Top 5 Man-Made Beaches in Connecticut

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boy launches paper boat on a lake vacation
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Connecticut’s great ocean beaches have made it a popular summer vacation spot for New Englanders looking to sail, swim, fish or get a tan. But sometimes the best beaches are the ones designed by us. For those of you in the area, here are our top picks for man-made beaches near me in Connecticut.

1. Candlewood Lake – Danbury/New Milford

Candlewood Lake is the largest man-made reservoir in the state of Connecticut, clocking in at 5,420 acres in total area. It spans from Sherman and New Milford at the northernmost point to Danbury in the south, nearly 11 miles in total length.

Boating (including waterskiing and tubing) is permitted throughout the lake, as are jet skis – however, there are no jet ski rentals. You must bring your own.

There are seven marinas located around the lake shore in Danbury, New Milford, New Fairfield and Brookfield. Three of them have boats available for rent. Fishing is abundant throughout the lake, and you can even book a fishing tour. There are also two public boat launches in Danbury and New Milford.

The shoreline boasts five different public beaches where you can spend your day lounging in the sun – however, a pass is needed to access them. You can obtain a beach pass at the beach gate in Danbury or from the Parks & Recreation departments of any of the towns on the lake.

Because the lake is so big, there are tons of places to eat and visit in the nearby areas. One highly recommended spot is Down the Hatch, an outdoor, seasonal seafood venue. Reminiscent of an ocean boardwalk eatery, it’s the only water- or beachfront restaurant on the lake.

2. Winding Trails – Farmington

Winding Trails is a nearly 400-acre park and recreation area in Farmington. Run by a nonprofit organization, the site is home to Dunning Lake, a large, man-made lake originally excavated by nearby Dunning Sand & Gravel. The crystal clear water of the lake gets to ideal swim temperatures quickly during the summer. And kayak, sailboat, canoe and paddleboard rentals are available. Fishing is also permitted outside of the roped swim area.

Got kids? They’ll love the newly-constructed playground at the center of the beach. There’s a basketball court and beach volleyball, too, plus picnic tables and grills to get your BBQ on.

Lifeguards are on duty beginning at 10 a.m. until approximately 7:30 p.m. from the Saturday after Memorial Day until Labor Day weekend. Swimmers are permitted at their own risk outside of this period.

Motorboats are not allowed, though personal canoes, kayaks and sailboats are permitted.

More Activities near Man Made Lakes

Take advantage of the hiking trails – you’re sure to encounter turtles, deer and lots of birds! In the winter, the park is open to the public for snowshoeing, and paths are also permitted to be used as biking trails.

Parking is abundant, and there is a public bathhouse with restrooms, changing areas, vending machines and a grill serving burgers, fries and more.

Unfortunately, the park is limited to members and their guests, and membership can have a long waitlist. Call the park office for the most up-to-date waitlist information. Members can bring in guests for $5 per person. Guests must enter with members, but there is parking outside the main entrance, so you can meet up there and ride in with your hosts.

3. Esker Point Beach – Groton

Groton is home to Esker Point Beach on Esker Bay. Just a couple miles off the coast is New York’s Fisher Island. If you prefer a saltwater swim, this is the spot for you. The small bay is also a great spot for sailors looking for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

There are no lifeguards at Esker Point Beach. There are restrooms, a picnic area, beach volleyball courts, a boat launch and of course, the sandy beach itself. Pets are allowed except during events – get a complete schedule by contacting Groton Parks & Rec from the website.

4. Lake McDonough – Barkhamsted

Just a couple miles from New Hartford Center and about halfway between Winsted and Canton is Lake McDonough, created by an impoundment of the Farmington River. It’s right near Ski Sundown. If you enjoy the woods and wilderness, Lake McDonough is just far enough from any large towns to be perfect, while still easy to get to. The lake’s blue waters and forested shoreline make for beautiful and scenic views.

Fishing and boating are staples at the lake, which is stocked every fishing season with brown, rainbow and brook trout. Shore fishing is also allowed if you’d prefer, and there’s even a wheelchair-accessible fishing pier.

Boating day passes are $20 for residents and $40 for non-residents. Season passes are also available for $60 and $120 for residents and non-residents respectively. Please note that resident prices are not for all Connecticut residents, but residents of MDC member towns and other nearby areas – check the boating form here for a list of recognized towns. All prices include parking.

Lake McDonough is also home to a great swimming area and beach which has unfortunately been closed for the past few seasons due to staffing shortages. At the time of publication, the MDC has not issued a decision on whether the beach will be open for swimming this season. Check the site or call (860) 278-7850 for updates.

5. Pachaug Pond – Griswold

Just a few minutes off I-395 (and only 30 minutes from Exeter, RI) in Griswold is Pachaug Pond, an 817-acre lake offering fishing, boating, swimming and all of your lake beach desires. It was created by an impoundment of the Pachaug River, along with nearby Hopeville Pond State Park, which also offers swimming and fishing but does not permit motorboats.

Pachaug Pond is on the shallower side, with a maximum depth of 16 feet and an average depth of just 6 feet. But this and its clear waters allow for great fishing and a view of the pond’s lush plant life. Watersports are permitted, except within 1000 feet of the pond’s dam.

The boat launch is located at 945 Voluntown Road at the north end of the pond, though there are only 40 parking spots, so you may want to get there early on weekends, unexpected good weather days or holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day or Labor Day.

Who Needs a Fishing License in Connecticut

Fishing in Connecticut generally requires a fishing license, which can be purchased from the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. Inland fishing licenses are $28 for adult residents and $14 for resident children ages 16 and 17. Nonresident permits are $55.

All-waters licenses allow fishing in the marine district as well and cost $32 for resident adults and $16 for resident children ages 16 and 17. Nonresident all-waters permits are $63.

We recommend purchasing the all-waters license in case you decide you’d like to fish in a marine district area. Also, active military members can purchase any of the permits for the resident price.

Trout fishing requires a separate trout stamp from the state, which is $5 for adults and nonresidents and $3 for children ages 16 and 17. However, this is only necessary when fishing for trout in state-run areas, and not in places which are not stocked by the state, like Lake McDonough.

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