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

Historic home in Stonington Borough, the area is one of the best things to do in Stonington, CT

Established in 1658, Stonington Borough is an enchanting village in Connecticut. It’s a place that exudes an irresistible charm, nestled on a mile-long peninsula with breathtaking views. It’s so picturesque that Yankee Magazine named it one of the Top 10 prettiest coastal towns in New England.

 

The village offers a ton of charming activities. You’ll find shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and museums. For sea lovers, Stonington serves as a yachting hub and houses Connecticut’s last fishing and lobstering fleets. Outdoorsy types can enjoy water sports like boating, fishing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

 

Beyond that, the town has an emerging scene for wine and craft beer enthusiasts. And on the western side of town, you’ll discover Mystic. This borough is famous for its drawbridge, Seaport Museum, aquarium, and the historic whaleboat Charles W. Morgan.

 

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

 

Quick hits

  • Discover the charm of Stonington CT’s harbor, beaches, and museums.
  • Indulge in the local vineyards and breweries.
  • Visit unique attractions like the Old Lighthouse Museum.
  • Explore nearby towns of Mystic RI, Watch Hill RI, and Newport for stunning views and classic coastal New England culture!

things to do in stonington ct map Things to do in Stonington CT: Top 23 Most Unique Spots
Map design by Stanton House Inn

A Brief History of Stonington, Connecticut

Hyde's Crossing on Elm Street in Stonington, Connecticut, with a divided back postcard, circa 1907-1915.. In the background, a Groton and Stonington Street Railway streetcar can be seen at the intersection of Elm and Cutler Streets.

Documented history started in Stonington in 1649 when European settlers first established a trading post. It had long been part of the Pequot people’s lands. While Massachusetts first claimed it, in 1662, it officially became part of Connecticut. The name changed from Southerton to Mistick, then finally Stonington in 1666. If you guessed that Stonington translates to “stony town,” you would be correct.

 

The War of 1812

The War of 1812 brought conflict to Stonington. A British squadron, led by Sir Thomas Hardy, bombarded the town for three days using stinkpots starting August 9, 1814. The Americans retaliated, firing at the British warships with two 18-pounder cannons. Casualties were few. The only American casualty was an old woman who was already mortally ill. Hardy’s squadron, however, had several killed and wounded before they retreated on August 12. A memorial to the 1814 bombardment stands in Cannon Square, in the heart of Stonington Borough.

 

Whaling, Sealing, & Fishing

From the 1790s, Stonington’s economy began to grow. Its harbor became a base for American merchant ships engaged in seal hunting. These ships ventured as far as the Patagonian coast to hunt whales and seals, selling their skins as fas away as China.

 

Circa 1907-1915 postcard of the Stonington wharf

Six sealing ships from Stonington, led by Benjamin Pendleton, set sail to hunt whales off Deception Island. And on November 16, 1820, they were the first to sight Palmer Land, off the coast of Antarctica.

 

The Stonington Harbor Light, a modest stone building, was erected in 1840. It supported a small fleet of fishing, whaling, and sealing ships and traders with the West Indies. In 1904, the Groton and Stonington Street Railway, a trolley line, was established. That said, it was dismantled and replaced by buses in 1928.

 

Modern Era

In recent times, Stonington has seen a surge of new homeowners using historic Stonington Borough houses as second homes. Since the mid-1990s, many of these homes have undergone significant refurbishment. This revitalization of Stonington drew significant news coverage, especially during a dispute over property rights amongst neighbors.

 

The Best Things to do in Stonington CT

Taking a walk through Stonington Borough is without question one of the best things to do in Stonington, CT

Stonington, with its charm and variety of top attractions, is a must-visit town. You can explore the charming Stonington Borough, relax on stunning beaches, and learn from fascinating museums. For the wine and beer enthusiasts, the delightful vineyards and breweries are a treat. Whether you’re planning a day trip or an extended stay, Stonington offers something for everyone.

 

Stonington Borough

The waterfront of Stonington borough

Perched on a mile-long peninsula that extends into Fisher’s Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay, Stonington Borough is a charming and walkable village. It perfectly encapsulates quintessential New England charm. You can amble along Water Street, adorned with cafes, galleries, and shops. Or you can soak in the breathtaking sunset views from the harbor.

 

The village boasts of historical landmarks like the Captain Palmer House and the Old Lighthouse Museum. It’s also home to art galleries. All these elements blend to provide Stonington Borough with a unique mix of history, culture, and coastal allure.

 

Starting from the northern end of Water Street, and walking our way south to Dubois Beach:

 

Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer House

Dive into the life of Antarctic explorer Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer at his former residence, the Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer House. This Italian Villa style house allows you to:

 

  • Explore the history of this renowned explorer
  • Learn about Stonington’s local history
  • Gain an intriguing view into the life and achievements of one of Stonington’s most respected inhabitants.

