15 Beaches to Add to Your Big Family’s Connecticut Vacation Itinerary

    From the tree-lined shores of Rocky Neck State Park to the vibrant boardwalk attractions of Ocean Beach Park, Connecticut’s beaches have something to offer every age group. While many beaches are part of the state park system, you’ll also find many public beaches. Please note that some beaches require a beach pass or have parking fees. There are plenty of accommodation options that are perfect for large families and multi-family vacations. 

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    Calf Pasture Beach, Norwalk

    Calf Pasture Beach offers all of your favorite beach activities. Between Calf Pasture Beach and the nearby Shady Beach, there is a 3/4 mile stretch of sandy coastline with amazing views and plenty to do and see. Enjoy a lively game of beach volleyball, or perhaps baseball and softball are more your speed. Kids will love the playground, skate park and popular beach sports. For older children, there’s a sailing school and other more challenging activities. 

    Don’t miss out on the many special events scheduled throughout the summer vacation season. Free concerts, comedy performances and even classic car shows draw visitors all season long.


    Ivan D., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    Cove Island Park

    Cove Island Park is an exciting destination for families. It has some great recreation facilities for different age groups. There’s a play area that younger children will love, along with skating and cycling paths and a one-mile hiking loop. As well as sandy beaches, the Park offers outstanding opportunities for naturalists. Anglers will appreciate the fishing spots, while bird-watchers love the mud flats and salt marsh. 

    Eastern Point Beach, Groton

    Eastern Point Beach is a destination made for family fun. It’s packed with great amenities for those traveling with children, including showers, restrooms, and beach sports facilities. There’s a snack bar for drinks and light bites. Lifeguards are on duty all summer long. Eastern Point Beach is noted for wonderful views of Long Island Sound and the Thames River. A season pass may be required.

    Esker Point Park Beach, Groton

    Esker Point Park Beach boasts a 600-foot stretch of clean, soft sand. This man-made beach is a no-frills spot where families can enjoy sunbathing, sea bathing and simple fun on the seashore. There are restrooms and picnic spots, with a grove of trees providing shade. Note that there are no lifeguards. 

    Once you’ve enjoyed the beach, why not explore the neighborhood? Esker Point Park has some great local seafood restaurants. Cycling, historical attractions and boat rentals are also available.

    Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison

    Hammonasset Beach State Park is the longest stretch of shoreline. There are over two miles of beach to enjoy, offering sea bathing and strolls along the boardwalk. There are restrooms available and the bathhouse at Meg’s Point provides changing areas and showers. Picnic shelters and concessions are available. There is also a nature center, with fun activities and educational programs that run all year round. 

    Harvey’s Beach, Old Saybrook

    Popular with out-of-state visitors as well as locals, Harvey’s Beach is considered to be one of the top beaches in CT. There’s an upper limit of 100 visitors on a first come, first served basis (so try and get there early during the height of the vacation season). Lifeguards are in attendance during the summer months. There are restrooms, changing facilities, and a rinse area. Dogs are not permitted.

    Jacob’s Beach, Guilford

    With 25 acres to explore, it’s no surprise that Jacob’s Beach is so popular. There are nearby sports fields and a pavilion which are available for rent. Small children will enjoy the playground, and there’s a picnic area with grills for an outdoor barbecue. Bathroom facilities are available. Dogs are only permitted if kept on a short leash. Non-residents must pay a fee to use some of the facilities. 

    Jennings Beach, Fairfield

    Jennings Beach is clean, sandy and very popular with visitors. The views out over Long Island Sound are spectacular. Facilities are basic but good: there are restrooms, picnic spots and a snack bar. Bring beach supplies, as you may not be able to pick up necessary items once you’re there. If you want to bring your car, be aware that parking can be expensive. Pets are not permitted during the summer vacation season but may be allowed at other times (after Labor Day but before Memorial Day). 

    McCook Point Beach, East Lyme 

    McCook Point Beach is a well-appointed beach with plenty of activities and facilities. The beach itself is white and sandy, with calm waters that are perfect for swimming and all your favorite seaside games. The beach connects to a scenic bluff commanding wonderful views. Here you’ll find grassy lawns with shade trees, perfect for picnicking. There are restrooms, a play area, a bocce court and Mobi-Chair facilities. Public events are held during the summer months, including live music in the bandshell.

