Stonington

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Welcome to Stonington, Conneticut

STONINGTON HARBOR, ON THE EASTERN END OF FISHERS ISLAND SOUND, IS AN IDEAL BOATING BASE THAT ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A WORTHY DESTINATION IN AND OF ITSELF. NOT ONLY DOES THE WELL-PROTECTED NATURAL HARBOR OFFER EXCELLENT MARINE SERVICES AND INTERESTING THINGS TO SEE AND DO, IT’S CLOSE TO NUMEROUS BOATING DAYTRIP DESTINATIONS AND FISHING SPOTS, AMONG THEM FISHERS ISLAND, NAPATREE POINT, THE RACE, MYSTIC, WATCH HILL, MONTAUK AND BLOCK ISLAND, THE LAST JUST 14 MILES DISTANT.

Dodson Boat Yard.

Once strictly working-class, Stonington is now a fashionable place. On most summer weekends, Water Street is packed with residents and daytrippers, many of them looking for bargains in the town’s eclectic collection of shops and boutiques. There are plenty of good restaurants, too, including the Breakwater and the Dog Watch Cafe, the latter offers award-winning waterfront dining at Dodson Boatyard, near the head of the harbor.

Stonington is a patriotic place.

From the middle of the harbor, the character of Stonington becomes clear: To the south, a long jetty juts westward, protecting the many recreational boats and fishing vessels that share the harbor. A large brick-and-stone building, once home to a factory, dominates the skyline and serves as testament to the town’s manufacturing history (everything from horsehead nails to firearms to Coke bottles were once produced in Stonington). The building now houses the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club and pricey condos.

Breakwater restaurant offers plenty of space for boaters to tie up.

Known as the “Borough”, Stonington’s reputation as a manufacturing center made it a popular target of the British during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Its militia successfully repelled bombardments by the Royal Navy in both conflicts.

Stonington was also once renowned for its pottery, which was produced in a bayside factory at the end of Shinbone Alley (now Water Street), where William States established a pottery works in 1811. The imprints of “W. States” and “Swan & States, Stonington” are well known among pottery aficionados, and pottery fragments from the States factory still litter the inshore waters.

The Old Lighthouse Museum.

Another tribute to the Borough’s nautical past is Stonington Harbor Light, which stands at the end of Water Street, overlooking Barn Island to the east and Stonington Harbor to the west. Gray and weathered, the stone lighthouse and keeper’s house are now home to the Old Lighthouse Museum and the Stonington Historical Society. Visitors can climb the tower for great views of the Sound and the harbor, or simply peruse the exhibits of pottery, paintings, old tools, yellowing photographs and other artifacts.

Stand-up paddleboard yoga on the harbor.

Nature-lovers seeking solitude in kayaks, skiffs, and canoes will also find much to appreciate about Stonington. At just over 1,000 acres, the Barn Island Wildlife Management Area (BIWMA), on the shores of Little Narragansett Bay just east of the harbor, features miles of hikable trails and meandering creeks to explore.  Once permitted for development as a golf course, the woods and marshes of the BIWMA are now the protected home of dozens of birds, mammals, and fish. Also on Barn Island is a large (and frequently crowded) public launch ramp with lots of parking.

Heading out for an evening sail.

After launching at BIWMA, boaters can explore miles of protected shorelines and beaches, including those on Sandy Point, a spur of land that was once a part of nearby Napatree Point, but is now an island. A hummock of sand and scrub, Sandy Point is popular with kayakers, beachgoers, and fishermen. The island is owned by the former Mashantucket Land Trust (now the Avalonia Land Conservancy, Inc.) and is managed by the Stonington Community Center, which sells seasonal passes or charges a nominal daily fee to access the island. Note that large sections of the  island are closed to protect nesting shorebirds during much of the season, so pay attention to the signage before venturing ashore.

Tasty tacos at Breakwater.

GETTING THERE
Chart: NOAA 13214

Stonington Harbor—41˚20’10” N, 71˚54’49” W—is easily reached by boat from Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound. Located approximately 96 nautical miles east of the entrance to the East River in New York, roughly 120 miles south-southwest of Boston and about 18 miles north of Block Island, Stonington Harbor is well marked and deep, with a mean low water of 10 feet in the middle of the harbor. (Beware: if you go east past Stonington Point into Little Narragansett Bay, the water becomes quite shallow—1 – 5 feet MLW.)

From the west on Long Island Sound, pass north of Ram Island Shoal and Ram Island, between the white day beacon “ER” on Ellis Reef and the red buoy “4” on Cormorant Reef. Head toward red buoy “2” on Red Reef and the flashing green light on the breakwater off Wamphassuc Point—the harbor’s entrance is to port just beyond the light.

From the east and south, enter between Fishers Island and Watch Hill, Rhode Island, and head for the flashing red buoy “6”. From there head toward red buoy “2” in Fishers Island Sound and proceed north, staying well to port of Middle Ground and the breakwater. The harbor’s entrance is straight ahead and to starboard of Wamphassuc Point and the breakwater.

Dockage, Moorings & Service

Dodson Boatyard (860) 535-1507: Located at the head of the harbor, Dodson’s offers slips and moorings. They also run a launch service in the harbor and have an onsite restaurant called The Dogwatch Cafe (860-415-4510).

Stonington Harbor Yacht Club (860) 535-0112: Offers more than 240 feet of transient dockage.

Stonington Marina (860) 599-4730: Small-boat marina offering hauling, service, storage. Also has an onsite tackle shop and kayak rental.

Anchorage

The town offers free use of its dinghy dock for those boaters who prefer to anchor. The anchorage is on the west side of the harbor—to port as you enter—west of GC “7”. “The transient dock is directly opposite, tucked between the Breakwater restaurant and the yacht club.

Launch Ramp

Trailer-boaters, kayakers, windsurfers and cartoppers can launch at the Barn Island ramp off Palmer Neck Road. This is an excellent state ramp with a large parking area and restrooms. No fee required.

Boat & Kayak Rental

Stonington Marina (860) 599-4730: Boat, kayak and SUP rentals and sales.

Where to Eat

Breakwater: Waterside restaurant and bar with dockage available.

Noah’s (860) 535-3925: Casual fine dining on Water Street. Close Mondays.

Water Street Café (860) 535-2122; www.waterst-café.com)): Well-known for its Sunday brunch.

Where to Stay

Inn at Stonington (860-535-2000)

Things to See & Do

Old Lighthouse Museum (860) 535-1400: Restored lighthouse and museum owned and operated by the Stonington Historical Society. Open Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission also allows access to the Capt. Palmer House and the R. W. Woolworth Library, an exhibit and research center.

Barn Island Wildlife Management Area (860) 424-3000: The state’s largest coastal property for wildlife conservation and includes salt- and freshwater wetlands where visitors can paddle, hike, fish and birdwatch.

Dodge Paddock and Beal Preserve: Located off Main Street on the eastern side of Stonington Point, or “the Point.” A walkway meanders through salt marshes and offers great views of wildlife and a prime view of Watch Hill Light, Napatree and Sandy Points, Sandy Point Island and Sandy Point Beach, all on Little Narragansett Bay. On the southwest shore of the Point, you’ll find duBois Beach.

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BEWITCHED BY STONINGTON

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welcome hotel guests

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HawthorneHotel.com

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welcome hotel guests

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welcome hotel guests