Milford is a large city, geographically speaking. It occupies 16 or 17 miles of shoreline between the Housatonic River and the Long Island Sound community of West Haven, and comprises one of the few Connecticut harbors that border the downtown area. Milford Harbor is about a half-mile long and quite narrow. Hundreds of power- and sailboats cling to the local moorings and docks, with hundreds more at the town’s half-dozen marinas and yacht clubs. The boat forest ends at the city-owned Milford Lisman Landing Marina, where it butts up against a flower-covered footbridge.
Downtown Milford has 7 small waterfalls, a duck pond adjacent to the pristine brick City Hall where families have been throwing stale bread to waterfowl for ages, and the longest town green in New England, which swarms with people almost every weekend in the spring and summer.
To access the outlying areas of Milford, stop by Tony Bikes for a bike, a lock, a helmet and advice on how to get around. If you’re feeling energetic, consider the 14-mile roundtrip to the Audubon Center out on Milford Point.
Milford is enlivened by innovative eateries, including Citrus, a chic restaurant in a nondescript shopping plaza, and Stonebridge, a been-there-forever restaurant. Stonebridge, like many other restaurants in town, serves 2 masters. The afternoon crowd tends to be older and unhurried, while at night a festive party atmosphere prevails.
Transient boaters will find a welcoming host in the city-managed, transient-only Milford Lisman Landing Marina, which offers overnight accommodations for 40 boats up to 65′ (7′ maximum draft) and serves as a convenient portal to the downtown area. Most of the other marinas on the harbor also welcome transients when seasonal boaters are away. These include Milford Yacht Club, Milford Boatworks, Port Milford and Spencer’s Marina (on the east side of the harbor).
One of Milford’s biggest draws is its close proximity to western Long Island Sound. It’s a convenient jumping-off spot for daytrips to a variety of Long Island’s intriguing North Shore ports, as well as the many neighboring towns and cities along the Connecticut shore, including Norwalk, Bridgeport and New Haven.
Trailerboaters can take advantage of the huge Milford ramp, located in the northeast portion of the harbor. The ramp features 3 lanes, floats, a super-long courtesy dock, toilets and parking for approximately 35 rigs. Parking is $10 per day for residents; $20 for non-residents.
One very interesting features of the Milford coast is Charles Island. This 14-acre wooded island is part of the 47-acre Silver Sands State Park, and is connected to the mainland via a mile-long, sand-and-gravel bar that’s covered at high tide (note this bar on your charts if new to the area). Boaters are welcome to drop anchor just off the bar and explore the beach, but the interior is off-limits to protect the island’s numerous species of nesting birds. You can also anchor just inside the mainland side of the bar and enjoy the beach at Silver Sands.
Another of Milford’s major natural attractions is the Audubon Society Coastal Center on Milford Point, at the mouth of the Housatonic River. The Center looks out over acres of shallow mudflats covered with tufts of grass and dotted with osprey nesting stands. Located on an avian migratory route, the surrounding marsh teems with birds, but the stars of the show are the osprey (a 24-hour webcam is trained on one nest). From the Center’s observation deck you can get a 360-degree view of Long Island Sound, the marsh and the river. The Center offers a host of activities, including guided canoe and kayak trips and indoor kids’ programs.
If you’re interested in a cruise up the Housatonic, pay attention to your charts. The entrance is marked by a breakwater at the far end of a sandbar, which is visible at low tide. Rounding the breakwater and heading northeast, one passes the wooded Audubon property, and then, in a seemingly endless stretch, house after house in beachfront communities with names like Cedar Beach, Laurel Beach and Wildmere.
While in Milford, you may also want to make your way over to the Devon section of town. Devon is an arty community featuring a terrific and quirky little restaurant called the Lazy Lobster, where on summer nights patrons bring their own blenders (and their own booze, because the Lazy Lobster doesn’t serve liquor). Across the street, you can enjoy homemade ice cream at the Walnut Beach Creamery.