 

La Grua Center

La Grua Center is a cultural hub just off of Water Street. It hosts a diverse array of events and activities, such as art exhibitions, lectures, symposiums, and musical recitals. The venue is cozy, boasting excellent acoustics and natural light. It’s an ideal environment for both performances and community events.

 

Old Lighthouse Museum

The entrance to the Old Lighthouse Museum, the top of which provides panoramic views beyond Dubois Beach

Step back in time at the historic Old Lighthouse Museum, which showcases Stonington’s maritime and agricultural history. Here at one of the most charming lighthouses in Connecticut, you can:

 

  • Ascend the 29 circular steps and a short ladder to reach the top of the tower. From up there, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views that span across three states.
  • Enjoy picnics amidst the stunning coastal scenery on the museum grounds.
  • Learn about the lighthouse’s rich history, dating back to 1840.

 

Dubois Beach

Family enjoying the beach at Dubois Beach

Dubois Beach, on the southern tip of the Stonington Borough peninsula, is an ideal spot to unwind. This family-friendly beach offers shallow waters and gentle waves, making it perfect for a fun day of lounging in the sun. It also has a pavilion which is great for picnics and crabbing. The beach has plenty of parking available at the Stonington Point lot, making it easy for visitors to spend a day relaxing on the sand and swimming in the water. Don’t forget to pack a lunch and enjoy the scenic views of the nearby harbor and islands from one of the best beaches in CT!

 

Connecticut Wine Trail Vineyards Near Stonington Borough

Close to Stonington Borough are some of the best wineries in CT. They’re part of the renowned CT wine trail, offering a unique opportunity to explore local viticulture.

 

Saltwater Farm Vineyard

Saltwater Farm Vineyard is so pretty, people host weddings here

Set on a WWII-era airfield, the Saltwater Farm Vineyard offers a unique backdrop for wine enthusiasts to indulge in locally produced wines. Visitors to Saltwater Farm Vineyard can enjoy:

 

  • Tastings
  • Live music
  • Picturesque views of the vineyard and surrounding countryside.

 

This is an ideal place to unwind, enjoy a glass of wine, and admire Stonington’s beautiful farming scenery. Saltwater Farm Vineyard is open Monday and Wednesday from 11 am to 5 pm, and Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

 

Stonington Vineyards

Another gem on the CT wine trail in Stonington is Stonington Vineyards, founded in 1987 by Nick and Happy Smith. This coastal winery offers a diverse selection of wines, including:

 

  • Chardonnay
  • Seaport White
  • Triad Rose
  • Riesling
  • Vidal Blanc
  • Cabernet Franc

 

Open for tastings and guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s a delightful way to spend an afternoon savoring the flavors of local wines while learning about the art of winemaking.

 

Beer’d Brewing Co.

Pouring beer at a CT brewery

And for craft beer aficionados, Beer’d Brewing Co. in Stonington offers an impressive array of small-batch, easy-drinking beers for every palate. Located in the historic Velvet Mill, this microbrewery is a place where you can sample their latest creations. Feel free to bring your own food to enjoy in their laid-back tasting room.

 

This is an ideal spot to relax, try new brews, and support a local enterprise at one of the best breweries in CT.

 

Stonington Village Farmers’ Market

Produce at a Farmers Market

At the Velvet Mill on Saturday mornings, you’ll find the Stonington Village Farmers’ Market. This market offers a delightful array of locally grown produce, farm-fresh items, and handmade crafts. As you browse the stands, you’ll have the chance to support local farmers and artisans. Plus, you’ll pick up some delicious and unique finds to enjoy during your visit.

 

Enders Island

The tranquil, waterfront gardens at Enders Island are one of the most unique things to do in Stonington, CT

Just off the coast of Mason’s Island in Mystic, the 11-acre Enders Island offers a serene retreat from the bustle of daily life. Wander the beautiful walking gardens filled with dahlia gardens, a rose garden with 80 rose bushes, and other vibrant blooms. This is also home to one of the most unique attractions in all Connecticut. The right arm of a 13th century English bishop, Saint Edmund, wound-up here after a whirlwind tour through Europe.

 

Sunset Cruises

Boat in a Stonington marina, ready for sunset cruises

Are you searching for a romantic and unforgettable experience in Stonington? Then embark on sunset cruises with New England Science & Sailing (NESS). These cruises navigate around Stonington Harbor, providing breathtaking views and coastal scenery. The cruises are 90 minutes long and take place on their open-air Carolina Skiff. They run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. It’s a truly memorable way to appreciate the beauty of the harbor at twilight.

