Things To Do In East Hampton, CT: Top 23 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn
Salmon River State Forest, one of the best things to do in East Hampton, CT

Things to Do in East Hampton, CT: 10 Must-Try Picks

Blue heron in the marshes, a sight you may see while you explore East Hampton

East Hampton, an overlooked jewel of Eastern Connecticut, is a haven of natural beauty and history. Its public lands, state forests, and parks are a magnet for nature lovers. Here, you can soak in breathtaking views of the Connecticut River and traverse a 19th-century bridge. A local state park traces the route of a forgotten railroad all the way to Massachusetts from its southern trailhead here. The fertile Connecticut Valley invites you to indulge in fruit picking at local farms. The waterfront historic district showcases Federal-style architecture from a bygone river port. A visit to East Hampton includes scenic trails, historical landmarks, craft breweries, and inviting bed and breakfasts, too.

 

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

 

Quick hits

  • Embark on East Hampton’s journey of outdoor adventures, historical sites, and culinary delights
  • Witness the grandeur of Air Line State Park Trail and Salmon River State Forest
  • Extend your adventures to nearby towns such as Middletown, Glastonbury, and Wethersfield

A Brief History of East Hampton, Connecticut

Postcard of Main street in the village center of East Hampton, circa 1907

East Hampton, of Middlesex County, was first settled by Europeans from Eastham, Massachusetts in 1739. The town’s name, inspired by its location on the east bank of the River, is as practical as it gets. It has seen its share of history, hosting battles during the American Revolutionary War. By the 19th century, it had become a hub for the shipbuilding industry. Its historic buildings still stand, echoing this era. The nearby river wasn’t just for show – it played a pivotal role in the town’s early development.

 

Revolutionary Era

In 1767, the Connecticut town of Chatham was rechristened as East Hampton. The goal was to honor the Earl of Chatham, famous for his support of the American colonies. The town, originally a part of Middletown, comprised various parishes including East Middletown, Middle Haddam, East Hampton, and Westchester. That said, it was only in 1915 that the name East Hampton was officially adopted. The name change honored the first settlers who had migrated from Eastham, Mass.

 

East Hampton includes the charming boroughs of Cobalt, Middle Haddam, and Lake Pocotopaug.

 

Industrial Era

The bell companies that would run shops here were responsible for primarily making bell toys and metal bells, some survived till the 1960s, when the last structures shut down

In the 19th century, East Hampton, Connecticut, became a bell-making hub. Entrepreneur William Barton started the trend when he established the first factory in 1808 on Bevin Hill. His impact was so great, the hill was renamed Barton Hill. The town’s proximity to the Salmon River fueled its growth. This led to the rise of riverbank mills and small factories producing bell and metal bell-related products.

 

So many bells were produced here that the town earned the nickname “Belltown USA”. It housed thirty firms. The list of bell making firms at East Hampton includes Barton, Hill Brass, Bevin Bell, The N.N. Brass, The East Hampton Bell Company, Watrous Manufacturing, and Gong Bell Manufacturing.

 

Old postcard of the rail road station in East Hampton, now the southern trailhead of Air Line State Park

The bell companies that dominated the economy thrived until the automobile era. Making metal bells continued until the automobile replaced horse and buggie, which used bells for harnesses. Two firms continued to survive, N.N. Hill Brass Co. and Gong Bell Mfg. Co., making predominantly metal bells and then bell toys until the 1960s. The last bell shop in town, run by Bevin Brothers, was destroyed by fire in 2012. That said, Bevin Brothers continues to operate in a new East Hampton location. Bevin Brothers bells are one of the few remaining unique products made in CT.

 

Some of the old buildings have been repurposed into offices, stores, and other small businesses. Still other mills are so full of toxic substances from over a century of manufacturing that they resist remediation for adaptive re-use, despite being structurally intact.

 

Modern Era

Spanning 36 square miles, the town of East Hampton cradles Lake Pocotopaug, Connecticut’s largest inland water body. Be sure to explore the town’s museums and historic landmarks. State parks and forests surround the town. It’s also home to the Comstock Covered Bridge, the last of its kind in eastern Connecticut.

 

The Best Things to do in East Hampton, CT

Shopping is a minor part of the experience in town. But it's still quite charming when the town is in full operation

East Hampton is a versatile charmer. Are you an outdoor enthusiast? It’s got vast expanses of public natural land, state forests, parks, and farms. A history buff? Step into the past with historic landmarks like the Comstock Covered Bridge and Chatham Historical Society Museum. A food lover? Local breweries, wineries, and restaurants await your discerning palate. Let’s explore the top attractions and activities that make East Hampton a town for all tastes.

