***As of July 2017, we have been informed that the pond has not opened for swimming due to the difficulty of finding lifeguards. Please contact Norwich Parks & Rec for further details.***
PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2015, and while it should still give you a good idea of the overall experience, it may also contain some outdated information. Please be sure to check their website or call (860) 823-3798 for the most current information. If you notice something in this post that needs to be updated, please feel free to leave a comment with the updated information, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to make the updates. Hey, it takes a village, right? 🙂
So Mandy and I are getting ready for our monthly appearance on Better Connecticut next Thursday, and what else could possibly make a better topic in the heat of July than places to swim (or at least get wet) and cool off? But as I was looking back over our list of places we’ve been, I noticed that of the 16 or so destinations we’ve visited that would fall into that category, I have only been to/blogged about TWO of them! So I figured it was high time I started pulling my (water) weight around here. Ha!
As luck would have it, we recently received a reader recommendation for a new-to-us park in the eastern part of the state, and when I checked out the website, sure enough, it said there was swimming. Score! Still, I wasn’t sure what to expect as we headed east on Route 2 to Norwich last Sunday morning. But when we arrived at our destination, I was delighted to find the scenic, shady, super toddler-friendly and, wait for it, FREE Spaulding Pond Beach at Mohegan Park!
Mohegan Park in Norwich, Connecticut is a huge town park with so many wonderful features like walking trails, playgrounds, a renowned Rose Garden and a lake-side pavilion that is the site of many a wedding. Today, we focused on finding out more about the swimming area, although I did manage to get a few pics of other areas.
We followed my iPhone GPS to get to the park entrance, but then things got a little dicey when the signs pointed one way but the GPS showed another. So we decided to follow the signs and see where that took us (sometimes I find that when dealing with large parks, the GPS is programmed to a certain spot in the park which may or may not be the exact place you are trying to reach; so I always find it more helpful to follow the actual signs or a posted map whenever possible).
In case you are wondering, there used to be a Zoo at the park, but my understanding is that it’s been gone for quite some time. I didn’t see a concession stand either, so maybe “blue” is the color for things that no longer exist 🙂
We followed the rotary all the way around and basically headed in the same direction we had been traveling.
It won’t be long until you’ll see exactly which way you want to go…
There is a parking lot located just across the road leading to the beach area. It is very clearly marked as the “Beach Lot” so even I could find it 🙂
You sort of loop back and go into the parking area. And then you’ll walk back out the way you drove in, cross the street and voila! The beach entrance is right there. It’s completely stroller-accessible so feel free to load up your wheels with the kiddos (or maybe just your beach stuff so you don’t have to carry it!) and head on over.
As you can see, the beach area is fenced-in. It also has a nice shady area to escape the summer sun. It opens at 10:00 a.m. every day (and closes at 6:00 p.m.) during the summer season.
While we’re looking at regulations, I should probably show you the general ones for the park as well.
Since we arrived a little before 10:00 a.m., we were happy to find a small toddler-perfect playground right next to the swimming area. There were lots of shady picnic tables as well.
This is interesting to note. Not that any of you will be doing anything you shouldn’t here anyway, just thought I’d mention it.
Finally it was time to hit the beach!
Two things to note as you prepare for your beach day here: 1. babies MUST wear swim diapers (you will see a sign that says “no diapers” but what that really means is no regular diapers; swim diapers are fine) and 2. There is no food allowed on the beach, so you’ll have to enjoy your snacks at the nearby picnic area.
There are three changing rooms here.
I should note that when we got there, they had probably just been washed out or something because the floor and the bench inside were very wet. Not a big deal, but you might want to double check before you sit your bag down on either surface…learned that the hard way. Yikes!
We got the kids changed, parked our stuff in the shady grove (there aren’t any beach chairs or anything here, so bring your own) and headed down to the water. As you can probably surmise by the fact that I have only posted about 2 of our 16 water destinations, my kids don’t get the opportunity to go to the beach that often 🙂
Let me tell you, they had an absolute ball here!
