Explore scenic backroads while marveling at the fall foliage with a weekend road trip through southeastern Connecticut. If coming from the New York City area, you can follow this road trip itinerary from the starting point to the end, while if you are coming from Boston, you could reverse the itinerary to take advantage of the beautiful fall season in Connecticut. With stops at popular eateries, beautiful scenic areas, hiking trails, and specialty seasonal spots, you are sure to have a memorable weekend.
Traveling along Route 1, stop for your morning coffee or a pick-me-up with a snack at Ashlawn Farms Coffee. This local favorite spot is a family-run business that roasts their own coffee beans to produce delicious specialty coffees. Along with your coffee, enjoy delicious pastries and sandwiches to hold you over until lunchtime.
After crossing the bridge from Old Saybrook to Lyme, follow 156 along the scenic shoreline for views of the coast, quaint farms, and beautiful homes. Make your next stop at Rocky Neck State Park for a walk along the water and a stroll along the beautiful grounds. Peak into the windows of the historic Ellie Mitchell Pavilion, which is a large stone building that is often used for weddings and other special events. Walking trails throughout the park also lead visitors pass a salt marsh, cave, and shipyard.
Continuing along 156, you’ll enter the quaint coastal village of Niantic. By this time, you must be getting hungry, so head to Main Street for a delicious meal at Lillian’s Café. Weather permitting, you can dine outside on their patio, enjoying people-watching while savoring their delicious food created using local ingredients. Dig into their seafood dishes or a hearty salad, but be sure to save room for dessert, as their Maine blueberry pie is highly recommended. When you get back on the road, follow 156 until it links up with Route 1 in Waterford.
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To work off your dessert, head slightly off Route 1 to Haley Farm State Park. This scenic state park has colorful foliage come fall and a few great walking trails. The trails are well-maintained here and are suitable for walking, biking, jogging, and also offers wheelchair and stroller access.
For a seasonal snack and historically interesting visit, don’t miss your chance to stop at B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, which is the oldest still functioning steam powered cider mill in the U.S. At Clyde’s, you’ll have the opportunity to watch the cider mill functioning to mash apples to produce fresh apple cider. Other apple products such as apple pie, apple cider doughnuts (these are amazing), apple cider, apple jack, apple crumble, and more are all available in country store on-site.
Each year, the famous Mystic Seaport holds its Nautical Nightmares event, which uses local actors to cover a spooky tour of the seaport. Themes vary each year. Schedule your road trip so you can enjoy this spooky hour long tour!
To finish off your evening, enjoy cocktails, desserts, and great snacks while listening to the waves at Red 36. This popular restaurant and bar has a variety of cocktails, spirits, beers, and wine available on their menu. To get a taste for wines produced in southeastern Connecticut, try their cabernet franc for pinot gris from Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington.
See if you can spot businesses and scenes from the famous movie Hope Springs (2012), in which the Inn at Stonington was featured. This lovely accommodation is one of the most highly rated in Connecticut and offers guests 18 unique rooms. Some rooms have balconies with views to Stonington, others offer a Jacuzzi, and some have a crackling fire lit in a glass fireplace.
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After a romantic evening spent at the Inn at Stonington, window shop along Main Street and stroll into Noah’s Restaurant for a hearty breakfast. Noah’s is a small, locally owned restaurant that serves excellent breakfast including challah French toast, blueberry pancakes, Portuguese baked eggs, omelets, and more.
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Later in the morning, appreciate the beauty of the brilliant fall foliage in a unique marsh area at Barn Island. This scenic nature preserve is very well-known for birding, as it attracts both water birds and song birds. Allow for ample time to hike through the forested uplands, open fields, and tidal wetlands.