 

Air Line State Park Trail

Air Line State Park Trail

The Air Line State Park Trail has quite the past. Once a railway route linking New York and Boston, it now stretches across East Hampton and beyond as a picturesque National Recreation Trail. The trail’s name pays homage to the towering viaducts of the high-speed New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. Now, it’s a haven for walkers, hikers, and horseback riders of all fitness levels.

 

A 25-mile segment of the route, from its southern trailhead in East Hampton to Windham, is especially easy to navigate. The trail’s smooth stone dust surface is a joy to tread on. It crosses hidden 19th-century trestles at the Rapallo and Lyman viaducts.

 

Along the way, benches at scenic spots invite you to pause and take in the beauty.

 

Salmon River State Forest

The woods in Hurd State Park, near the southern trailhead of Air Line State Park

Salmon River State Forest is a place to get your boots dirty. Outdoor activities like hiking, fly fishing, mountain biking, and picnicking are on the menu. The Blue-Blazed Salmon River Trail is a tour guide of sorts, leading visitors through the park and back in time. Back then, the river was a busy mill town, with grist mills burning the midnight oil and paper mills clocking in at dawn. The Blue-Blazed Salmon River Trail is a walk down memory lane past 19th-century stone foundations and mills as silent reminders of the river’s industrious past.

 

Comstock Covered Bridge

Comstock covered bridge in the town of East Hampton

The Comstock Covered Bridge is the last of its kind in eastern Connecticut, spanning the Salmon River. It now serves only pedestrians, having banned vehicles since the 1930s. This bridge got a new lease on life during the Depression era by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Its gabled roof shields the timbers below, slowing their aging process. As you walk across, you can almost hear the echoes of past travelers who used this path to connect with river communities.

 

Literally. The Comstock Covered Bridge is, supposedly, one of the various haunted places in Connecticut.

 

Hurd State Park

fall foliage at Hurd State Park

Step into the captivating world of Hurd State Park. This picturesque haven offers a tapestry of natural beauty and outdoor exploration. Stroll along the riverbank or enjoy a family picnic. Marvel at the stunning river views from atop the granite ledges. The park spans a grand 1,000 acres, hosting a labyrinth of trails through the verdant forest. Follow the orange and yellow trails to the summit of the split rock. Here, a set of granite ledges unveils the river far below, peeking through the trees. For camping, fishing, or hiking enthusiasts, Hurd State Park is the perfect backdrop for a day of outdoor excitement.

 

Lake Pocotopaug

Canoe on Lake Pocotopaug, which scared the first settlers

Lake Pocotopaug is a 512-acre oasis loved by locals and holidaymakers alike. If you’re a sun-seeker, Sears Park’s beach is your spot. But remember, due to blue-green algae, swimming is a no-go. Prefer to stay on land? Lake Drive offers breathtaking views of Twin Islands and Scraggy Island. Need a boat? Happiest Paddler is at your service. So, whether you seek tranquility or a day of fun, Lake Pocotopaug is the place to be.

 

The Legend Of Pocotopaug

An old local legend unfolds at Lake Pocotopaug. The Wangunk Indians, inhabitants of the lake’s banks, lived in fear. They believed the Great Spirit, Hobomoko, was punishing them with drownings and illnesses. In desperation, Chief Terramaugus called a tribal council. They discussed a sacrifice to appease Hobomoko. The medicine man, Gitchetan, revealed a solution. The tribe’s most beautiful maiden, Na-moenee, could end their suffering. Torn between love for his daughter and duty to his tribe, the Chief agreed to Hobomoko’s will. Namoenee, knowledgeable in tribal customs, willingly sacrificed herself. Her act appeased Hobomoko, lifting the curse. The plague ceased, and no further drownings occurred after Namoenee’s death.

 

Happiest Paddler

Paddleboarding on Lake Pocotopaug

Happiest Paddler is your go-to for water activities on Lake Pocotopaug. It caters to both seasoned and beginner paddlers. Open seven days a week, this establishment is conveniently located north of Sears Park on the west shore. It offers a variety of rental options. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and paddleboats for an hour, half a day, or a full week. The vessels can accommodate two or four passengers. The rental fee includes flotation equipment and paddles, providing everything you need for a journey on one of the largest lakes in CT.

