PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2015, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information.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 the Town’s website for the lastest information on parking rates.
Before I get to today’s post, we have a pretty exciting announcement to make. Shawna and I started this little blog in August of 2011 and the site has grown and grown over the past few years. We’ve had so much fun sharing our weekly outings and this week we were ecstatic to find out that we’d hit a HUGE milestone for the site — we officially surpassed 1 MILLION site views! 1 MILLION! Wow!
As Shawna mentioned in her Facebook post, many of our readers have been with us since the beginning and many others have joined us over the past few years. For all of our readers, we want to say THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT. We can “scout the CT outings” but this site doesn’t thrive unless you are there reading our posts, visiting the destinations we recommend, and interacting with us on social media. We have so much fun sharing information about great family adventures in (and around) Connecticut and can’t thank you enough for coming along with us on this ride!
Now, if only we had charged a dollar every time someone visited our site. I think I would be writing this post from a fabulous tropical destination. Ha!
But enough about stats and site visits, let’s get back to why you actually visit our site — the outings! And since we are in the thick of summer, there is no outing better than a beautiful afternoon at a local beach. I’ve written about several Connecticut beaches before [including Hole-in-the-Wall Beach in Niantic, Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, Clinton Town Beach, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Jennings Beach in Fairfield and Old Lyme Beach] but everytime I post about a new beach our readers send me tons of ideas on others they think I should visit. I love it because you create my outing list for me (see you think we help you but you actually are helping us plan our summer of fun!)
And with that list of beach outing suggestions, one destination is always on repeat — Harvey’s Beach in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Now, with so many readers (and even friends and neighbors) suggesting Harvey’s Beach as a great summer outing I knew I wanted to go BUT I also knew that you couldn’t just show up at this beach and expect a perfect day. The interesting thing about Harvey’s Beach is that when the tide is high, the beach is super small but when the tide is low, a huge expanse of sandbars and small pools of water suddenly become available and toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-aged kids are immediately in their element. The key for a great visit here is to check out the tide charts before you visit and I was going to need a little guidance in that department.
So, I’m lucky enough to have some pretty amazing neighbors and they agreed to join me on our Harvey’s Beach adventure and one of them (hi Emily!) actually knew what she was doing when it came to the tide charts. More on that a bit later in the post, but first, let me give you some guidance on finding the beach.
Harvey’s Beach is a public access beach located off of Route 159/Plum Bank Road in Old Saybrook and is about an hour drive from my house in West Hartford, Connecticut.
I used the GPS address 29 Plum Bank Road and still missed the turn-off for this beach so I’m warning you that you need to be on the lookout. There is a sign (see below) and there is also a red, white, and blue flag with the word “open”. Keep on the lookout for the flag and the sign and you shouldn’t have to turn around TOO many times on 159 (like I did!)
Follow the short driveway until you see the check-in booth. When lifeguards are on duty (the sign here says 10:00 am – 4:00 pm every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and the sign on the lifeguard stand says 10:00 am – 5:00 pm) there is a parking and walk-in fee for the beach. The parking fee is $10 per car on the weekdays and $20 per car on the weekends. The walk-in fee is $2. Cash only.
There was a decent sized parking lot and we had no problem finding a space when we arrived around 1:00 pm on a weekday but I’ve read online that the parking lot can fill up quickly on the weekend.
The nice thing about this destination is that the parking lot is conveniently located right next to the beach. When the tide is low you still may walk a good ways out to where you will eventually sit, but the parking area is as close as possible.
Right at the front of the beach area is a facility with restrooms and changing areas that is available for beach visitors. This isn’t a fancy building by any means, but it’s certainly convenient.
As I mentioned before we arrived at the beach around 1:00 pm that day and Emily had researched in advance the tide charts for the area. She uses a FREE app called Tides Near Me, but there are other tide charts available online. The key is to be sure you check before you go so that you enjoy optimal beach time. The day we were visiting we arrived an hour before low tide and just had to make our way through a few shallow bodies of water to get out to the beach area.
