Point Park Beach
McCook Point Park, or as locals lovingly call it, Crescent Beach, is your one-stop-shop for a day of seaside serenity. Nestled at the end of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk, this picturesque place boasts two sandy beaches and a panoramic view of Long Island Sound that will leave you breathless. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s the perfect spot for sun worshipers, swimmers, and landscape lovers alike.
With plenty of parking and a stylish bathhouse, McCook Park Beach rolls out the red carpet for beachgoers of all ages.
The McCook Point Beach and Park have been a staple of East Lyme living since the town acquired the property in 1951. The park, once home to the McCook summer residence, now features a beautiful bluff nestled between two white sand beaches. Its lush lawn, encircled by copper beech trees, is the perfect setting for games, picnics, or a quiet moment of peace.
You can catch glimpses of Fisher’s Island, Orient Point, Plum Island, and Wigwam Rock from McCook Point. Throughout the year, the bay is buzzing with sailboats, fishing boats, birds both migratory and resident, and if you’re lucky, even seals!
Whether you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, or simply enjoy the view, there’s plenty of room at McCook Point Beach and Park. And when the summer sun sets, locals and visitors alike can enjoy concerts and dances in the park. Now, that’s what we call a beach party!
Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut
Ever wondered where kids in East Lyme get their daily dose of fun? Well, the secret lies in the town’s original public library on Main Street. This isn’t your standard hush-hush library, though. It’s now the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, a veritable wonderland for kids from infancy to ten years old. And the current public library? It’s taken a bit of a retreat to Society Road, away from the bustling Niantic. But hey, even books need a vacation, right?
Here, hands-on learning and play come together in a fun and engaging environment. The museum offers:
- Interactive exhibits
- Outdoor play areas
- A playscape with a climbing wall
- A special area just for toddlers
- A water table
- A dig pit
- A zip-line
- A tree house
The Discovery Room offers a world of science exploration, including microscopes, a train table, a kaleidoscope, a creation station, a magnet wall, and even a small animal collection.
Inspire a love of learning and discovery at this enchanting museum!
Samuel Smith Farmstead
Travel back in history with a visit to the Samuel Smith Farmstead, a First Period colonial house with original features and guided tours. Open for tours on Sunday afternoons between Memorial Day and Labor Day, this historic gem offers a glimpse into the lives of early settlers and the craftsmanship of the time.
Marvel at the preserved 18th-century featheredged wood paneling and learn about the history of the farmstead and its inhabitants.
Thomas Lee House
A visit to the Thomas Lee House is sure to captivate history enthusiasts. It’s one of the oldest wood-frame houses in Connecticut. Built in 1660, this historic landmark showcases period furniture, cooking implements, and tools such as bellows and looms.
Explore the fascinating past of the Thomas Lee House and immerse yourself in the rich history of the town of East Lyme.
Niantic Farmers’ Market
To experience the local culture, make sure to visit the Niantic Farmers’ Market. It happens every Thursday from June to October in the Methodist Street parking lot. Offering a cornucopia of:
- fresh produce
- baked goods
- and more
This bustling market is an excellent opportunity to support local farmers and artisans while stocking up on delicious and healthy food.
Experience the vibrant community spirit and indulge in the freshest flavors at the Niantic Farmers’ Market.
Cedar Ridge Golf Course
Enjoy a round of golf at Cedar Ridge Golf Course, a popular 18-hole par 3 course in East Lyme. With challenging greens, bunkers, and affordable green fees, Cedar Ridge Golf Course is the perfect destination for golfers of all levels, from beginners to pros.
Enjoy a day on the links and take in the beautiful surroundings at this well-reviewed public golf course.
Nehantic State Forest
Lose yourself in the serene beauty of Nehantic State Forest, the oldest state forest in New London County. Offering hiking and outdoor recreation, this beautiful forest is an excellent destination for nature enthusiasts.
Wander along the winding, unmarked trails of Nehantic Forest Road and experience the tranquility and beauty of this enchanting woodland area.
Fishing Charters from East Lyme, CT
Set sail for a fishing expedition with expert charter companies located at East Lyme’s Mago Point. With a variety of options to choose from, such as:
You can reel in blue fish, largemouth bass, bonitos, black fish, and breams while enjoying the stunning views of Long Island Sound.
Shopping in East Lyme, CT
East Lyme offers distinctive shopping experiences in both of the two villages in town. That said, the most famous spot here is the Book Barn. In this writer’s opinion, it’s one of the most unique attractions in all Connecticut.
The Book Barn
Located on the main street of Niantic, The Book Barn is a haven for book lovers, boasting a collection of over 350,000 books in 2019. Spread across three locations:
- The Main Barn
- The Downtown Shop
- Chapter Three
this massive second-hand bookstore offers an extensive range of titles and genres to satisfy every book lover’s cravings.
The Book Barn also hosts a variety of events and parties throughout the year, making it a lively and engaging destination for both locals and visitors alike.
