Situated on Long Island Sound just 15 miles southwest of New Haven Connecticut – home to Yale University – the Silver Sands State Park offers an idyllic location for a little waterside downtime. Beyond the beach, boardwalk and birds, a mysterious island harbors the secrets of ancient curses. Intrigued? Let’s take a look!
A visit to Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Connecticut delivers much more than a day at the beach. Sure, you can spend your time lying in the sun. Or stroll along the sandy beach in search of seashells that you’ll find in abundance. But in this park, the story reaches beyond the typical waterside past times. Here a walk on the boardwalk provides views of a salt marsh and wetlands teeming with waterfowl and shell-housed creatures. And a rocky sandbar leads to Charles Island where unsolved mysteries beckon to treasure hunters.
Read More: How to Clean and Preserve Seashells
Strolling By the Seashore
Encompassing 297 acres of beach, dunes, restored salt marsh, open areas and woods as well as the 14-acre bird sanctuary of Charles Island, Silver Sands beach elevates your stroll by the sea with a very nice boardwalk. The boardwalk connects Silver Sands Beach within the state park with Walnut Beach which is owned by the City of Milford.
From the parking lot, a 900-foot bridge leads walkers over a salt marsh. From there the 3/4-mile-long boardwalk provides an ideal place for walks. The estimated grade is about 1%, providing a navigable trail for wheelchairs or stroller users.
Ramps lead down to the beach from the boardwalk where rock jetties protrude into the water. Picnic tables dot the surrounding landscape with the majority of the picnic areas being near the parking area. Birding enthusiasts appreciate the over 200 species of birds often seen at Silver Sands State Park.
Mysteries of Charles Island
For adventure seekers, Charles Island is the main attraction at Silver Sands State Park. But the center of this enticing island is off-limits to human visitors from May until September. During these months, the island harbors numerous nesting birds and one of Connecticut’s largest wading bird rookeries. This environmental protection provides a bird sanctuary for egrets, herons and numerous other waterfowl.
Outside of the summer months, a trek to Charles Island involves crossing a tombolo — more widely known as a sandbar. The rock and shell-strewn tombolo stretches into the waters of the Long Island Sound leading to the shores of Charles Island.
Although Charles Island is said to be thrice-cursed, the most well-known folklore involves the legendary Captain Kidd. Believed to have arrived on the island in 1699, the Scottish pirate allegedly cursed the land before burying his treasure under Hog Rock. His subsequent capture and trial led to his demise. Good luck finding that treasure!
Cautions for the Trek to Charles Island
If hunting for treasure, bird watching, or just a fun trek to an island by way of a tombolo appeals to you, be sure to heed the warnings posted at the edge of the sandbar. The Charles Island Trail is 2.4 miles roundtrip. But those 2.4 miles can be treacherous if you don’t pay attention to the tide charts.
Low tide exposes the land and provides the sandbar necessary to get to the island. But as the tide returns, getting swept off the tombolo into the swift treacherous current of the Long Island Sound can be deadly. Start your walk as the tide moves out to ensure ample time to return to the beach before the tide comes in. Here’s a local tide chart.
What to Know When Visiting Silver Sands State Park
The park’s boardwalk pavilion has restrooms and a family changing room. However, during colder months, the facilities are closed. Portable toilets are available year-round. There are also picnic tables available for use at the pavilion and meadow.
Parking fees are assessed for non-Connecticut vehicles parked in the parking lots. However, we visited in March with a New York tag and there were no fees. Also, fees vary depending on the time of day, etc. Check the website beforehand for the most up-to-date information.
Where to Stay
If you choose to incorporate Silver Sands State Park as part of an expansive vacation along the Connecticut shoreline, you’ll need a place to stay. Just 1.5 miles away from the entrance to the park, Springfield Suites by Marriott offers an unassuming all-suite hotel. The property features a gym, indoor pool, free breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi.
The property also sits in a convenient location between Stratford and New Haven. It’s only one hour from Bradley International Airport. And, it’s 10 minutes from a Metro North train station that delivers you to Grand Central Terminal in New York City in 90 minutes.