 

Fat Orange Cat Brew Co.

A sampler of beers

Fat Orange Cat Brew Co. is a small-batch, seasonal brewery. It boasts a rotating selection of unique craft beers. Sitting on the Salmon River watershed, the brewery ensures the use of exceptionally pure water for their brews. This includes IPAs, sours, and porters. The taproom offers outdoor seating, fire pits, and heaters, creating a cozy atmosphere. Patrons can sample a flight of four glasses or buy cans adorned with beautiful illustrations. With its cozy atmosphere and friendly service, Fat Orange Cat is one of the best breweries in Connecticut.

 

Arrigoni Winery

vineyard

Arrigoni Winery, a family-run vineyard, boasts over a century of experience. It’s comfortably situated on 200 acres of fertile farmland between the Connecticut River and Route 66. The winery offers a diverse selection of 14 different wine varieties. These include estate-grown Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Vidal Blanc. Visitors can unwind in a relaxing atmosphere on their scenic patio. For cooler evenings, this lovely CT winery features a sunset patio and a covered pavilion equipped with outdoor heaters and a fireplace. Tastings are available in classic or premium selections, each complete with a souvenir glass.

 

Middle Haddam Historic District

A historic building in the Middle Haddam Historic District

Step onto the Middle Haddam Historic District to witness East Hampton’s rich history. This waterfront area was once a bustling river port between 1730 and 1880. Today, it still showcases Federal period architecture. A total of 58 buildings contribute to the district’s charm. Most of these were built before 1835, following the Revolutionary War. The high craftsmanship evident in these buildings hints at the town’s abundance of skilled workers at the time. Two prime examples of Federal architecture are the stone-built Hurd Mansion on Moodus Road and a smaller wood-frame dwelling across the road. The latter was built in 1823 for Jesse Hurd’s son-in-law.

 

Day Pond State Park

Mill pond

Day Pond State Park sprawls across 180 acres of public land. The park owes its name to the industrious Day family, who once used the pond to power a sawmill. Today, the stone foundations from that era still stand. The pond is a popular spot for anglers, stocked with trout. In the summer, a beach area opens for swimming, and a picnic pavilion overlooks the water. And the Blue-Blazed Salmon River trail leads to the Comstock Covered Bridge.

 

Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park

Once a quarry for cities like New York and Chicago, Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park is now East Hampton’s hub for thrill-seekers. Flooded and transformed in the 2000s, it offers a ton of outdoor activities. You can defy gravity on climbing walls, glide on paddleboards, or slice through water in kayaks. Fancy soaring through the air? Try the park’s 11 zip-lines. For a different kind of thrill, there’s also an inflatable obstacle course and a rope swing.

 

Pumpkintown USA

If you’re looking things to do in CT in October, head to Pumpkintown USA, an autumnal oasis spread across 90 acres. This family-friendly Halloween destination is home to over 100 pumpkin-headed figures. They populate a recreated town complete with a post office, fire department, jail, barbershop, and saloon. The scene is further enlivened by more than 70 cheerful pumpkinhead figures and farmyard animals. On weekends, the place buzzes with fall activities. Children can enjoy face painting, play the “Sling-a-Ding” game, or bounce on the “Moonbounce Pumpkin.” A hay wagon ride through the woodland is a must-do. And the Harvest Shop is a highlight, offering seasonal treats like maple syrup, fall plants, and pumpkin spice-scented candles. Pumpkintown USA of East Hampton is the epitome of an autumn celebration.

 

Belltown Hill Orchards

Apple orchard

Speaking of fall activities, head to Belltown Hill Orchards, a family-owned farm in the north of town. From June to October, it offers a pick-your-own fruit experience. The farm boasts a variety of fruits, such as blueberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, pumpkins, raspberries, sour cherries, and tomatoes. After picking, visitors can head to the farm market to indulge. It offers jams, jellies, salsas, soups, honey, seasonal decorations. You’ll also find baked goods like pies, brownies, and apple cider donuts. The farm provides a ripening calendar and a guide to different apple varieties in one of the best apple orchards in CT.

 

Gotta’s Farm and Cider Mill

Sampling cider

Gotta’s Farm and Cider Mill, a fourth-generation family farm in nearby Portland, is one of the best cider mills in CT. Established in 1898, the farm has two distinct locations. One is a pick-your-own fruit paradise, boasting strawberries, peaches, pears, and apples. The other is the QP Farm Market on Route 66, a haven of farm-fresh produce. From pies to breads, cookies to Christmas trees, it has it all. The farm also hosts a charming garden center. Here, you’ll find annuals, hanging baskets, perennials, flowering shrubs, evergreens, herb plants, and vegetable plants. Gotta’s Farm and Cider Mill embodies the spirit of American farming and sustainability.

