Things To Do In Groton, CT: Top 23 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn

Morgan Point Light, privately owned overlooking Long Island Sound

Groton, Connecticut, has earned an interesting nickname – The Submarine Capital of the World. You can’t miss its rich history. It’s home to several National Register of Historic Places sites, after all.

 

The town perches on the bank of Fishers Island Sound. It’s a classic New England town with a deep-rooted military history dating back to 1705.

 

There’s a lot to explore in Groton. You can visit historic homes, beaches, and museums. You’ll also find the USS Nautilus and the Submarine Force Museum. The Naval Submarine New London is based here. It’s the oldest and most significant submarine base in the US.

 

And Groton is not short of recreational spots. Eastern Point Beach and the Poquonnock River Walkway are just a few examples.

 

Groton is home to a Revolutionary War battlefield, coastline, bluffs, and lighthouses. The town is a charming mix of seaside attractions. Many come for the stunning beaches (as did this writer, growing up) and stick around for the intriguing museums and historical sites.

 

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

 

Quick hits

  • Explore Groton, CT’s rich history and array of activities from the Submarine Force Museum to Gungywamp.
  • Indulge in delicious meals at Paul’s Pasta Shop or Olio Restaurant & Bar.
  • Discover nearby towns like Mystic, New London, Ledyard and Stonington for a full Connecticut experience!

things to do in groton ct map Things to Do in Groton, CT: 23 Unmissable Spots
Map design by Stanton House Inn

A Brief History of Groton, Connecticut

USS Nautilus, decommissioned, refurbished, and sailing to its permanent location as a museum

The area between the Thames River and Pawcatuck River was initially settled by the Niantic people. They later moved east to Westerly, Rhode Island. The Pequots, who are a branch of the Mohawk people, moved eastward into the Connecticut River Valley. They began trading furs for settlers’ goods. In 1633, the Dutch purchased land from the Pequots and established a fur trading post. A conflict arose when the Dutch unintentionally killed the Pequots’ chief, leading to the Pequot War.

 

English settlers founded Groton in 1705, after separating from New London, CT. It quickly became a busy hub on the Thames River. The town developed into a community of ocean-going settlers. The region’s waterways facilitated commerce and trade. Many community members started building ships. These ships were used extensively in lucrative trade routes with Caribbean islands.

 

American Revolution

1836 sketch of the Groton Monument

On September 6, 1781, British forces, led by Benedict Arnold, clashed with state troops and local militiamen, including William Ledyard. Arnold’s men set fire to New London, Connecticut, resulting in extensive destruction. At the same time, another British force marched on Fort Griswold in Groton. They captured a group of 164 militia and local men. The British sent a flag of surrender, which Ledyard returned, marking the beginning of the Battle of Groton Heights. Despite their resistance, the British breached the fort. Ledyard surrendered, but the British killed him with his own sword and continued to fire on the American garrison. In 1830, a memorial was erected for the 85 Patriot soldiers who fell at Fort Griswold. This memorial has since become a symbol of the town’s past and is featured on the town seal.

 

Early 19th century

Wooden shipheads at Mystic Seaport Museum

After the American Revolution, Groton’s trade with shipbuilders resumed. That was especially true along the Mystic River, the town’s trade hub at the time. Between 1784 and 1800, 32 new vessels were built. Another 28 followed in the subsequent seven years. With the Embargo Act of 1812, however, this trade screeched to a halt. As soon as the War of 1812 ended on February 21, 1815, Groton returned to its marine pursuits.

 

Post-war, the town’s main activity was whaling, with most expeditions focusing on seal skins. By 1830, whaling had become Mystic’s primary industry. And in 1846, Groton had emerged as one of the world’s top whaling ports. Ebenezer Morgan, a Groton native, made a killing, literally and figuratively, in 1865 by selling his cargo for $150,000 and raising the American flag on Alaskan territory. Another Groton son, William H. Allen, served as a whale ship captain before retiring and serving as a selectman.

 

Late 19th century

Advertisement for the Andrew Jackson clipper ship

The discovery of gold in 1849 led to the creation of the clipper ship. This ship was a fast sailing vessel with multiple masts and a square rig. The Mystic River Shipyard in Groton built one of the most famous, the Andrew Jackson. It sailed from New York City to San Francisco in just 89 days and 4 hours.

