Saint Mary's By The Sea: Top 15 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn

lighthouse in black rock harborBridgeport, Connecticut suffers from a reputation problem. Older relatives have always spoken less than favorably about Park City.

 

But without fail, one neighborhood of which they always spoke highly is Saint Mary’s by the Sea.

 

A unique area of not only the city but Fairfield County in general, Saint Mary’s by the Sea is special.

 

This waterfront spot feels different from the rest of Bridgeport, but also offers a seaside destination open to all.

 

And this is in an area of the country where mansions line most of the Connecticut shoreline.

bridgeport ct visitors guide map 1 Saint Mary's by the Sea: Top Picks
Map design by Stanton House Inn with elements from Flaticon

About Saint Mary’s by the Sea

St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea is a seaside neighborhood on the southwestern edge of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

 

The neighborhood offers lovely views of Black Rock Harbor and Long Island Sound.

 

The views from the location, where Gilman Street meets Eames Boulevard, continue to draw visitors. A small public park marks the river’s mouth, bordered by London plane trees. A large portion of the coastline in Fairfield County is exclusive and off-limits. And yet here, locals and visitors can congregate close to the water, just a few steps from the expansive lawns of mansions.

 

Visitors can relax on the beach, in the grassy areas, and at picnic tables while enjoying a cool sea breeze. A half-mile-long walkway connects Ash Creek to the Black Rock Yacht Club, for a leisured stroll.

Is Saint Mary’s by the Sea part of Black Rock?

road through saint mary's by the sea in winterBorders are a source of contention. Some argue that the entire southwest corner of Bridgeport should be called Black Rock. Others believe Brewster Street acts as a physical barrier between Black Rock and St. Mary’s.

 

Regardless, this area is distinct. It has its own main street, post office, and harbor.

 

Bridgeport absorbed Black Rock as a neighborhood from Fairfield, which previously claimed it. Fairfield sits across the Black Rock river from Saint Mary’s by the Sea.

 

But there’s no question it bears little resemblance to the rest of Bridgeport. The East Side’s abandoned factories and overgrown lots are more in line with perceptions of what the city is. But the leafy blocks with well-kept Craftsman, Greek Revival, and Cape houses—many with clusters of purple blossoms in front—feel like another planet.

 

And then there’s the waterfront park, a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts in Bridgeport.

History of Saint Mary’s by the Sea

It’s incredible that the name “St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea” ever stuck in a Connecticut region with names like “field,” “ford,” and “port.” Especially considering how Catholic of a name it is in such a historically Protestant area.

 

A tiny chapel with a log wall only existed here from 1893 to 1925. The chapel was perched on a windswept point and offered unrestricted views of lighthouses, passing ships, the surf, and Long Island’s hazy hump.

 

The entire neighborhood gained its name from that shortlived chapel.

 

That said, European settlers lived here centuries before. It was founded 130 years before Bridgeport, and before the United States gained independence.

 

The dark-brown Colonial with leaded glass windows at No. 268 Brewster Street, close to the location of wharves that once made the area a busy port for ship lumber, is the city’s oldest house. The house was built in 1720 by a settler named John Wheeler and is still privately owned.

Things to do at Saint Mary’s by the Sea

St. Mary’s provides a tranquil setting in which to reflect on the sea, the tides, and history.

Saint Mary’s by the Sea Park

common merganser swimming in long island soundA linear park along the waterfront shouldn’t be such a big deal, but it is in Fairfield County. And St. Mary’s by the Sea is one of the most enjoyable places to stroll along the entire Connecticut coast. The distance is undeniably short; you’ll measure your walk in blocks rather than miles. 

 

After bending around a neck at the mouth of Ash Creek and passing by two historic CT lighthouses and a Fairfield Beach, it turns at the lovely Black Rock Harbor.

 

Head here for sunrises, fishing excursions, picnics, walking, and enjoying that feeling of rejuvenation.

Revolutionary Fort ruins

Be on the lookout for a pile of rocks when the tide is out. These are the ruins of a rebel fort that once guarded Black Rock Harbor during the American Revolution.

Harbor lighthouses

The grand Fayerweather Lighthouse stands at the end of Seaside Park across the harbor from the park.

 

And off in the distance is the haunting Penfield Reef Light, which is home to the ghost of Fred Jordan. Jordan was a keeper swept out to Long Island Sound while attempting to cross to the mainland for Christmas.

 

Bring binoculars to observe wildlife and birds on the walkways overlooking Black Rock Harbor and Long Island Sound.

Beaches near Saint Mary’s by the Sea

The beaches in St. Mary’s are mostly undiscovered and privately owned.

 

Nearby Connecticut beaches include:

restaurant in the black rock neighborhood

Black Rock neighborhood

Businesses line the busy Fairfield Avenue, from tattoo parlors to brunch spots.

 

The three yacht clubs, Fayerweather, S.S. Norden, and Black Rock, as well as the three dried starfish propped on a window ledge on Woodland Avenue and stacks of kayaks and canoes next to sand patches, all add to the nautical theme of the neighborhood.

 

Bait and tackle shops with red and white scuba flags sell “live shiners” if you need something to feed the fish.

Restaurants near Saint Mary’s by the Sea

Some popular spots along the main street include some of the best restaurants in Bridgeport, CT, if you’d prefer to feed yourself:

Take a walk before breakfast to see the sunrise. Then, head to Harborview Market for some freshly baked muffins or a full breakfast. There is both indoor and outdoor seating and live music on weekend mornings.

Directions to Saint Mary’s by the Sea

The Metro-North station on Black Rock Turnpike is a short trip to Black Rock and Saint Mary’s by the Sea.

 

If you’re planning a day trip from the Metro-North rail line, be warned, though:

 

The drive from the station to this neighborhood feels a little dodgy.

 

But hang in there, it’s worth the (short, promise) trip!

 

If you’re driving, it’s just as easy to get from Exit 23 on I-95.

Spend a Sunday exploring things to do in Bridgeport, CT, like Saint Mary’s by the Sea

And driving would make a Sunday spent exploring Bridgeport much easier.

 

Start your morning with a sunrise walk at Saint Mary’s by the Sea.

 

After breakfast in the Black Rock neighborhood, head to Mongers Market. One of the best flea markets in Connecticut, it’s only open Sundays.

 

Grab lunch at any of the best Bridgeport restaurants (or one of the top restaurants in nearby Fairfield, CT). Afterwards, you can spend the afternoon:

 

Then spend the evening enjoying some of the best things to do at night in Bridgeport:

 

Be sure to read the full guide to attractions, activities, and things to do in Brideport, CT before you go!

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