Things To Do In Branford CT: Top 15 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn

A summer cottage on one of the Thimble Islands, one of the best things to do in Branford, CT

A charming Connecticut shoreline town, the town of Branford, CT, sits on Long Island Sound. With over 20 landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a trove for history buffs. The Thimble Islands archipelago is one of the most unique sites in the entire state. These granite islands off Stony Creek are mostly privately owned, though accessible from a cruise.

 

The town, founded in 1644, has preserved over 20 historic homes and properties, including a historic house museum.

 

Branford isn’t just about history, though. The town boasts three craft breweries and a fruit farm where you can pick your own produce. The town has beautiful beaches, an active arts scene, and a unique character.

 

Ready to explore the best things to do do in Branford, CT? Let’s get into it:

 

Quick hits

  • Explore the rich history of Branford, CT, at gems like the Thimble Islands and Stony Creek Museum.
  • Take a scenic drive along Route 146 for lovely views.
  • If you’re up for an adventure, embark on a sailing trip with Sail-Works for an unforgettable experience.
  • Nearby Connecticut shoreline towns are full of New England charm that you won’t want to miss.

things to do in branford ct map Things to Do in Branford CT: Top 15 Most Unique Spots
Map design by Stanton House Inn

A Brief History of Branford, Connecticut

George Baldwin House, one of the historic places in and around Branford, CT

Founded in 1644, historic town of Branford, Connecticut was established by settlers from Wethersfield who migrated to what was then Totokett. Over time, Branford grew and blossomed, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, over 20 historic homes and properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

The town’s roots go back even further. It was in 1638 when the first English settlers of New Haven bought land from the Mattabesech Indians. At that time, the area was known as “Dutch Wharf” and the Dutch House Quarter. The name was derived from the trading post the Dutch had established at the mouth of the Branford River.

 

The town’s name is believed to have originated from Brentford, England. In the late 18th century, the first shoreline community, Stony Creek, was settled. This village grew around a quarry known for its pink granite. This strong and sturdy granite was used to build the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. It even adorns the facades of Manhattan’s towering skyscrapers. The shoreline boroughs of Indian Neck and Pine Orchard soon followed suit.

 

Furnace Branch dam site in Stony Creek

The arrival of the railroad in 1852 brought new businesses. These included Branford Lockworks, Malleable Iron Fittings Company, and the Atlantic Wire Company.

 

Branford became a popular resort area in the mid-19th century. About twenty hotels opened their doors to visitors. However, during the mid-20th century, Branford shed its resort image and developed into a northeastern suburb of New Haven, Connecticut.

 

The Best Things to do in Branford, CT

Historic church in this shoreline town

Ready to discover Branford, CT? This shoreline town is full of things to do. With 20 miles of the best beaches in CT, unique shops, and a lively arts scene, it’s hard to get bored here. And that goes for a day trip as well as weekend getaway.

 

Thimble Islands

If you only have the time to visit one thing here in the summer, choose the Thimble Islands. This captivating collection comprises over 80 islands, each with its unique story. The largest among them is Horse Island, a 17-acre gem owned by Yale University. Many of the houses and cottages on these islands date back to the Victorian era, enhancing the historical appeal of the place.

 

To truly appreciate the Thimble Islands, take a boat tour. You can also enjoy activities such as boating, kayaking, fishing, and walking tours. With their picturesque landscapes and intriguing history, a visit to the Connecticut shoreline is incomplete without a trip to the Thimble Islands.

 

Thimble Island Cruise

The Thimble Island Cruise is a family-run venture that has been sharing the beauty of the Thimble Islands for over fifty years. On board the Sea Mist, you’ll have a front-row view of the islands’ rich history and captivating beauty.

 

Stony Creek Museum

Churches along the town green of this shoreline town

A former historic church is now a repository of history named the Stony Creek Museum. It houses a unique collection of Sicilian Puppet artifacts, which adds an artistic touch to the place.

Inside, you’ll find a variety of items:

  • Rock chunks and old photos from the quarry
  • Tools used by quarry workers in the past
  • Age-old firefighting gear
  • An apothecary that’s over a hundred years old
  • The aforementioned Sicilian puppets
  • Items from the Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps

The Stony Creek Museum is a must-visit if you’re at all curious about Branford history.

 

Scenic Route 146 Drive

If you’re a fan of stunning views and scenic drives, you cannot miss the Route 146 Scenic Drive. This 13-mile stretch winds its way along the shoreline to the town of Guilford, Connecticut. You’ll witness the vast glory of Long Island Sound and peaceful creeks. You’ll see marshlands teeming with life and observe small islands off the coast. And you’ll pass through the Route 146 Historic District, for fans of historic architecture.