 

Nike Missile Site HA-26 Launch Site

During the Cold War, the Nike Ajax anti-aircraft missile was born in the heart of the Meshomasic State Forest, near East Hampton. This site was active from 1956 to 1963. Today, the IFC radar station on Del Reeves Road, Portland side, is a mere ghost. Its remnants include foundations, discarded floor tiles, a lonely flagpole, and manholes leading to hidden utilities. Meanwhile, the launch site in South Glastonbury bears faint traces of a radar station, barracks, and launch pits. Nature is gradually reclaiming the site, yet the echoes of its Cold War past persist.

 

Chatham Historical Society Museum

Exhibitions at the Chatham Historical Society, in the village center

The Chatham Historical Society Museum, birthed in 1963, stands as a monument to East Hampton’s past. It illuminates the town’s rich history and invites all to share their personal stories. The museum’s calendar features events like Antique Appraisal Day and Historic House Tours. Check out the museum’s website for upcoming events and exhibits in the 1840 one-room schoolhouse and the new museum.

 

Joseph N. Goff House Museum and Cultural Center

The Joseph N. Goff House Museum and Cultural Center is in the historic heart of the Village Center. This building honors the rich cultural, civic, and architectural heritage of the town. It also serves as a stage for a variety of cultural and enrichment programs, each designed to enhance community life. The museum houses artifacts and memorabilia of Connecticut’s 84th Governor. William A. O’Neill was a native son and one of the most prominent names of the town of East Hampton.

 

Restaurants in East Hampton, Connecticut

Meal on the table near the Middle Haddam Historic District and the village center

When adventure in East Hampton leaves your stomach growling, rest assured, a banquet awaits. The town’s culinary scene is as diverse as it is delicious, with a variety of cuisines:

  • Italian
  • Thai
  • Chinese
  • American
  • Mediterranean

Among the standout eateries in town, The Dublin, Po’s Rice & Spice, and Sweet Jean’s Cafe shine, serving mouthwatering dishes with top-notch service. For a laid-back meal, consider Loco Perro, The Town Tavern, Lakeside Bar & Grill, D’eliana Public Market & Deli, or Rossini’s Italian Restaurant. These family-friendly options offer a welcoming atmosphere. The restaurants in East Hampton won’t disappoint.

 

Bed and breakfasts in East Hampton, Connecticut

East Hampton includes a charming bed and breakfast in the village center, close to Hurd State Park, Chatham Historical Society, and the Middle Haddam Historic District

Planning a CT day trip from our Connecticut bed and breakfast? East Hampton, CT, is a worthy destination. The town is a breezy hour and a half drive away from Greenwich, Connecticut.

 

But if you’d like to stick around, at day’s end, retreat to one of the most charming bed and breakfasts in East Hampton, Connecticut. Here, you’ll find a homey atmosphere, warm hospitality, and comforting amenities. The Bevin House Bed & Breakfast is just such a gem. It offers luxurious surroundings and a sumptuous breakfast to start your day.

 

The Bevin House Bed & Breakfast

This historic mansion, built in 1872 by Philo Bevin, has been restored to its original grandeur as The Bevin House Bed & Breakfast. Each room offers lavish robes and a personal fridge. Refreshments are readily available, and a complimentary breakfast is served each morning. After a day of exploring East Hampton, The Bevin House provides a charming and historic retreat.

 

Other unique places to stay near Hampton, Connecticut

A few more unique options are only a little beyond the borders of the town of East Hampton.

 

  • The Inn at Middletown is a mere 16-minute drive away, on the main street of the town of Middletown, CT
  • Venture 24 minutes northeast to Wethersfield, CT, and you’ll discover the Silas W Robbins House
  • Drive 16 minutes north, and you’ll find the Connecticut River Valley Inn in Glastonbury, CT

 

Directions to East Hampton, Connecticut

Snowy highway to Hurd State Park, the Chatham Historical Society and village center, and the Middle Haddam Historic District

If you’re journeying by car, East Hampton is a breeze to reach. It’s tucked away amidst highways and scenic byways. Just set your compass to Merritt Parkway and then CT-66 E from Greenwich, CT. The drive is a leisurely 1 hour and 30 minutes. If the skies are your preferred route, then Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Hartford, Connecticut, is your destination. It’s only a quick drive away from East Hampton.

