PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2013, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website for the most current information, especially about things like hours and pricing.
This year the Connecticut State Parks are celebrating 100 years of existence. Back before most of us were born, a few visionaries decided to section off some beautiful areas of our state to be reserved for public use. Thank goodness they did.
The State Park Commission first met in September of 1913, and by 1914, the first state parks were available to be enjoyed by the public.Today, the Connecticut State Parks and Forests system boasts
- 107 state parks,
- 32 state forests,
- 121 public boat launches and
- hosts 8 million visitors annually.
With the state currently promoting this centennial celebration, I’ve been wanting to get out and explore a few more of these public resources. Shawna and I have been to a few: Hammonasset, Gillette Castle, and Dinosaur State Parks.
Great. Three down, only 104 to go!
Well, I don’t think we are going to be breaking any state park visiting records anytime soon, but I do have a new one to share with you.
Given the gorgeous weather we have been enjoying these past few weeks, I was itching for another beach trip. So why not combine my desire to visit some new state parks with my need for a little salt water therapy. My pick: Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Connecticut.
A few friends had said this was their go-to beach day trip destination and even described it as “the beach with the train”. Huh? A train at the beach? I needed to check it out.
The drive from West Hartford to East Lyme took less than an hour and we arrived around 10 on a Monday morning. We pulled into the entrance and prepared to pay the parking fee. Bring cash. It was a weekday, so we paid the $9 weekday resident rate. You can also plan ahead a little and use a state park pass from your library’s museum pass program or just go all out and get a state park season pass which allows for unlimited access during the calendar year.
We weaved our way through the park and headed to the beach area. There is certainly a lot more to explore at Rocky Neck than just a beach. I saw campers, hikers, and people crabbing off a pier. But we had a goal, get to the beach.
Here is a picture of the map I found at the park. Not the best of images, but it gives you a general idea of the layout.
As we got closer to the beach area, I realized I needed to make a decision: East Beach or West Beach. I quickly looked at the signs and decided we should head to West Beach since that one had a concession area.
We parked and unloaded the crew.
As we made our way toward the beach area, the first thing we saw was a large building that contained the restroom facilities. That was our first stop, of course.
The restrooms were large and contained normal restroom facilities along with an open shower area, enclosed changing areas and even a baby changing area. Not the fanciest of restroom facilities, but definitely better than a porta potty!
Right on the other side of the restrooms was the concession building. I’ll give you an inside tour of that area a little later in the post, but here is a sneak peek.
Outside of the concession area were picnic tables and a bike rack (if that happens to be your mode of transportation for the day).
Then we saw it, the train everyone mentioned to me. Right there, running along the beach were the train tracks and we watched as the Metro North (I think) whizzed by.
You should have seen the look on the twins’ faces. “Mommy a train!”. They were ecstatic. I was actually surprised by how quiet the train was as it came by us. I guess you couldn’t really have a train passing by and blowing its horn while people were trying to relax, but I was still surprised.
We continued on our way to the beach by heading under the train tracks and onto the white sand.
As you may have noticed, the twins were walking as we headed towards the beach, but little Sweetheart was in a stroller. I was just crossing my fingers that it wasn’t going to be too hard to get that stroller through the sand!
Fortunately, along the back part of the beach runs a little board walk. So we could roll the stroller down to the area where we wanted to sit and then we just had to roll it a little ways through the sand.
There were lifeguard stands all along the beach area, but when we arrived, only one stand was filled so we set up somewhat near the active stand.
I set up the umbrella and chairs while my hubby let the kids check out the water. We finally “invested” in one of those beach umbrella sand anchors. I think it may be one of my favorite purchases of the summer. Never again do I have to worry about my umbrella flying out to sea (like we saw happen to another visitor’s umbrella that day). I highly recommend this handy-dandy contraption.
The beach was pretty nice. It is located on the Long Island Sound, so there were no waves, of course, but that is a good thing when you are dealing with toddlers. The sand was white and clean and the water was surprisingly clear.
Sparkles and I did a little impromptu photo shoot.
Bruiser even got in on the action.
I think this was my favorite shot with Greg and the kids in the background.
The kids played in the sand and water and even got to enjoy the train as it passed by every once in a while.
We attempted to get the kids to nap on the beach in the hopes that they would all sleep and my husband and I could pretend we were kid-free for an hour or two. Maybe read the book that I’ve been trying to pick up all summer. Maybe read just one article in the magazine I brought with me. But no luck. Sweetheart took a little snooze, but the twins were too excited to sleep. We tried.
I had no interest in hanging out with a couple of non-napping toddlers (I mean a meltdown was certainly just around the corner, right?) so we packed up to head back home.
Before we left, I took a look inside the concession area to see what they had to offer.
Right outside the concession building were vending machines with a variety of soft drinks for sale.
Inside there was a variety of food and beverages available for sale. Bring cash as it is the only form of payment accepted. There is an ATM available if you need it.
We decided not to purchase anything at the concession stand as I had received a lot of nearby lunch venue recommendations from our fabulous readers. So we packed our stuff and the kids back in the car and made our way out of the park and towards a lunch destination.
We were almost to the park exit when I took a look in our back seat and realized all three kids were sound asleep. Why, oh why, didn’t they fall asleep on the beach! This is how it always happens.
So, instead of heading to one of the kid-friendly venues recommended by our readers, we took one of their “to go food” recommendations and made our way to a sub shop in Niantic.
A few other eating venue recommendations were:
- Dad’s Restaurant (read my post on Dad’s here)
- The Dock Restaurant
- East Lyme Pizza
- Family Pizza
- Main Street Grille
- Skipper’s Dock
- Yankee Clipper
So a morning of beach bathing and a ride home chomping on a yummy grinder made for a wonderful summer outing. Now I just need to work on getting those munchkins to nap on the beach!
Have you been to Rocky Neck State Park’s beach? Should I have gone to East Beach instead of West Beach? Any suggestions for our readers? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.
244 West Main Street, East Lyme, Connecticut
Open 8am to sunset every day
- Weekdays: $9 Residents, $15 Non-Residents
- Weekends and Holidays: $13 Residents, $22 Non-Residents
- Current rate information can be found here.
- Season passes are available for purchase and allow for unlimited entry during the calendar year.
- Many libraries also have a state park pass available for check out through their museum pass program.
- Clear water
- White sand
- Located on the Long Island Sound
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Bring cash. You will need it for the parking fee and for purchases from the concession stand. There is an ATM located inside the concession building if needed.
- Bring your typical beach accessories: suntan lotion, bug spray, umbrella, chairs, beach toys, etc.
- If you bring a stroller or wagon to carry the kids and cargo, there is a boardwalk that runs along the back edge of the beach that will help.
- Lifeguard stands are stationed along the beach area but they were not all being utilized the day we were there.
- One of the beach rules is that no flotation devices (besides approved life jackets) are allowed. Kids with boogie boards were not able to take them in the water. My kiddos did wear their puddle jumpers (coast guard certified) and those weren’t an issue.
- Beach Rules:
- No alcoholic beverages, glass, pets, or nudity.
- No floation devices, only approved lifejackets.
- No snorkels.
- No rough play.
- No sand or rock throwing.
- No “throw-catch” activities.
- No soap or shampoo.
- No fishing.
- Keep the beach area around the lifeguard chair clear.
- Swimmers must stay off buoys and lines.
- Water and the beach will be cleared when lightning is visible or thunder is heard.
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