 

Hiking and Biking on Branford Trail

One portion of the shoreline trails that make up the Branford Trail

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Branford Trail is a blessing. Spanning over 30 miles of untouched terrain, it offers an array of activities. Hiking, biking, and even cross-country skiing during winter in Connecticut are among the options.

 

Lake Saltonstall

Mount Saltonstall is a natural barrier between Branford and East Haven to the west. It’s part of the Metacomet Ridge, a long fault stretching north for 100 miles to the Massachusetts-Vermont Border. This fault has given rise to some of Connecticut’s most iconic natural and man-made monuments, including:

 

 

By Mount Saltonstall, you’ll find a lake managed by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority of the same name. Your journey to Lake Saltonstall can begin from one of two parking lots at Hoseley Avenue. From there, take a trail that winds through the high, wooded banks of the ridge and the lake.

 

If fishing is your thing, there’s a pier where you can try your luck with the abundant bass in Lake Saltonstall. During the warmer months, the SCCRWA runs a boat rental station. This is perfect if you prefer a leisurely paddle on the water.

 

Sail-Works

Sail-Works is a perfect place to start your maritime adventure. is a perfect place to start your maritime adventure. They embark on sailing trips to discover the hidden gems of the sea. They also offer comprehensive courses for learning the ropes of sailing. With tailored lessons available for individuals or groups, they cater to all skill levels.

 

Harrison House Museum

Window of the Harrison House Museum, a history and art museum

The Harrison House Museum in Branford is a fascinating destination, run by the Branford Historical Society. It’s an old saltbox house from the colonial era, full of furniture and decor from that time period. A trip to the Harrison House Museum is a journey through Branford’s history.

 

Legacy Theatre

The Legacy Theatre is no ordinary theater; it’s a piece of local history. You’ll find everything from Broadway shows to workshops and community events here. And all in a beautifully maintained historic setting.

 

Rose Orchards & Rose Vineyards

For a slice of rural life, head over to Rose Orchards. This family-run establishment offers a bounty of fresh produce, as well as one of the best apple orchards in CT. They also serve homemade frozen custard, a delight for the taste buds. For entertainment, you can enjoy farm activities like hayrides and their own unique spin on CT corn mazes.

 

Rose Vineyards also produces wine onsite. They incorporate grapes sourced from California and Chile for their wine-making process. This is another pick among the best wineries in CT.

 

Restaurants in Branford, Connecticut

Cuisine from one of the best restaurants in Branford, CT

As is typical of a Connecticut shoreline town, Branford’s cuisine centers on seafood and comfort food in general.

 

And ice cream. Always ice cream.

 

Home Restaurant

Let’s talk about Let’s talk about Home Restaurant in Branford, CT. in Branford, CT. This place feels like a scene straight out of a storybook, with a warm and inviting ambience. The food features locally sourced, fresh ingredients. The menu boasts a variety of dishes, including roasted vegetable tacos, a generously stuffed turkey burger, and a Cornish hen glazed with pomegranate-citrus.

 

The Lobster Shack

The Lobster Shack is run by a family of seafood experts. Their offerings are fresh, straight from the boat. Despite its casual atmosphere, the food is of exceptional quality. Why not try a bowl of their Lobster bisque? Or perhaps the Rhode Island chowder? Their freshly caught and grilled clams are mouth-watering. That said, their famous CT lobster rolls are the true star of the show. The Lobster Shack is located in East Haven, just a short drive from Branford. If you love seafood, this place is not to be missed.

 

Ashley’s Ice Cream

And if you have a sweet tooth, Ashley’s Ice Cream is your lucky break. They have been serving all-natural, fresh ice cream since 1973. They offer flavors like Nutella Chip and Coffee with Oreo that are bound to impress. Their ice cream contains no artificial ingredients, only pure, delicious ice cream.

 

Branford Breweries

Serving up craft beer from one of the best breweries in Branford, CT: Stony Creek Brewery & Thimble Island Brewery

Branford, CT, is a beer lover’s paradise with Stony Creek Brewery, Thimble Islands Brewing Company, and Caius Farm Brewery. Each brewery offers its own distinct flavor, brewing some of the finest craft beers you’ll ever taste. If you’re a fan of beer, whether it’s a hoppy IPA, a smooth stout, or a crisp lager, some of the best breweries in Connecticut are in Branford. So, pull up a stool, raise a glass, and toast to the good life in Branford, CT.

