Harkness Memorial State Park
Coastal hikes are few and far between in Connecticut. But, they are well worth the effort of discovering. Places like Bluff Point in Groton and Hammonasset Beach in Madison each have its own special nuances. But, there is one shoreline spot that often gets overlooked - Harkness Memorial State Park.
This 230-acre park in Waterford was once a working farm, but its centerpiece is a 42-room mansion known as Eolia - named for the Greek god of winds. Built in 1906, the mansion was once used as a summer home (although I can’t imagine what a full-time residency would look like!)
A walkway took me around a sweeping landscape dotted with a few trees and beautiful spring and summer gardens that are truly magnificent when in full bloom. The lawn drew my eye down to the water and its sandy shore.
The beach isn’t large by any means (and gets far less visitors than the ‘big guys’ like Ocean Beach and Rocky Neck) but, it has a quiet charm that’s hard to miss.
I could easily see Fishers Island in the distance and Goshen Point even closer still. All the while, chatty gulls circled the beach paying no mind to my presence on the sand. Swimming isn’t allowed here, but it still serves as a nice spot for fishermen – something I also noticed on my recent visit.
But, as peaceful as my beach stroll was, there is even a quieter spot within this park’s borders. To find it, I doubled back to a secondary path known as Niering Walk. The trail led me to a small, marshy inlet on the western side of the park. The path leads in and around Goshen Cove – an area teeming with wildlife.
Even on this brisk walk, I witnessed a Great Blue Heron stalking its prey in the water and, ducks sounding off to one another among the weeds. There’s constant activity underwater as well – with the tidal marsh serving as an important fishery for species like bluefish and winter flounder.
The diversity of this spot alone makes exploring the area worth the trip. But, with a mansion, elaborate gardens, and a beach view to boot – why wait?
Directions: Take I-95 N/US-1 N toward New London/Providence. Take exit 75 to merge onto US-1 N/Boston Post Rd. toward Waterford. Turn right onto Avery Lane. Continue onto CT-213 N/Great Neck Rd. Turn right into the park.
Trail Distance: 1 mile
Trail Difficulty: Easy
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