 

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Stream flowing back to the river at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Nature lovers will delight in a visit to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, which offers:

 

  • Walking trails
  • A museum
  • Live animals
  • A store selling local foods and birding guides

 

Open seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset, the nature center offers a peaceful escape where you can connect with the local flora and fauna. It’s an ideal location to relax and absorb the beauty of Stonington’s natural environment.

 

Stone Acres Farm

Just a stone’s throw from the heart of Stonington Borough lies Stone Acres Farm. This farm, steeped in two centuries of family tradition, offers fresh vegetables and handpicked blooms. Each morning, you’ll find produce picked at the break of dawn, ready for your enjoyment.

 

Shopping in Stonington, Connecticut

Stonington hosts a unique shopping experience, too. You can explore the charming Olde Mistick Village and the eclectic shops in Stonington Borough. The town offers a range of boutiques, specialty stores, and eateries to cater to all tastes and budgets.

 

Olde Mistick Village

Olde Mistick Village is a short drive from Stonington and offers a unique shopping experience. This quaint destination full of boutiques, specialty shops, and eateries, feels like a throwback. Strolling cobblestone streets and browsing unique offerings, this delightful tourist trap will charm.

 

Restaurants in Stonington, CT

Table at a Stonington, CT, restaurant

Stonington’s culinary scene offers everything from fresh seafood to innovative New England cuisine. There are restaurants for every taste, whether you’re in the mood for a casual eatery, waterfront dining, or a cozy European-style beer hall.

 

Water Street Cafe

As its name implies, the Water Street Cafe provides a relaxed dining experience in a central spot. It offers a variety of fresh seafood, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. The cafe boasts a beautiful mahogany bar that adds to its cozy ambiance. Here, you can savor meals made from locally sourced ingredients. Whether you desire a romantic dinner for two or a laid-back lunch with friends, Water Street Cafe is an ideal spot. It allows you to unwind and enjoy the diverse flavors of Stonington.

 

S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar

Are you looking for a spot that combines fresh seafood, creative cocktails, and stunning harbor views? Then S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar is your go-to spot in Stonington. The diverse menu and inviting atmosphere make it a must-visit for seafood lovers.

 

Noah’s

Head to Noah’s to experience the culinary talents of chef-owner Debbie Papp. This casual, colonial-style restaurant offers innovative New England cuisine. And all made with locally sourced ingredients. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a delicious meal amidst a charming atmosphere.

 

Their menu is elevated by their signature sauces, including:

  • Balsamic Vin
  • Bleu Cheese
  • Ranch
  • Russian
  • Buffalo
  • Honey Mustard
  • Orange Ginger Soy
  • Spicy Sesame
  • Chipotle

 

Jealous Monk

The Jealous Monk is a European-style beer hall. With its diverse selection of beers and delicious pub menu, it offers a unique taste of Europe. The hall’s inviting atmosphere and extensive beverage offerings make it the perfect spot to unwind. And sample some of the best brews from around the world, of course. Whether you’re a seasoned beer connoisseur or just looking for a cozy place to enjoy a drink, Jealous Monk will not disappoint.

 

Dog Watch Cafe

For a truly unique dining experience, visit the dog-friendly Dog Watch Cafe. This harborside eatery specializes in fresh seafood, sandwiches, and flatbreads. It’s an ideal location for a leisurely lunch or dinner. The cafe boasts a laid-back atmosphere and stunning waterfront views. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a delicious meal in a special setting.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Stonington, Connecticut

wine with a waterfront view of Fisher's Island Sound at the inn at stonington in stonington borough

If you’re planning a day trip from our Greenwich, Connecticut bed and breakfast, the drive would take about an hour and a half. It’s one of the most charming day trips in CT. That said, if you’re considering a longer stay, Stonington offers a cozy spots that will feel like a home away from home. After a day of exploring this picturesque coastal village, it’s the perfect place to rest and recharge.

 

The Inn at Stonington

The Inn at Stonington is a highly-rated establishment that promises an unforgettable stay. It offers elegant accommodations and waterfront views, making it ideal for romantic getaways in CT. The inn houses 18 uniquely furnished, air-conditioned rooms. Guests can enjoy a range of amenities including a complimentary breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Its location and the inn itself is one of the most romantic inns in CT.

Inn at 100 Acre Wood

Owl’s House on 100 Acre Wood is a rustic retreat in North Stonington. This Connecticut farm stay features luxurious beds, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and bar. The retreat features a private deck, BBQ grill, fire pit, and forest trails, as well as 60 acres of private forest that provide a glimpse into farm life. The ranch bonfire provides breathtaking views and warm blankets for family gatherings. Schedule an En Plein Air painting session while you’re here.