 

After the Civil War, shipbuilding saw a further increase. Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, commissioned three experimental ironclad steamers to be built in private shipyards. One of the largest shipyards was Groton’s Palmer Shipyard, established in 1827. In 1860, a marine railway was constructed in Groton. This allowed vessels to be pulled out of the water for repairs, bringing in more business and money. The shipyard continued to operate until 1913. However, World War I revived the shipyard as the construction of iron ships attracted workers. Hordes of workers arriving led to an explosion in hotel and cottage construction in Groton.

 

20th century

Cottages along the beach at Groton Long Point

Groton has a deep connection with submarines, hence the nickname. It houses a large submarine base and Electric Boat, the town’s biggest employer, has been in operation since 1911. From 1911-1925, the New London Ship and Engine Company (NELSECO) was the leading manufacturer of submarine engines. In 1931, the USS Cuttlefish was constructed in Groton. During World War II, Electric Boat served as a submarine factory. In 1954, they launched the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world. Groton is also home to the National World War II Submarine Memorial East and the Groton and Stonington Street Railway.

 

Despite its growth, Groton has managed to preserve its historical charm, and the beaches that have attracted visitors for decades. And it continues to captivate both visitors and history enthusiasts.

 

The Best Things to do in Groton, CT

Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT, and the first submarine powered by nuclear energy

Groton brims with attractions. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a beach lover, or just looking for some fun recreational activities, Groton has you covered.

 

Here are some of the most exciting things to do in Groton, CT.

 

Submarine Force Museum

The Submarine Force Museum is a gem in Groton at 1 Crystal Lake Road. It’s not just one of the top military museums in the area; it’s also a major repository of submarine history.

 

The museum offers intriguing exhibits, including a full-size replica of Bushnell’s Turtle, an early Revolutionary War submarine. The museum also houses a range of submarine weaponry and relics related to the USS Nautilus. All in all, it creates a vivid image of submarine evolution.

 

The USS Nautilus

USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine
Victor-ny, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just a stone’s throw away at the naval submarine base in Conning Towers Nautilus Park, you’ll find the USS Nautilus. This vessel holds the title of being the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. The Nautilus played a pivotal role during World War II and in the years that followed. Today, it’s an intriguing museum.

 

Visitors have the opportunity to embark on a self-guided audio tour. This journey takes you through the submarine’s forward compartments, each telling a piece of its rich history.

 

Gungywamp

Gungywamp is an intriguing archaeological site located at 231 Gungywamp Road. It’s best known for its historic stone circle, ancient stone walls, and artifacts that date back more than 4,000 years. Some of the major attractions include:

 

  • Artifacts from 2000-770 BC
  • A double circle of quarried stones
  • A stone chamber with an astronomical alignment

 

The site also contains remnants of Native American and colonial American buildings. Over time, the site has been rearranged multiple times due to various settlements and re-settlements, causing a bit of frustration for archaeologists.

 

Beaches in Groton, Connecticut

Connecticut shoreline at Groton, CTGroton is famous for having some of the best beaches in Connecticut. This writer has plenty of fond memories visiting Groton Long Point growing up.

 

Eastern Point Beach

Nothing says vacation like a day at the beach, and Eastern Point Beach is one of the best in Groton. Located at 1 Beach Point Road, this family-friendly beach offers a tranquil bay on the Long Island Sound, recreational activities, and a concession stand for refreshments. Just a short drive away, you can also explore the beautiful Groton Long Point area.

 

Esker Point Beach

Esker Point Beach is another fantastic spot for beach lovers. This quiet beach offers a serene bay and a host of amenities, including picnic tables and grills. And the best part? It’s completely free of charge.

 

State Parks in Groton, CT

Connecticut is home to many beautiful state parks, and Groton is no exception. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or just looking for a peaceful place to unwind, you’ll find some of the best CT state parks right here in Groton.

 

Bluff Point State Park

View from scenic hiking trails at Bluff Point State Park

For nature enthusiasts, Bluff Point State Park is a must-visit. This coastal reserve offers hiking and bird-watching opportunities, as well as a chance to spot some incredible wildlife, including white-tailed deer, red foxes, and eastern cottontail rabbits.

