Boondocking / Dry Camping, Off the Beaten Path Series, Travel Destinations & Stories

Off the Beaten Path in Connecticut. 9 Unique Places to Visit!

If this is your first time here – WELCOME! If not, welcome back!! As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Off The Beaten Path series where we explore the hidden treasures in every state. We love the big popular attractions like everyone else, however, there is just something incredible about discovering something unique and different. Our goals are to find the most unexplored places, and take those roads less traveled. We certainly can’t explore them all, so we’d love you to share your own off the beaten path stories with us. Each series will include at least one epic boondocking / free camping area, with GPS coordinates.

Ok, first of all, who added the extra C in the spelling of Connecticut, or have I been saying it wrong for over 50 years? Maybe there is a ConneCticut accent I’m missing!

By all means, make sure you visit the Mark Twain house! It’s a pretty popular attraction, but worth the visit!

Also, Yale University campus is incredible! If you’re able to just check out the buildings from the outside, they are something to see! I mean look at this amazing building!!

The Thimble Islands 

This is an cluster of small islands in the Branford area off the Long Island Sound. One of the largest, Horse Island, is 17 acres and is owned by Yale University who uses it for ecological studies. Governor Island is 10 acres and is home to 14 houses, while Money Island is 12 acres and is home to an entire village of 32 homes and a library. There are many boat tours available through the islands during the summer. Frisbie Island is maintained as a bird sanctuary and is open to the public only one week every summer. Did you know you can kayak around the Thimble Islands? Dress appropriately and enjoy! So, it’s well worth it. Best put-in is Branford River State Boat Launch

Fort Griswold – Groton

Do you love history? We do! If you need another reason to hate Benedict Arnold, a visit here will do it. In 1781, Arnold, an American general who famously switched to the British side, led a raid on New London and Groton that resulted in the massacre of more than 80 troops at this fort across the Thames River in Groton. There is a memorial to these fallen soldiers, and guests can wander at will through the remains of the structure, which is among the best examples of a Revolutionary War fort still in existence. The Ebenezer Avery House, which sheltered the wounded after the battle, is also still on the grounds. The site is part of the Thames River Heritage Park, which connects the fort with City Pier in New London and Fort Trumbull across the river by means of a water ferry running seasonally Friday, Saturday and Sunday

TIP!! Take a ride up Route 219 West in Granby and you’ll find these wondrous series of waterfalls along a quarter-mile stretch of river within Enders State Forest. The pools formed in the waterfalls’ gorges are tempting to swimmers on hot summer days.

The Putnam Fairy Doors

Keep your eyes peeled in Putnam for these tiny but intricate gateways to the “fairy world.” Along the town’s Main Street there are possibly up to 21 little doors hidden in plain sight. It feels strange to walk around looking down and under but so many people are also doing the same thing! 

Bigelow Hollow State Park

This jewel of the park system, way up in the northeast corner and “hidden” away in the 9,000-acre Nipmuck State Forest, has a lot to keep you occupied. During the warmer months this park truly shines. Tons of beautiful hiking, boating and fishing in the Mashapaug Pond, which is actually a 300-acre lake that touches the Massachusetts state line. This is one of the great places to be in the state for fall foliage, as the densely packed trees offer a very colorful canvas, while the lake waters provide a beautiful mirrored surface.

Saville Dam

If you’re a photographer, or even a wanna-be like me, this dam is so picturesque. Completed in 1940 and located on the eastern branch of the Farmington River, the dam creates the 8-mile-long Barkhamsted Reservoir, which serves as the primary water source for Hartford. This is a place where you come to get away and to enjoy the quiet and the stunning views. You might even spy a soaring bald eagle. There are also some great walking trails in the area. But if you’re planning a long stay, make sure to bring food and drinks; there are no dining options in the immediate vicinity.

Shore Line Trolley Museum

Once upon a time, you could get almost anywhere in the state via mass transportation. Before the personal automobile, an extensive network of suburban trolley lines covered not just Connecticut, but most of New England. Some of the last remaining suburban trolleys are still running at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, where you can ride a selection of vintage trolleys through a rural area! It give you a feel for the transportation methods of days gone by. It’s $10 for adults. $7 seniors, and active duty and retired military are free! 

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Being the daughter of an author, this place intrigues me. It hold the university’s extensive collection of medieval manuscripts, rare books, maps, historic tracts and pamphlets as well as modern-day items such as artists’ books, and rare limited editions. Built in 1962, the building is the largest in the world dedicated to the preservation and collection of rare books and manuscripts. But perhaps the most famous item is the mysterious Voynich Manuscript. Which I hadn’t ever heard of! Not sure how I hadn’t but now must do research! Ha! We love mysteries! The Voynich Manuscript is named for the book dealer who purchased it in 1912, and very little is known about its true origins. Written entirely in a mysterious and most likely fictional language, the manuscript is elaborately decorated with symbols and illustrations of fanciful plant life. The book was donated to Yale’s Beinecke Library in 1969, where it continues to attract the attention of scholars and code-breakers attempting to crack its riddles and solve its mysteries. Maybe someone will actually break the code one day. Or maybe it was a joke to see how many people would try and it’s just a bunch of nonsense. Who knows! This kind of stuff fascinates me!

East Rock Park

Panoramic views of the city of New Haven and the Long Island Sound, with a side of history. You can reach the top of East Rock by the auto road or by foot. The latter will give you access to some smaller, unmarked paths that take different routes to the top. As long as you keep your basic bearings, it’s hard to get lost. The park is open year-round to hikers and walkers. But the road is only open April to November

Chapman Falls

This is a really short, really easy hike to yet another beautiful waterfall! The trail is 1/2 mile loop trail. Dogs ok but on a leash. Best time to visit is April to November. We know you can get a lot of information online, but there are sometimes we like to buy books we can write in, and this is one of those times. Check out the New England Waterfalls Guide. 

Speaking of books! Did you read our top 10 favorite travel books?

Boondocking

  • Mohegan Sun – GPS: 41.48553, -72.081582 – Yes this is a casino parking lot, but you are able to stay for up to 2 weeks. It’s actually a wonderful view where you overlook the river, and cell service is super fast! We personally aren’t gamblers, but we usually go in and use their free play, maybe get a drink at the bar and try to give back a little bit. Of course the last casino we were at we won $100 and walked out. So didn’t give much back at that one! Ha!
  • Most rest areas in Connecticut are free to stay over night. Again, not the most epic place, but free, safe and easy on/off the highway.
  • Beach Pond Boat Ramp – 41.5821, -71.8176 TIP: If you want to get to some excellent swimming, just follow the path along the water about a half-mile. There’s a small island you can wade out to. The water is about 1-2 feet deep and you’ll find a rope swing out there. 

Thank you for sticking it out this far! We hope you enjoy our Off the Beaten Path series. If you’re looking for tips on another state, or maybe our list of boondocking areas in a certain state, check out all our states in this series. Here are just a few!

Didn’t see your favorite state above? There is more! Type what you’re looking for into the search bar in our website for your favorite state. You might find something you didn’t know existed!

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