     Lifeguards are on duty at the designated swimming areas. Tobacco and alcohol are forbidden and there are various restrictions on what you can bring into the swimming areas. Pets are not allowed during the summer season.

    Ocean Beach Park, New London

    Commanding views of the Thames and Long Island Sound, Ocean Beach Park was mentioned by the National Geographic as one of the best beaches to visit. As well as a stretch of golden sand, this beach also offers a boardwalk, a cafeteria, an ice-cream stand, and lots of amusements such as mini-golf, rides, and an arcade with retro video games. Sea swimming is popular in the hot weather, but there’s also an Olympic-sized swimming pool for cooler days. There’s a parking fee, which includes admission to the beach. Pedestrians pay a reduced fee.

    The park contains a banqueting hall and a stage on the center boardwalk. Performances are held regularly and there are firework displays during the summer. There are special events all year round, including concerts, movie nights, and classic car shows. Don’t miss the kayak tours of nearby Alewife Cove. 

    Pleasure Beach, Bridgeport

    Once a sadly diminished shell of its former Victorian glory, Pleasure Beach has undergone a resurgence in recent years. Rebuilding began in 2014 and has proceeded despite a few setbacks. It is reached by water taxi (when available) or by walking for 35 minutes or so from Long Beach Park in Stratford. Once there, you’ll find information centers where you can discover more about the park and its fascinating history. There are restrooms, showers, picnic facilities and a small concession stand where you can buy snacks, drinks and toys. After passing through the pavilion area, you can head down to the beach to enjoy the sand and scenery. 

    Access to Pleasure Beach may be affected by various factors. Be sure to check that it’s open and that the water taxis are running before you arrive.

    Rocky Neck State Beach, East Lyme

    As well as being home to a beautiful sandy beach, Rocky Neck State Park has lots of other amenities. You can enjoy a fun day at the beach, which as restrooms and picnic spots. Cookouts are permitted at certain times. Crabbing and fishing are popular activities. The State Park nearby has some lovely salt marshes with an abundance of waterfowl, which you can observe from the viewing platforms. Trail systems wind through the park, with various difficulty levels.

    Sherwood Island State Park, Westport

    Connecticut’s first state park, Sherwood Island offers everything you could want from a seaside nature spot. The sandy beach with its calm waters is ideal for swimming and paddling, offering lovely views of Long Island Sound. Surfing and other water sports are only allowed outside the designated swimming areas. Restrooms are available nearby. There is a pleasant picnic grove, a nature center, and a nature trail that runs through the salt marshes. 

    The nature center is open Wednesday through Sunday. Lifeguards are on duty on the same days. Pets are permitted during the off season. Note that there is a complete alcohol ban throughout the park. 

    Short Beach Park, Stratford

    One of the main advantages of Short Beach is the presence of disabled access at the northern end. 

    There are picnic spots and a play area for children, as well as Stratford’s largest sandbox. Active adults and teens will appreciate the calisthenics course. There are lots of sports facilities, including tennis, volleyball, baseball and golf. 

    Short Beach is popular with anglers, thanks to an abundance of red snapper and other sea fish. Bird watchers should keep an eye open for least terns and piping plovers. The beach is noted as a home for horseshoe crabs.

    Silver Sands State Park, Milford

    Popular all year round, Silver Sands State Park offers a half-mile of beautiful shoreline and a long boardwalk that’s perfect for strolls. The beach is noted for its abundant seashells. Shorebirds populate the area, including some vulnerable nesting birds. 

    All of these beaches are great destinations for your family. Be aware that some may have entrance fees and there are usually fees for parking. Be aware of opening and closing times before you go, as these often change depending on the season and the weather. 

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    Theresa Jorgensen

    Theresa is the mother of four including twins. She is the owner of SixSuitcaseTravel, a travel site for big families of 5, 6, 7, 8. She enjoys helping other big families build life-long travel memories. Her family's travel bucket list includes Washington, DC (done!), Yellowstone (done!), London, and anywhere in the Caribbean.