 

With its tranquil and stunning views, Bluff Point State Park is a haven.

 

Haley Farm State Park

Rock wall at Haley Farm State Park

Another fantastic spot for nature lovers is Haley Farm State Park. This historic farmland offers scenic walking and biking trails and a variety of flora and fauna. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just looking for a peaceful spot for a picnic, Haley Farm State Park is a great choice.

 

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

For those interested in military history, a visit to Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park is in order. This park offers:

 

  • Commemoration of the largest battle fought in Connecticut during the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Groton Heights
  • Monuments to explore
  • A self-guided cell phone tour
  • An opportunity to immerse yourself in this important chapter of American history.

 

Pequot Woods Park

This nature reserve boasts picturesque walking trails and a diverse range of flora and fauna. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or an invigorating hike, Pequot Woods Park is the perfect place to enjoy nature’s beauty.

 

Poquonnock River Boardwalk

Take a serene stroll along the Poquonnock River Boardwalk, a family-friendly bike trail that offers picturesque views of the river. This path is a great place to spot wetland vegetation and birdlife.

 

Historic Sites in Groton, Connecticut

Lobster shack in Noank, a neighborhood of Groton, CT

From lighthouses to museums and monuments, Groton hosts some fascinating historic Connecticut sites:

 

Avery Point Light

Visit Avery Point Light for a scenic location filled with history. This restored lighthouse offers stunning views of the surrounding area and a seafront trail perfect for a leisurely stroll.

 

Avery-Copp House

Step back in time with a visit to the historic Avery-Copp House. This Connecticut museum showcases the history of the Avery-Copp family and provides a glimpse into Groton’s past.

 

Ebenezer Avery House and Museum

The Ebenezer Avery House and Museum is another must-see for history buffs. This historic home served as a refuge for American soldiers who were wounded in the Battle of Groton Heights.

 

Now a museum, it offers a unique insight into this pivotal moment in history. It’s one of the must-visit history museums, especially for Revolutionary War buffs.

 

Groton Monument

Groton Monument
GK tramrunner at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ready for a workout with a view? Climb the 166 steps to the top of the Groton Monument, a 135-foot granite monument honoring those who lost their lives during the Battle of Groton Heights. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.

 

Monument House Museum

The Monument House Museum offers another fascinating glimpse into Groton’s past. This stone-walled museum houses a collection of artifacts from Groton’s history, including paintings, documents, and a model of Fort Griswold.

 

Outer Light Brewing Company

Craft beer at Outer Light Brewing Company

When it’s time to wind down, head over to Outer Light Brewing Company. This local craft brewery offers a variety of delicious beers and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. This top pick among the best breweries in Connecticut is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring Groton.

 

Restaurants in Groton, CT

Abbott's Lobster in the Rough

After a day of sightseeing, you’ll likely be ready for a hearty meal. Fortunately, Groton boasts a variety of restaurants that are sure to satisfy every palate. Whether you crave Italian, Indian, or classic American comfort food, Groton has an array of options.

 

Personally, why go to the coast without trying the local seafood?

 

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

Abbott’s Lobster, established in 1947, is a seafood lover’s paradise. Here, you can feast on steamers, stuffed clams, clam chowder, and a variety of seafood rolls. This very casual establishment offers a wide array of soft drinks, but don’t serve alcohol. That said, customers are welcome to bring their own wine or beer. With its reputation for fresh and scrumptious seafood, Abbott’s Lobster is a favorite among food writers and reporters across the globe.

 

Paul’s Pasta Shop

Paul’s Pasta Shop is a beloved local eatery known for its delicious homemade pasta and sauces. This family-run Italian joint offers a cozy atmosphere and a menu filled with mouthwatering dishes. Don’t forget to try their signature spaghetti pie!