Restaurants in East Lyme, CT
Relish the diverse culinary offerings available in East Lyme, offering a range of dining options to suit all tastes. Some of the top restaurants in the area include:
- Il Pomod’Oro Restaurant & Pizzeria: Known for its delicious Italian cuisine
- The Shack: A popular spot for classic American fare
- Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant: A must-visit for seafood lovers
- Rustic Cafe: Offers a delightful mix of American and Italian dishes
Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in East Lyme, CT
If you’re planning a day trip from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast, the drive would take about an hour and 25 minutes.
If you want to stick around longer than a leisurely afternoon, you’ll need a place to crash and recharge those batteries. Whether you’re here for a whirlwind weekend or a leisurely long vacation, you’ll find a cozy nook in this town that feels just like home, only better!
Inn at Harbor Hill Marina
Enjoy a tranquil waterfront stay at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, offering cozy rooms and picturesque views of the Long Island Sound. This charming inn provides luxurious lodgings with all the amenities you need for a pleasant stay, including fishing, kayaking, and swimming adventures right at your doorstep.
Unwind and enjoy the stunning vistas of the harbor and Niantic River at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, a perfect retreat for a memorable getaway.
The Niantic Inn
Unwind at The Niantic Inn, a comfortable and conveniently located hotel in the heart of East Lyme. The Niantic Inn offers:
- Cozy accommodations
- Delicious on-site restaurant
- Stylish bar
- State-of-the-art fitness center
- Relaxing pool
Experience a welcoming and enjoyable stay at The Niantic Inn, right on the main drag of town.
Just a short walk from downtown shops, restaurants, and the private beach, The Niantic Inn is the ideal home base for exploring all that East Lyme has to offer.
Directions to East Lyme, CT
Reaching East Lyme, CT is straightforward and convenient, thanks to its convenient location along I-95 and Route 2. Situated just 90 miles from New York City and 120 miles from Boston, East Lyme is easily accessible for a CT day trip, weekend getaway or longer beach escape.
More Towns and Cities to Explore Near East Lyme, CT
Why limit your adventure to East Lyme when the neighboring towns are brimming with their own unique charms? Whether it’s the artistic allure of Old Lyme, the thrill-seeker’s paradise of Montville, or the scenic splendor of Waterford, there’s a trove of unique experiences just a stone’s throw away from East Lyme.
Old Lyme, CT
Old Lyme, CT, a seaside haven brimming with artistic and cultural richness, is the perfect destination for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Visit the Florence Griswold Museum, the Lyme Art Association, and the Lyme Historical Society to immerse yourself in the town’s artistic heritage.
Or to explore the great outdoors, Old Lyme offers a variety of activities, including hiking, biking, and kayaking. And the charm and beauty of Old Lyme is just a short drive west from East Lyme.
Waterford, CT is a place that’s got it all – from a theater center named after Eugene O’Neill (ever heard of him?) to the adrenaline-pumping Waterford Speedbowl, and the tranquil beauty of Harkness Memorial State Park. If you’re into the great outdoors, Waterford’s picturesque shoreline offers a smorgasbord of activities like fishing, boating, and swimming. Or if you’re a landlubber, there’s always sunbathing!
Just a hop, skip, and a jump east from East Lyme, Waterford is an intoxicating cocktail of entertainment, culture, and Mother Nature herself.
For an exhilarating adventure, set your sights on Montville, CT. Here are some of the attractions and activities you can enjoy:
- Mohegan Sun Casino and Arena in the borough of Uncasville, Connecticut
- Nature’s Art Village
- Bird watching
Montville is like a casino buffet table – there’s something for everyone!
So why not venture a little further afield and explore the exciting world of Montville, CT?
East Lyme, CT, with its captivating Long Island Sound coastline and rich history, is a treasure trove of diverse attractions. Ready to explore? Start with the scenic Niantic Bay Boardwalk. Fancy a dip in history? The Thomas Lee House is your time machine. Got an itch for adventure? Mago Point’s fishing expeditions are just the ticket. East Lyme promises unforgettable experiences and lasting memories. So, gather your tribe and embark on a journey to this enchanting coastal town.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is East Lyme known for?
East Lyme is well-known for its public beaches, cultural activities, and specialty shops along the Long Island Sound. From the Bay Boardwalk to Rocky Neck State Park and Hole-in-the-wall beach, East Lyme offers something for everyone.
Is Niantic CT worth visiting?
Niantic, Connecticut is a charming village with something for everyone – from peaceful boardwalks to scenic state parks. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Is Niantic CT the same as East Lyme CT?
Niantic, CT is a village along Long Island Sound, within the town of East Lyme CT.
Does Old Lyme have a town beach?
Yes, Old Lyme has two town beaches: White Sand and Hains Park. Residents can purchase a beach parking pass for both.
What are some top attractions in East Lyme, CT?
Explore the scenic Niantic Bay Boardwalk, spend time in Rocky Neck State Park, relax at McCook Point Park Beach or visit the historic Samuel Smith Farmstead – East Lyme has plenty of exciting attractions to offer!