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Whether you are looking for a quick beach getaway or a longer trip along the sandy beaches of the Long Island Sound, Connecticut has you covered. The white sand beaches stretch from the New York border up to Rhode Island.
Beaches in Connecticut state parks allow non-residents on the beach, with parking fees charged in season. Many town beaches also allow non-residents, who have to purchase both a beach pass and a parking pass.
Connecticut State Parks
Of Connecticut’s 22 state parks with designated swimming areas, four include sandy beaches.
The state parks, some of the best beaches on the East Coast, include Sherwood Island State Park, Silver Sands State Park, Hammonasset Beach State Park and Rocky Neck State Park. These Long Island Sound beaches all have lifeguards in season.
Sherwood Island State Park
Sherwood Island State Park in Westport has saltwater fishing from a jetty, picnic tables, restrooms and a concession stand.
The beach, so close to New York City that you can see NYC on a clear day, also has Connecticut’s 9-11 Living Memorial. The memorial faces the Manhattan skyline.
The Nature Center, between East Beach and the salt marsh nature trail, has exhibits on the plant and animal life found at the beach, and a touch tank.
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Sherwood Island State Park allows pets off-season, from October 1 to April 14.
A parking fee is charged for non-residents daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and on weekends from the third Saturday in April to Memorial Day and from Labor Day through the third weekend in September.
Silver Sands State Park
Silver Sands State Park in Milford has a designated area for swimmers with lifeguards. The sandy beach includes a boardwalk. There are restrooms.
One of the interesting features of Silver Sands State Park is the sandbar between the beach and Charles Island. At low tide, you can walk across the sandbar to Charles Island.
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No one is allowed to cross the sandbar from May 1 through September 9, when Charles Island becomes a Natural Area Preserve for nesting birds. This makes Silver Sands State Park an excellent spot for bird watching year round. Go here in winter to see hawks, owls and piping plovers.
Read More: Explore CT’s Wadsworth Falls State Park
Hammonasset Beach State Park
Hammonasset Beach State Park, in Madison, offers the longest stretch of white sand in Connecticut. The two-mile long sandy beach served as an army reservation in World War II.
Now the beach is used for more peaceful activities, such as sunbathing, building sand castles, strolling the boardwalk and saltwater fishing. There are also picnic tables and restrooms.
Swimmers, bicyclists, bikers and hikers can pursue more active beach days. There are designated swimming areas with lifeguards, hiking trails and bicycle paths and a boat launch.
Even non-residents can overnight at the camping sites at Hammonasset Beach State Park. There are tent camping sites and rustic cabins. Cabins require a seven-night minimum stay.
Meigs Point Nature Center
Meigs Point Nature Center, within Hammonasset Beach State Park, is open year round. Programming includes nature walks, a touch tank, crafts workshops and guided canoe trips on the Hammonasset River. Saltwater creatures in the touch tank are returned to the Long Island Sound after brief stays in the touch tank
Rocky Neck State Park
Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme has a diverse ecosystem. In addition to the sandy beach and tidal river, Rocky Neck State Park has hiking trails where you can see the salt marsh. You can go crabbing or fishing here. And birdwatching is rewarded with ospreys, cranes and herons in the area. The salt marshes and abundant wildlife make it one of the most beautiful beaches in the state.
In addition to natural beauty, a historic stone pavilion on a bluff offers stunning views of Long Island Sound. The pavilion is a popular event rental space; if there is no party, be sure to check it out.
There are picnic tables and a concession stand, along with restrooms.
Rocky Neck State Park has overnight camping at camping sites and rustic cabins open to non-residents and residents alike.
Fairfield County: Norwalk and Greenwich Beaches
Shady Beach Park
Shady Beach Park in Norwalk is one of the best beaches for families. The sandy beach has lifeguards in season. And you can get kids out of the sun for a while in the shaded picnic area. There’s also a splash pad and swings.
The park has restrooms and a concession stand.
A parking fee is charged in season.
Calf Pasture Beach
Calf Pasture Beach, just down the road from Shady Beach, has bocce ball courts, a skate park, beach volleyball courts and plenty of sun. Both beaches have kayak racks, but they are not open to non-residents. Anyone can rent a kayak to explore the water.
Calf Pasture Beach has a fishing pier.
The casual Ripka’s Beach Café is open year round.
Bayley Beach in Norwalk has a playground, basketball and volleyball courts and outdoor showers. There is also a boat launch for hand-propelled watercraft, kayaks, canoes or paddle boards.
Restrooms, a concession stand and picnic tables are available.
Bayley Beach charges a parking fee in season. Non-resident bicyclists or pedestrians have to pay an admission fee.
