Take a boat cruise up the Lower Connecticut River, passing towns like Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, Essex, Deep River, Ivoryton, Chester, and Haddam, and you will pass green, heavily wooded riverbanks with living remnants of historic times: an active ferry landing, a view of craggy castle high above. You have arrived in one of the most peaceful and scenic parts of all New England, but with plenty of access to good dining, cultural venues, and shopping.
Towns of the Lower Connecticut River distill the quiet beauty of old New England. Old Saybrook, at the mouth of the river on Long Island Sound, is near stunning wildlife retreats, and you can take your rest at the lavish Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. Essex is a pretty, historic village with a great maritime history museum.
Also in Essex you can board the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, a two-part trip along the river in a historic excursion train, followed by a cruise in a paddlewheel steamer. Two companies host river cruises in winter to see bald eagles during their seasonal stay.
If you love theater, Ivoryton Playhouse and the Goodspeed Opera House are lively places, producing many live shows. History and hiking are both a surprising pleasure at Gillette Castle in East Haddam. The castle property, a state park, is covered with wooded walking trails.
Many of the towns host fun seasonal events, like Essex’s lighted boat parade at Christmas and Deep River’s huge fife-and-drum parade in July. For an immersion in small-town, Colonial beauty, the Lower Connecticut River Valley is where you want to visit.