 

Stony Creek Brewery

By the Branford River, Stony Creek Brewery has a misleading name. To be fair, they used to be over in Stony Creek. And the new, spacious taproom and patio provide the perfect space to relax and enjoy a cold brew. Founded by the Crowley family in 2010, Stony Creek Brewery has since carved out a reputation in the craft beer world with a diverse range of offerings. Adding to the ambiance, food trucks often pull up to the waterfront beer garden, serving everything from pizza to lobster rolls and tacos. They make an excellent pairing with the brewery’s crisp beers. If you’re a beer lover visiting Branford, CT, stopping by Stony Creek Brewery is a must.

 

Thimble Islands Brewing Company, AKA Thimble Island Brewery

Rotunda of the Branford public library

Also known as Thimble Islands Brewing Company, Thimble Island Brewery is the largest self-distributing microbrewery in the entire state of Connecticut. Craft beer enthusiasts love the rotating tap lines featuring some of their most popular brews. These include the American Amber Ale, Coffee Stout, Thimble IPA, Thimble Lager, and Ghost Island IPA. The tasting room invites guests to sit, sip, and savor their fine beers. On weekends, guided tours are available where you can learn about the brewing process and sample their beers.

 

Caius Farm Brewery

Another spot to enjoy a pint or two is Caius Farm Brewery. This small, family-run brewery is known for its carefully crafted brews. Each sip tells a story of hops, malt, and yeast. The brewery provides a quiet spot to sit, think, and enjoy a good beer.

 

Branford, CT, Events

Trinity Episcopal Church, down the street from the Harrison House Museum and Stony Creek Brewery

Each Father’s Day weekend, Branford Center transforms into a bustling hub of joviality. The three-day fiesta known as the Branford Festival kicks off with a grand “raising of the flag” ceremony. It takes place in front of the Branford town hall and courthouse. The air fills with the symphony of live music and the tantalizing aromas from a variety of food trucks. A craft fair showcases the handiwork of local artisans. There’s a Father’s Day road race that sets pulses racing. A classic car cruise adds a dash of nostalgia. Younger folk enjoy a myriad of activities including rides, face painting, and inflatables. And the event’s highlight? The Father of the Year award. The award is decided by an essay-writing competition where local children pen heartfelt tributes to their fathers, all vying for the coveted title. It’s a heartwarming spectacle to witness.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Branford, CT

Bed and breakfasts in Branford, CT, are close to the top attractions, like the Branford Trail, a free and fun place

Thinking about a day trip from our Connecticut bed and breakfast in Greenwich, CT? Branford, CT is a worthy destination. It’s a short 54-minute drive away, perfect CT day trip distance.

 

And yet, Branford doesn’t have to be a quick stop. It’s a place that deserves a leisurely exploration. Consider making it your choice for a weekend getaway in CT. And at the end of the day, Branford offers cozy places to rest and rejuvenate. It’s like home, but with the added bonus of someone else handling the cleaning!

 

Thimble Islands Bed & Breakfast

Thimble Islands Bed & Breakfast is nestled in a location offering a stunning view of the Long Island Sound and the Thimble Islands. It’s a luxurious haven for visitors in Stony Creek. Thimble Islands Bed & Breakfast has only two rooms, each equipped with a private bath and a breathtaking view of the water. It’s a peaceful and quiet place.

 

The living room is a comfortable space to relax, while the dining room is bright and inviting. And your rooms are tidied up regularly, with daily housekeeping services.

 

Owenego Inn

If you’re seeking a place with history, charm, and a breathtaking view, head to the Owenego Inn in Branford, CT. This establishment offers rooms with stunning views of the Long Island Sound, for a serene backdrop for your morning coffee. Established in 1847, the inn is steeped in its own stories.

 

Directions to Branford, CT, from Greenwich, CT

Salt marsh by the Branford train station

If you’re planning a road trip from Greenwich, CT, to Branford, CT, start by getting on I-95 North or the Merritt Parkway. Continue for about 52 miles. The drive should take you around 54 minutes, depending on traffic.

 

To get from Greenwich, CT, to Branford, CT by train, you would need to take the Metro-North Railroad New Haven Line from the Greenwich station. This line will take you to New Haven, CT, where you can transfer to a Shore Line East train that will bring you directly to Branford. The total journey time is approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes, depending on the time of day and the specific trains you take.