 

Directions to Stonington, CT from Greenwich, CT

Boat sailing close to downtown Mystic

If you’re headed to Stonington from Greenwich, Connecticut, the most straightforward route is via I-95 South. This scenic drive takes you through charming towns, including:

 

 

The journey is approximately 85 miles, with an estimated driving time of around 1 hour and 30 minutes. It’s also midway between New York City and Boston. Members of my family often meet here, as it’s halfway for us, too.

 

Or opt for train services, available through the Shore Line East website.

 

More Towns and Cities to Explore Near Stonington, Connecticut

Marina in Old Saybrook

If you’re looking for more destinations to explore near Stonington, you’re in luck! Neighboring towns and cities offer a wealth of attractions. From historic sites and beautiful beaches to charming shops and interesting dining scenes, take your pick! Extend your adventure and discover the unique charm and beauty these nearby weekend getaways in CT have to offer.

 

Mystic, Connecticut

Bascule Bridge in downtown Mystic

Embark on a trip to the historic maritime hub, Mystic, Connecticut. Top attractions include:

 

  • Mystic Seaport Museum
  • Mystic Aquarium
  • The charming Olde Mistick Village

 

It’s actually split between Stonington and Groton, Connecticut. So some of its attractions also count as Stonington, CT, attractions. The more you know. The town has played a significant role in shaping the maritime industry. Enjoy its picturesque waterfront setting and unique arts scene during your visit.

 

Westerly, RI

Westerly, Rhode Island, is a charming coastal town just a short 15-minute drive from Stonington Borough. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, including Misquamicut State Beach and Watch Hill Beach, making it a haven for beach lovers. The town’s downtown is full of unique shops and restaurants. For history buffs, the Babcock-Smith House Museum showcases the town’s rich history. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy a leisurely stroll in the beautifully landscaped Wilcox Park.

 

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

The Ocean House in Westerly, RI

Watch Hill, a charming coastal village in Rhode Island, is not far from Stonington. Known for its beautiful beaches and historic lighthouse, this picturesque seaside community offers plenty to see and do. You can spend a day lounging on the sandy shores, exploring the iconic Watch Hill Lighthouse, or dining at one of the many charming eateries.

 

Newport, RI

Cliff walk in Newport, RI

Set your sights on Newport, Rhode Island. It’s celebrated for its lavish mansions, historical landmarks, and vibrant dining sphere. Take a tour of the grandiose mansions along the Cliff Walk, such as The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms. Here, you can revel in the stunning coastal views.

 

Newport’s lively atmosphere is an experience in itself. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in the city’s diverse culinary delights.

 

Block Island, Rhode Island

Mohegan Bluffs on Block Island

Plan a getaway to the serene Block Island, Rhode Island. Here, you can enjoy pristine beaches, explore nature trails, and visit charming local shops. The island’s sandy shores are perfect for relaxation. For the adventurous, the diverse natural landscapes offer exciting hiking opportunities. Shopping enthusiasts will love the unique items found in local boutiques. Block Island provides an ideal escape from the daily hustle and bustle.

 

Tl;dr

Stonington, Connecticut, is a destination with a unique New England charm. Its rich maritime history, stunning beaches, vibrant arts scene, and inviting accommodations make it a must-visit. With a wealth of sights to explore, activities to enjoy, and delicacies to taste, it’s no surprise that this coastal town has been enchanting visitors for centuries. Consider Stonington for your next adventure and discover its hidden gems and timeless beauty.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Is Stonington CT worth visiting?

Stonington CT is indeed a must-visit destination. It boasts picturesque waterfronts and expansive nature reserves. It’s a yachting haven with 20 marinas, over 1,500 slips and moorings, and a regular influx of transient boaters each year. Yankee Magazine has recognized it as one of the top 10 prettiest coastal towns in New England. The Old Lighthouse Museum, dating back to 1895, provides a fascinating glimpse into the town’s rich maritime and agricultural history.

 

What is Stonington known for?

Stonington is famous for its breathtaking views spanning Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York. It’s also known for its mile-long beaches, historic homes, and delightful shops. Its coastal beauty is so remarkable that Yankee Magazine has listed it among the Top 10 prettiest coastal towns in New England!

 

Does Stonington CT have a downtown?

Stonington CT does have a downtown. This seaside village brims with local businesses and offers waterfront dining. Its open-air atmosphere is particularly enjoyable on a summer Saturday.

 

Is Mystic and Stonington the same town?

Mystic is a census-designated place in Connecticut. It is part of both the town of Groton, CT, and Stonington, both in New London County. Thus, Mystic and Stonington are not the same; they are distinct entities.

 

What are some must-see attractions in Stonington, Connecticut?

For a fun day out, consider a visit to Stonington. Start with the charming Stonington Borough, then unwind at Dubois Beach. Don’t miss the historic Old Lighthouse Museum. Finally, indulge in local flavors at Saltwater Farm Vineyard and Stonington Vineyards.

 

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