Fun fact: you can span this tiny New England state in under two hours, but Connecticut packs a big nature punch with 253 miles of coastline, winding rivers and streams, 30 state forests and nearly 100 state parks. Factor in storied old fishing villages, iconic pizzerias, and the bucolic cultural paradise next door in the Berkshires – and suddenly Connecticut is the camping wonderland that’s been hiding in plain sight.
Cue up that old Julia Roberts movie, Mystic Pizza, and you’ll get a good sense of charming Mystic, one of the many historic coastal villages that dot this New England coastline. From Mystic to Old Lyme and quiet Stonington, you’ll find no shortage of picture-postcard seaside villages along Connecticut’s shore, all with seemingly endless hiking, biking, and ocean to explore. Tour the Stonington Lighthouse Museum or duck into any number of quaint shops in Mystic. In the afternoon, head to Flander’s Fish Market in East Lyme, where you can spring for a killer lobster roll on site – or pick up fresh-off-the-boat fish to grill up camp side.
When you drop “Berkshires”, most people picture the majestic tableaus of Western Massachusetts, but that landscape extends well into Northwestern Connecticut (and it’s thirty minutes closer to New York). This rural corner of the state boasts winding roads, cobalt waterfalls, and charming old villages. Photogenic Lake Waramaug lights up in fiery foliage come fall, as do the towering peaks of Bear Mountain.
Looking to really get off grid? It doesn’t get more obscure than a hike in the Wyantenock State Forest, one of the state’s best kept secrets. The undeveloped forest is 4,000 acres deep, and offers little to no public access. On the flip side, the adorable West Cornwall Covered Bridge practically screams Instagram Story – or you can just pack a picnic and stage your best Bridges of Madison County moment.
Treat yourself to a cold one at Kent Falls Brewing Co., a working farm brewery with an outdoor patio, jungle gym for the littles, and variety of craft beers sporting delightful names like Awkward Hug and A Vague Reassurance That Everything's Going to be Alright.
At first glance, you might think there’s nothing doing in Connecticut’s peaceful Northeast region (known as the Quiet Corner), but that’s kind of the point. Two of the country’s oldest agricultural fairs, the Woodstock Fair and Brooklyn Fair, are located here – but otherwise things stay pretty low-key in these parts, where privately owned farms, antique stores, and placid fishing lakes have the run of the area. One great spot to drop line for bass is Bigelow Hollow State Park, where Mashapaug Lake spans a massive 287 acres. Nearby, Bigelow Pond offers a smaller, more quaint, fishing location for those just looking to dabble.
Connecticut takes its pizza almost as seriously as its fishing. It has its own name here – apizza (pronounced ah-beets) – and, while it’s thin like a New York pie, it’s more haphazard in shape (think 2 year-old drawing a circle) and crusts are typically blistered. Take a night off the grill and head to cozy, hip Camille's in Tolland, CT for killer New Haven-style pies laced with clever topping combinations, like the Bacon and Eggs, featuring crispy pancetta and a sunny-side-up farm fresh egg.