When we arrived at the beach (a little later than we originally planned) my other neighbors had already been there for about a half hour. Emily and her kiddos had actually brought their own lunch and were enjoying it at the covered picnic tables near the beach entrance.
To get down to the beach, we needed to make our way through the area in the picture below. When we actually went through, there was a good bit more water here (I took this picture later when I wasn’t loaded down with beach paraphernalia!) but it wasn’t a problem at all. Both of us were using our jogging strollers (me for all of my beach stuff and her for an actual baby 🙂 and the strollers made it through with ease. Emily did warn me that you have to make sure you don’t stay out too close to high tide or you will end up having a bit more challenge getting back through this area with a stroller.
Ahhhh the beach. You can see from this picture that there are sections of water and sections of sand throughout this area. We parked our stuff in the big sand area but walked with the kids through some of the large (but shallow) bodies of water to explore the other areas.
It is interesting to think that we are all set up in an area that will be completely under water in a few hours!
The other interesting thing here is that while most of the beach action was taking place in the low tide areas, the lifeguard remains at the lifeguard stand back in the high tide beach area. I did see them walk down once or twice, but they mainly remained back at their post. I’m not sure if they could even see someone in trouble from way back there, but I’m guessing the risk is pretty low when you’re dealing with shallow water.
The kids had so much fun digging in the sand and exploring the shallow bodies of water. There was a lot to see and do while we were there and I think one of the most exciting things was our discovery of hermit crabs in some of the water pools. There were tons of them and the kids were enjoying checking out the various shells and sizes. Of course playing with Barbies in the water was an entertaining activity as well!
Once they all settled down and really started enjoying the beach (and stopped asking us for snacks!), there was a miraculous few hours where us moms actually had a chance to chat! I love when that happens. We were chatting away and enjoying the spectacular beach weather so much that I didn’t realize for a while that it was getting close to 5:00 p.m. Time flew by! But with an hour drive ahead of us and dinnertime on the horizon, we finally had to drag ourselves from this beautiful destination.
There was a nice space near the entrance where the kids could shower and clean off their feet before they got back in the car.
But my kids couldn’t leave before they checked out the small playground located near the back of the beach area. It was just a few swings and a slide, but it was a perfect spot for them to burn off a little energy before we got back in the car for the drive home.
Oh, how I love learning about new beaches close to where we live! It was such a fun afternoon getting a chance to catch up with my neighbors and getting the scoop on the low tide beauty of Harvey’s Beach in Old Saybrook.
Now, which beach should I explore next? Tell me your suggestions in the comment section below!
29 Plum Bank Road, Old Saybrook, Connecticut (Route 159)
- Beach open with lifeguard from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- $10 per car on weekdays and $20 per car on weekends
- Walk-in rate of $2 per person
- Free after hours
- Stroller Friendly: SOMEWHAT. I would suggest a jogging stroller or wagon for the beach. You need decent sized wheels to get through the deeper sand.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES.
- Restroom: YES.
- Baby Changing Station: NO.
- Parking: YES.
- Food for Sale: YES. Ice cream, snacks, Italian ice, sandwiches, beverages and more are available from the food truck on site from Hog Wilds Smokin’ Cue BBQ.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES.
- Cash Required: YES. Cash is needed for the parking fee and for food and drink.
- Dress Code: NO. But a bathing suit would be a great option.
- Age Recommendations: All ages, although the sandbars may be best geared towards the younger crowd since there isn’t a ton of swimming happening here.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: NO.
- Large beach when the tide is low
- Beautiful views
- Easy parking
- Clean restrooms
- Small playground
- No alcohol allowed
- No smoking allowed
- No pets allowed (May through October)
- Swimming outside of designated areas is at your own risk
- No removal of horseshoe crabs allowed
- Please pick up your trash
Tips and Things to Bring:
- The usual beach accessories: chairs, umbrella, towels, sunscreen, toys, etc.
- Cash for parking fee payment.
- Check the tide charts before you head out or use the Tides Near Me App on your mobile device to ensure you go during low tide.
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- The Little Green Tambourine – Located in Canton, CT, this healthy living creative arts studio offers a variety of opportunities for kids to learn and play.
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