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It’s hard to believe that right here along Hwy 1, you’re less than two hours outside of the most populated city in the United States. However, it won’t take long to realize that this sojourn down Hwy 1 is a fine change of pace from the crowded city streets of New York City and will take you deep into the beauty of New England.
You can follow Hwy 1 as it skirts the north shore of Long Island Sound. Sure I-95 runs a parallel route, but it’s a good idea to skip the super highway since it is the main (busier) route between New York City and Boston. New Haven is the perfect starting point for exploring Connecticut. Home of Yale University, New Haven has a lot going for it no matter what the time of year. Explore the New Haven Green, an historic 16-acre public park and the central square of the nine-square settlement plan of the original Puritan colonists. Spend some time milling about the 84-acre Lighthouse Point Park, the jewel of New Haven’s park system, which includes a circa 1840 lighthouse as well as an authentically restored Coney Island carousel. Other highlights around town include the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center and the Eli Whitney Museum, a tribute to New Haven’s favorite son and inventor of the cotton gin.
Heading east along Hwy 1, don’t miss a chance to pull over and explore the plethora of New England villages dotting the coastline. In Guilford, stop by the Henry Whitfield State Historical Museum, which features one of the oldest homes in all of New England (and there are a lot of old homes in New England). Dip your toes in the Long Island Sound at the largest beach park in the state, Hammonasett Beach State Park, found in the town of Madison. Down the road in Old Lyme lie the remnants of an old ship captains’ town, which has been nicely preserved. One of the town’s best attractions is the Florence Griswold Museum and its renowned collection of 18th- and 19th-century American art.
Further east on Hwy 1, as you travel to New London, you can visit the boyhood home of famed playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center stands in his honor and hosts a variety of theater events throughout the year. O’Neill’s restored boyhood home, the Monte Cristo Cottage, can also be seen.
In nearby Groton, be sure to stop by the impressive Submarine Force Museum, which features the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine.
The spirited town of Mystic is (sigh) our last stop along coastal Hwy 1. As one of the premier destinations in all of New England, the town features a period village virtually restored in its entirety, to depict its glory years as a famed 19th-century seaport. Mystic is the perfect place to explore the whaling and fishing history that made this town the jewel it is today.