Pets are allowed from November 1 to March 31.
Greenwich Point Park / Tod’s Point Beach
Greenwich Point Park, also known as Tod’s Point Beach, has a large white sand beach and walking trails through a forest. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline. The beach is also a path for migratory birds.
Greenwich Point Park, in Old Greenwich, is open to everyone from November – April only. Non-residents can buy day tickets from May- October. You need both a non-resident single-use beach park ticket and a parking ticket for the summer months.
Note: Seniors and children under 5 are free.
Island Beach and Great Captain Island
Island Beach, also known as Little Captain’s Island, and Great Captain Island are accessible only by a seasonal 20-minute ferry ride. You have to pay for both a ferry ticket and a beach pass. Ferry tickets are sold at the Arch Street Ferry Dock in Greenwich.
Island Beach has designated swimming areas, a playground, concession stand, restrooms, showers, water fountains, picnic tables and grills.
Great Captain Island has a historic lighthouse, restrooms, showers, water fountains, picnic tables and grills. Overnight camping is allowed, but non-residents can’t reserve a camping site. However, non-residents can stay with a Greenwich resident who has a reservation. Cultivate those friendships!
A bird sanctuary makes this a great place for beachfront bird watching.
Byram Beach and Pool
Byram Beach and Pool in Greenwich also requires day tickets for non-residents and a parking fee. There is a swimming pool for swimmers who don’t like open water swims, plus tennis courts, a large playground, hiking trails and boat launch.
Though the swimming pool isn’t Olympic-sized, you can get plenty of laps in. There is also a large kiddie pool and splash pad.
You can (and should) stay here all day, with showers, restrooms, picnic tables and grills.
Westport, CT has three town beaches: Compo Beach, Burying Hill Beach and Old Mill Beach
Compo Beach, Westport has a large white sand beach along the shore of Long Island Sound. It also borders the Saugatuck River
The beach includes a boardwalk, concession stand, two sand volleyball courts, a skate park and a large wooden playground. There are also restrooms.
The ADA-compliant Compo Beach has mats so wheelchairs (and strollers) can access the water. There are also wheelchair-accessible picnic tables.
Parking fee is charged from May 1 through Sept. 30. You do not need to buy a beach pass as well.
Dogs are allowed on the beach from October 1 through March 30
Burying Hill Beach
The sand and rock Burying Hill Beach is along the shore of Long Island Sound. It has a restroom and changing area facilities, picnic tables and grills and is adjacent to a wildlife area.
Old Mill Beach
Old Mill Beach is a 1.8-acre park with a sandy beach along the shore of Long Island Sound. It does not have a restroom, and you can only park with a season pass. There is no daily parking.
No lifeguards are on duty.
Harvey’s Beach, Old Saybrook
Old Saybrook is a classic New England resort town, with a white sand beach, marina and historic buildings. The family-friendly Harvey’s Beach is open to residents and non-residents, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The parking fees are much lower than those at Connecticut state beaches. And, you don’t need to buy a beach pass as well.
We biked here and didn’t have to pay a parking fee, but motorcycles do have to pay to park.
Harvey’s Beach has lifeguards, a concession stand and restrooms.
Clinton Town Beach
Clinton Town Beach, in Clinton, has a small white sand beach and ways for the whole family to get fit. There is a playground and splash pad for little kids, and volleyball, basketball, bocce and walking trails for teens and adults.
There is even a Dog Exercise Trail. But beware: Dogs are excluded from all sandy areas year round – the beach, playground and pavilion. Don’t risk a ticket.
The beach, between New Haven and Old Saybrook, includes restrooms, picnic tables, grills and a concession stand.
Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, Clinton Town Beach requires beach passes, from 9 am to 3 pm. The rest of the year, and early morning or late afternoon, entrance is free. Parking fees are only collected Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Ocean Beach Park, in New London, has a boardwalk, Olympic-size pool, waterslide, a miniature golf course and a large white sand beach. There is a food court, a sit down restaurant and video arcade. Ocean Beach Park has a bird watching observation deck.
The parking fee includes up to five people, walk-ins and extra people in a car have to pay admission to the beach. The pool is a separate charge.
Ocean Beach Park opens on Memorial Day weekend; the season runs to Labor Day.
Avoiding the Sand?
If you just want views of beautiful beaches, take a cruise on the Long Island Sound. Sightseeing cruises depart from New London, Connecticut. The two hour cruises include a lighthouse cruise and a lights and sights cruise, which focuses on architecture.
More Connecticut Beaches
Niantic Bay, McCook Point, Hole in the Wall Beach and Walnut Beach are other beaches to consider.
So many beaches, so little time.