Posted by: Jack Spratt | October 12, 2009

Messing About Around Essex on the Connecticut River

I adore the Connecticut River – its New England’s longest at 407-miles – and it’s the state boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire. The source of this great river is in the Connecticut Lakes Region in New Hampshire’s Great North Woods.

On its journey south past Vermont it winds its way through western Massachusetts and through Hartford Connecticut and ends its journey by draining into Long Island Sound near Old Saybrook.

Over the years I’ve been to a number of locations along its route but none more memorable than in Essex Connecticut just a few miles before it meets the Ocean. The town of Essex is not at first glance what you’d highlight as a vacation or getaway destination.

But you’d be wrong.

Uncrowded and full of interesting destinations and excursions, if you’re looking for something away from the glitz of Foxwoods and the touristy Mystic, then Essex may be just the spot for you.

In Essex the river is the focal point and the Connecticut River Museum whets the appetite with its three floors of exhibits and boat house. You can also book and cruise the river in a schooner during the summer and fall season. While I didn’t get on a schooner cruise at Essex Station you can pick up the popular combined Essex Steam Train and Steamboat Ride that is a great way of seeing the river as well. And I love train rides so this one was right up my street – in the fall seats on this excursion are as hard to find as play-off tickets for a Sox and Yankees game. Hint: book ahead, like well ahead!

So what else is there to do Jack?

Well, back on land I enjoy walking trails and there’s a bunch of them over at the Gillette Castle estate on the banks of the river. I can’t say the castle is much to my liking – some Shakespearian actor had the castle built in the likeness of who knows what. But the grounds have outstanding walking views.

On the opposite side of the Connecticut River from the museum are East Haddam and the cultural haven of Goodspeed Opera House. If opera is not your scene don’t worry they produce mostly musicals.

I’ve returned to Mystic on a number of occasions under family pressure for activities but send me packing to this area on my own and I’ll head straight for Essex and enjoy my day messing about on the Connecticut River.

Jack Spratt


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