More Connecticut River Valley Towns to Explore Near East Hampton, CT

Historic buildings in Middletown, Connecticut, near the town of East Hampton

After savoring the attractions of East Hampton, consider expanding your journey. Nearby lie various Middlesex County towns. Each town provides a multitude of unique Connecticut activities and attractions.

 

Middletown, CT

Just around the corner from East Hampton sits Middletown, CT. It’s a place of variety and character. A few of the best attractions in Middletown, Connecticut, include:

 

  • Kidcity Children’s Museum
  • Wadsworth Falls State Park
  • Wesleyan University
  • Harbor Park

 

East Haddam, Connecticut

Church in East Haddam, close to the town of East Hampton in eastern Connecticut

For history buffs, the nearby town of East Haddam, Connecticut, is a delight. You can explore Gillette Castle State Park, a fortress of mystery. Visit Ray of Light Farm, a haven for humans and animals alike. Stop by Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, a testament to the enduring power of knowledge. Marvel at East Haddam Swing Bridge, a tribute to human ingenuity. Or seek solace at St. Stephen’s Church, a sanctuary reaching towards the heavens. All this against the backdrop of the picturesque Connecticut River Valley.

 

Glastonbury, CT

Glastonbury, CT, is a haven for fans of the outdoors. The Cotton Hollow Preserve invites you to explore its wild terrain. Riverfront Park is a relaxing spot to witness the gentle flow of the river. The Cotton Hollow Nature Preserve offers a journey into nature’s heart. Wickham Park, a green oasis, is a pleasant contrast to the concrete world. With its outdoor activities and scenic beauty, Glastonbury provides a perfect escape from urban fatigue.

 

Wethersfield, Connecticut

Old Wethersfield hosts a historic district to rival Middle Haddam

Wethersfield, Connecticut, is a place frozen in time. History breathes life into the Webb Deane Stevens Museum, Old Wethersfield, and Mill Woods Park. These landmarks offer glimpses of a bygone era.

 

The town invites you on a journey through its intriguing past, exploring the best things to do in Wethersfield, CT. Discover the secrets of the Ancient Burying Grounds. Explore the Buttolph-Williams House.

 

Tl;dr

East Hampton, Connecticut: a realm where history, nature, and adventure unite. Here, time has etched secrets into every historic landmark. The town’s dining scene is a symphony of eclectic flavors. Its accommodations offer a charming embrace. East Hampton is a story yearning for an audience. So, gear up, ignite your adventurous spirit, and prepare to uncover the town of East Hampton, Connecticut.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is East Hampton, CT known for?

East Hampton, CT, with its shipbuilding history, is a spectacle. Its 19th-century architecture adds a dash of New England charm.

 

Is East Hampton, CT a nice place to live?

East Hampton is a delightful place to call home. Its rural charm is captivating and makes you feel instantly at ease. The majority of residents are homeowners, many of whom are families that have been here for generations. The town has a liberal atmosphere and boasts top-notch schools that produce high-achieving students. In essence, East Hampton is a place where life is enjoyed to its fullest.

 

What is the ethnicity of East Hampton, CT?

In East Hampton, CT, the majority of the population is White of Non-Hispanic descent, accounting for 94.4%. Hispanic Whites make up a smaller portion, about 4.29%. The remainder of the population is a blend of various ethnicities, each representing less than 1%. Despite its diversity, the melting pot is not as mixed as in some other places.

 

What are the top attractions in East Hampton, CT?

The town of East Hampton is a treasure trove for explorers! You can traverse the beautiful paths of the Air Line State Park Trail starting at its southern trailhead. Lose yourself in the wilderness of Hurd State Park. Marvel at the timeless beauty of the Comstock Covered Bridge. And to cap off your day, take a tranquil saunter around the serene Lake Pocotopaug.

 

Are there any family-friendly restaurants in East Hampton, CT?

In East Hampton, CT, food lovers are in for a treat. Corvo Bar and Grill is known for its honest, hearty meals. The Town Tavern is a go-to for generous feasts. If you’re after a meal with a view, Lakeside Bar & Grill offers dinner by the lake. D’eliana Public Market & Deli is famous for its unforgettable sandwiches. Lastly, for a warm, homely experience, visit Rossini’s Italian Restaurant. It’s time to delight your taste buds!

 

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