May 11, 2020
Daytrip Destination: Norwalk Islands, CT
Boaters in central Connecticut are blessed with an amazing natural resource: the Norwalk Islands. This archipelago of some 25 low-lying islands not only protect the harbor from high seas and inclement weather, they also provide a natural playground for boaters, birders, beachgoers, clammers and campers.
Cockenoe (pronounced “Kah-kee-nee”) Island is owned by the town of Westport, and public access is allowed. The island features a nifty little cove and beach that’s perfect for kids and is filled with snapper bluefish by late summer. Overnight camping is allowed by the Westport Conservation Department, but for only four parties per night.
The Norwalk Recreation & Parks Department manages Shea Island and smaller Grassy Island to the east. Both are stony, scruffy tracts of land. Seasonal camping is allowed on these islands by permit from the Norwalk Recreation & Parks Department. Two solar-powered restrooms are available in season, and there are 16 campsites. The shoreline is strewn with boulders, making it a somewhat difficult place to approach by boat.
Copps and Betts islands are privately owned, as is Tavern Island, which was reputedly used as a depot for rumrunners in the 1920s.
Chimon (aka, Chimmons), Goose and Sheffield Islands are part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge system. While boaters can land and play on the beach at Chimon, access to its interior is prohibited from April until mid-August.
At 57 acres, Sheffield Island features hiking trails and a lighthouse built in 1868 that’s now maintained by the Norwalk Seaport Association. Visitors can drop off and pick up passengers at the dock on the island’s northwest tip, for a nominal fee. It can be a busy place on weekends, when numerous people come to picnic on the island and visit the famous lighthouse.
Thanks to their close proximity to the mainland, the Norwalk Islands are very popular among kayakers, many of who launch from Calf Pasture Beach, on the eastern side of Norwalk Harbor. From there it’s a relatively short paddle to the islands.
Trailer-boaters will find an excellent launch ramp with ample parking and floats at the Norwalk Visitor’s Docks in East Norwalk. There is a $20 daily fee to launch and park.