The entire area up to the blue buoys is shallow enough for grown-ups to stand in and is great for non-swimmers (past the blue buoys is deeper and therefore reserved for those who can swim on their own, and no one is allowed to go past the red buoys). And as you have probably noticed, there are certified life guards on duty.
I had a nice little chat with one of the guards and she let me know some great tips like they save the “lost and found” sand toys up at the guard station so if you forget your own (like we did), feel free to ask if they have any extras you can use. Also, while signs clearly indicate that no floats–like inflatable rafts, tubes, water wings, etc.–are allowed, they do allow Coast Guard approved life jackets (like this one, which happens to be our favorite). She also said that earlier is better to avoid the crowds and, surprisingly, Sunday mornings are a good time to find the beach quieter than usual (that’s when we were there).
The kids were having such a great time, but we hadn’t planned on staying very long at the park, so unfortunately we had to drag them out of the water to get changed. That didn’t go too well. There was a lot of protesting and digging in of heels (and hands and feet and heads and bottoms–sand everywhere!)
Fortunately, there is a shower located on the far side of the changing rooms. The kids thought that was almost as fun as the beach!
Now, although this beautiful swimming area is FREE to the public EVERY DAY, there is a teeny tiny price to pay. Here it is:
Yeah, there aren’t any real restrooms over in this part of the park. So you’re pretty much stuck with the portable variety unless you are willing to hop in your car and drive over to the other side of the water. And I’ll be honest. It’s summertime. It’s a busy place. There are a lot of small children around. You get the picture.
But the good news is that there are real restrooms in this park and they are reasonably easy to get to, although, the closest parking area I found required us to go down a significant amount of stairs to get to the area with the restrooms, so the stroller’s out I’m afraid (or perhaps I am wrong and some lovely reader will tell me about an easier was to access the facilities!) UPDATE 7/22/15: Thanks so much to all the readers who came to my rescue! See comments section below for some helpful tips on easier ways to access the restrooms.
Here’s where you park for the beach and for the restrooms:
Those colored lines are the different walking trails, so it does seem like you could walk over to them. But it’s not a short walk. The road is harder to see on this map. It’s actually the plain gray double lines (and I believe we followed Mohegan Park Road back out to Wilderness Road to swing around from the beach parking area to the restroom parking area). Here’s a full map of the park, and you can find it online too.
As you may have seen on the zoomed-in map, there is also a nice playground over here by the restrooms, so perhaps that’s a bit of incentive for the kiddos when it’s time to leave the beach and make that final “pit stop” before heading home 🙂
As I mentioned above, there are lots of lovely spaces in Mohegan Park. I’ve only captured a scant few. I’d love to go back and explore the walking trails and also see the Rose Garden at its peak (have to wait for next year for that– I missed it this year!).
Mohegan Park was filled with wonderful surprises, proving yet again that our readers know all the best spots in our state! Lucky us that we get to go explore them 🙂
Spaulding Pond Beach at Mohegan Park
Mohegan Park is open from dawn to dusk every day.
Spaulding Pond Beach is open daily from 10am-6pm (seasonally; usually late June to late August to follow the Norwich Public Schools schedule.)
- FREE! The park and the beach are free and open to the public. Norwich residency is not required.
- Stroller Friendly: YES.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES and NO. No food or beverages allowed in the beach area, but you can enjoy your coffee in other areas of the park.
- Restroom: YES. There is a restroom located in the center of the park. Port-potties only by the beach.
- Baby Changing Station: NO (but there are benches in the changing rooms that could work in a pinch)
- Parking: YES. Free parking areas throughout the park including one just across the road from the beach.
- Food for Sale: NO. I did not see any food for sale.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES. Feel free to bring a picnic, just remember that you cannot eat on the beach (but there are tons of shaded picnic tables in the surrounding areas.
- Cash Required: NO.
- Dress Code: YES. See notes below:
- Age Recommendations: This park can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but I think the beach area is particularly wonderful for toddlers and preschoolers who are not yet full fledged swimmers.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
- Discounts: Can’t do better than FREE!
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