 

Olio Restaurant & Bar

For a sophisticated dining experience, head to Olio Restaurant & Bar. This upscale restaurant offers:

  • A diverse menu filled with traditional favorites and unique surprises
  • A stylish and elegant atmosphere
  • Excellent service
  • A great selection of wines and cocktails

 

Groton Townhouse Restaurant

For a hearty meal in a cozy setting, try the Groton Townhouse Restaurant. This popular eatery serves up classic American comfort food that’s sure to hit the spot. Whether you’re craving:

  • a juicy burger
  • a bowl of homemade soup
  • a plate of crispy fried chicken
  • a comforting mac and cheese
  • a slice of homemade pie

 

Directions to Groton, CT, from Greenwich, CT

Country road to Groton, CT

Are you planning your CT day trip from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast to Groton? The quickest route is via I-195 E, a journey of about 70 miles that should take around 1 hour and 30 minutes.

 

For a more scenic route, opt for the Merritt Parkway, a 41-mile drive that offers beautiful views and charming art deco-style bridges. It’ll spit you out on the other side of Fairfield County from us in Greenwich, CT, just to the north of New Haven, Connecticut.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay near Groton, Connecticut

Hotel room in Groton, CT

If you’re looking to spend more than a day trip here, you’ll be a bit limited for options as far as weekend getaways in CT.

 

Groton is more famous for its motels these days.

 

So, as far as unique inns and bed and breakfasts in nearby cities and towns, try one of the most romantic inns in CT:

 

 

  • Captain Grant’s 1754 of Preston, CT, so named for the farmhouse it occupies, built that year

 

 

  • The Whaler’s Inn, a boutique hotel on the Stonington side of the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut

 

More Towns and Cities to Explore Near Groton, Connecticut

Mystic River

If you’re planning on making a weekend trip out of it, you might as well visit more towns in the Groton area. Each Connecticut town offers its own unique collection of attractions and activities.

 

Some nearby cities and towns with train stations that make great options for day trips or extended stays include:

 

Mystic, CT

Mystic, CT, is a charming town known for its maritime history and picturesque setting. Here, you can visit the Mystic Seaport Museum, explore the Mystic Aquarium, and shop at Olde Mistick Village.

 

New London, Connecticut

Tallship Eagle of the US Coast Guard (USCG) in New London, Connecticut

New London, Connecticut, is another great destination for history enthusiasts. This city boasts rich maritime heritage, with landmarks like Fort Trumbull State Park and the Hempsted Houses. It’s also home to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the oldest, tallest lighthouse in Connecticut.

 

Ledyard, CT

Ledyard, CT, is not a famous town. But you’ve likely heard of the exciting recreational activities here. From the Foxwoods Resort Casino to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Ledyard. Ledyard is a wonderful destination, whether you’re interested in history or simply looking for entertainment.

 

Stonington, Connecticut

Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, CT

Stonington, Connecticut, is a charming town known for its historic architecture and picturesque beaches. Here, you can visit the Stonington Lighthouse Museum, explore the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House, and relax on DuBois Beach.

 

Tl;dr

Rich in history and brimming with beautiful beaches and attractions, Groton, CT, is the perfect destination for an unforgettable getaway. It caters to a variety of tastes, making it ideal for history buffs and nature lovers alike. If you’re looking for a relaxing retreat, Groton has that covered too.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Does Groton CT have a downtown?

Yes, Groton CT has a downtown. The Town’s largest commercial district is situated at the intersection of Route 1 (Long Hill Road) and Poquonnock Road.

 

Is Groton CT a nice area?

Groton is a great place to live, located in New London County. It’s suburban and most residents own their homes, with families and young professionals living there. The public schools are highly rated, making Groton an ideal spot for young families.

 

Can you swim at Bluff Point?

Yes, you can swim at Bluff Point! The main swimming area is calm and shallow, making it great for kids, and you can also enjoy watching the planes take off from the airstrip nearby. Plus, you’ll find plenty of friendly locals around.

 

What is Groton Connecticut famous for?

Groton, Connecticut, is renowned for its rich history of innovation. It’s also known as the Submarine Capital of the World due to its role as the host of the U.S. Navy’s primary submarine base and the Submarine Force Museum.

 

What are the top attractions in Groton, CT?

Groton, CT is home to a multitude of attractions. These include the Submarine Force Museum and the USS Nautilus. You can also visit the mysterious Gungywamp site. For beach lovers, Eastern Point Beach and Esker Point Beach are must-visit spots. Finally, the Groton Monument stands as a significant historical landmark.

 

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