 

More Nearby Cities & Towns to Explore Near Branford, Connecticut

Seashore at another Connecticut shoreline town, this one is Madison, CT

If you have some time to spare, consider exploring the neighboring CT shoreline towns around Branford. Each town is unique and offers their own variety of Connecticut attractions and activities. You’ll find everything from historical remnants and museums to peaceful beaches and nature preserves.

 

East Haven, CT

Old trolley at the Shoreline Trolley Museum, one of the fun things to do in nearby cities

Just a short distance to the east of Branford is East Haven, CT. A few attractions you might find interesting here include:

 

  • Shore Line Trolley Museum
  • Hagaman Memorial Library
  • Overshores Brewing
  • East Haven Town Beach
  • Farm River State Park

 

East Haven offers a mix of beaches, parks, and history, making it a worthwhile destination when you’re in the Branford area.

 

New Haven, Connecticut

Lighthouse Point Park

Next is the city of New Haven, Connecticut, home to the prestigious Yale University.

 

The city houses the Yale University Art Gallery, a premier art museum in all but name. The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is another spot worth visiting. And the Yale Center for British Art showcases the finest British art, making the city a must-visit for art lovers.

 

New Haven also boasts the New Haven Museum and the Shubert Theater, for some added culture.

 

Guilford, CT

Henry Whitfield State Museum in the town of Guilford, CT

The town green of Guilford, CT, will stop you in your tracks, and the historic homes ooze New England charm.

 

Westwoods Trail and Bluffs Head beckon to nature lovers. Chaffinch Island Park and Jacobs Beach offer tranquil retreats. The history is rich and palpable, with the Henry Whitfield State Museum and Hyland House Museum telling captivating stories of the past.

 

Madison, Connecticut

Town Green in Madison, CT

Madison, Connecticut is a charming Connecticut shoreline gem with beautiful beaches and nature preserves. The downtown area is irresistible, while Hammonasset Beach State Park and Meigs Point Nature Center offer sand, sun, and a little wildness. Madison Green Historic District is a delightful walk and thought-provoking history tour. Madison is sure to leave a lasting impression, another must-visit for things to do near Branford, CT.

 

Tl;dr

Branford, CT, is a town rich in history and proud of its heritage. Its natural beauty, from the coastline that graces the Long Island Sound to the charm of downtown, is gorgeous. The town offers fine dining, the freshest seafood, and the best local brews. Whether you’re just passing through or planning to stay, Branford is sure to welcome you. So, hit the road, and prepare to discover the magic of Branford, Connecticut.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is Branford CT known for?

Branford is a charming place known for its CT unique attractions. It’s home to three breweries and the famous Thimble Islands. A handful of beautiful Connecticut beaches also add to its appeal. Activities like boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming are readily available for everyone. The Thimble Islands, an archipelago situated just offshore, are a sight to behold. They offer a diverse range of attractions, ensuring entertainment for all. And let’s not forget the beaches – they are truly a delight. If relaxation is what you’re after, Branford has got you covered.

 

Does Branford have a downtown?

Branford does have a downtown area. It is a vibrant place filled with sidewalk cafes and restaurants. The downtown area has a unique charm and a lively energy that flows through its streets. The quaint shops each have their own story to share. In the middle of this hustle and bustle, you’ll find the historic Branford Green, a tranquil spot that offers a peaceful contrast. It’s a sight worth seeing.

 

Does Branford CT have a beach?

Yes, Branford CT does have a beach known as Branford Point Beach. It’s open to everyone, welcoming all who seek the sea’s embrace. However, only locals have the privilege of parking their vehicles there.

 

Is Branford CT a nice area?

Branford, Connecticut is a charming coastal town, just a stone’s throw from New Haven. Its idyllic shoreline location gives it a unique beach town spirit that’s truly irresistible. The houses here are stately and full of character, each one telling a story of a life well-lived. Branford’s schools are nurturing spaces where young minds are cultivated. This welcoming town embraces all who visit, making it feel like home, regardless of how long you’re staying. That’s the allure of Branford, Connecticut.

 

What are some must-visit attractions in Branford, CT?

There are several must-visit attractions in Branford, CT. First, the Thimble Islands are a sight that deserves more than a quick glance. Second, the Stony Creek Museum offers a fascinating journey back in time. Third, the Route 146 Scenic Drive is a visual feast that is a journey in itself. Finally, the Thimble Island Cruise promises an unforgettable experience that will remain with you long after you’ve disembarked.

 

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