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How to Small-Town Hop Along the Connecticut Coast This Summer

Get to know the saltwater-kissed villages of Stonington.

By Sarah Zlotnick
charles w morgan ship at mystic seaport villagepinterest icon

Come summer, time tends to slow way down whenever we can get close to the water. That’s precisely why, this year, we’re heading to the Connecticut coast—to Stonington, Connecticut to be exact. Home to a saltwater-kissed collection of tiny villages and boroughs, Stonington is situated on the easternmost edge of the Constitution State and has a long history steeped in the ways of the sea. (The town’s first major industry was seal hunting, and it successfully fought off the British Navy in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812!)

These days, the small town summer tourist destination of Stonington is perhaps best known for the even smaller village of Mystic, which technically straddles the border of Stonington and Groton and first rose to fame in Mystic Pizza, the iconic 80s rom-com starring Julia Roberts. Yes, the pizza shop of the same name is still there, but Mystic has since grown into a serious foodie destination, with dining options ranging from decadent brioche donuts to sophisticated seafood restaurants.

Beyond good eats, you’ll also find historical open-air museums, farms home to fields of sunflowers and truly excellent ice cream, and home decor and antique shops perfect for those who love the nautical look. So if you’re looking for the perfect low-key small town summer getaway, you’ve come to the right place! Read on for the very best things to do in Stonington, Connecticut, including, of course, ways to spend time on the water.


Set the Morning Aglaze

stack of 4 donuts with pink icing in an open palm
Deviant Donuts

At Deviant Donuts, locals line up early (think 7:30 a.m.!) for honey-vanilla cold brew and decadent brioche donuts in a rotating roster of seasonal flavors.


Go for a Stroll

aerial view of stonington connecticut
Cate Brown

Ease into the day with a walk along Water Street in Stonington Borough. The thoroughfare is dotted with quaint storefronts, historic homes, and, at its southernmost point, duBois Beach.


Soak in History

charles w morgan ship at mystic seaport village

Calling all sailing buffs! The “streets” of the open-air Seaport Village at the Mystic Seaport Museum are lined with 200-plus-year-old trade shops that were transported from maritime towns throughout New England. (You'll also find the Charles W. Morgan, pictured at left, which is the last wooden whaleship in the world.) Back in Stonington Borough, the seafaring sites include the Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer House museum and the 170-year-old Stonington Lighthouse.

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Take a Lobster Roll Trip

white exterior of fords lobster shack covered in colorful buoys
Mindy Briar

Cruise the coast to Ford’s Lobster in Noank for lunch, where you’ll enjoy lobster rolls served Connecticut-style (warm with melted butter) in a circa-1950s bait-and-tackle shop.


Frolic in the Fields

sunflower field with a white walking path sign
Courtesy Buttonwood Farms

Check Stone Acres Farm’s schedule for details on farm dinners, their August music festivals, and kids’ cooking classes. Further inland, the main draws at family-owned Buttonwood Farm are the 50 flavors of made-on-property ice cream and 14 acres of sunflowers.


Shop Coastal

full bookshelves at vintage bookshop with a taxidermied fish on the top shelp
Anna Wu

At Mystic Knotwork, the first knot shop in the U.S., the monkey fist doorstops are handwoven of rugged manila rope, while Mystic Nautical Marine Consignment is a no-frills treasure trove of boating accessories and antiques. Trove is a nautically-minded men's mercantile, and you'll find hand-thrown pottery in colors of the coast at Glaze Handmade.

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Eat Your Heart Out

group of three friends enjoy drinks at an outdoor bar in mystic connecticut
Catherine Dzilenski/Idlewild Photo

Though Mystic Pizza put the local food scene on the map, newcomer Nana’s Bakery & Pizza is also a popular choice for the sourdough clam pies. Afternoon drinks and bites at the outdoor Treehouse at Oyster Club is a more casual way to enjoy the buzzy dinner destination, and, because there's no such thing as too much lobster in New England, enjoy your next batch waterside at Red 36.


Rest Your Head

wooden bed with white bedding and small blue whale pillow at the whalers inn
Kristy Cadwallader

The Inn at Stonington boasts fireplaces in almost every room, while equally charming 125-year-old The Whaler’s Inn spans five buildings from different eras.


Nominate Your Favorite Small Town!

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Where should we mosey to next? Tell us at, or start planning your next getaway with our small town guides:

A Serene Spring Getaway to Narrowsburg, New York
This Tiny Texas Town is Beloved for Antiquing. But That's Not the Only Reason to Visit.
The 50 Best Small Towns for Antiques

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