What to Do in New London, Connecticut | Eat, Stay, Play

Gorgeous seaside parks, rich maritime history, and fantastic seafood are just a few reasons to visit the coastal town of New London, Connecticut.

By Ian Aldrich

Aug 21 2022

New London Waterfront

New London’s waterfront | What to Do in New London, Connecticut.

Photo Credit : Connecticut Office of Tourism
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Always check for the latest information before making travel plans.
The sea has always played a defining role for New London, Connecticut. Situated on the banks of the Thames River, the New London of the mid-1800s was the second-largest whaling port in the world. In the 21st century, it’s home to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and visitors have access to popular attractions such as Ocean Beach Park and a variety of day cruises that leave the city’s docks. Ready for a visit? Then read on to discover what to do in New London, Connecticut.

Guide to New London, Connecticut

What to do in New London, Connecticut | Eat, Stay, Play
New London’s waterfront | What to Do in New London, Connecticut
Photo Credit : Connecticut Office of Tourism

What to Do in New London, Connecticut | Attractions

Ocean Beach Park

Water lovers have long flocked to this beach-and-boardwalk attraction. A stunning white-sand beach is the entry point to the Atlantic, while a nearby Olympic-size freshwater pool offers a different kind of sun-soaked getaway. Water slides, a spray park, carousel rides, and an 18-hole mini golf course add to the fun.

Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruise

From the sundeck, the bow, or the climate-controlled cabins of the fast-gliding SeaJet catamaran, you’ll spy eight architecturally distinctive lighthouses and hear knowledgeable narrator Ted Webb’s tales of pirates, ghosts, and historical events. Bonus sights during these two-hour Long Island Sound voyages frequently include sunbathing gray seals and the world’s largest population of nesting common terns. Named a 2016 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Coastal Cruise.”

Mystic Whaler Cruises

The winds of fate brought husband-and-wife captains John Eginton and Pat Beck together, and when you sail with this duo aboard the half-century-old Mystic Whaler schooner, the voyage — whether it’s a brunch, lunch, or lobster dinner cruise or even a multiday adventure — will remind you that life’s little clues only reveal themselves when your senses are fully awake. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Coastal Cruise.”

Thames River Heritage Park

Telling a story of 400 years of maritime activity, Connecticut’s first state park without boundaries encompasses Fort Trumbull, Fort Griswold, and more than a dozen smaller historic attractions along the Thames River, all linked by a seasonal water taxi. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Historical Experience.”

United States Coast Guard Academy Museum

New England’s only service academy fills a shipshape exhibit with paintings, models, figureheads, cannon, uniforms, medals, ceremonial swords, and rescue equipment that chronicle its origins. There’s lighthouse history, too.
What to do in New London, Connecticut | Eat, Stay, Play
Fort Trumbull | What to Do in New London, Connecticut
Photo Credit : Connecticut Office of Tourism

Fort Trumbull State Park

This 1852 fortification was once a major line of defense on the eastern seaboard. Opened as a state park in 2000, the property now invites visitors to explore the grounds for an up-close view of the artillery and cannon displays. In addition, the park features restored 19th-century living quarters and a replica of the fort’s retired research and development lab.

Mystic Aquarium

Just up the road in Mystic, you can not only see belugas, seals, sea lions, and penguins, but also reach into a touch tank and dig for sea fossils. Next door is shopping galore at Olde Mistick Village; a mile away is Mystic Seaport.
What to do in New London, Connecticut | Eat, Stay, Play
Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock | What to Do in New London, Connecticut
Photo Credit : Mike Urban

What to Do in New London, Connecticut | Restaurants

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock

Don’t sweat the line at this waterside, open-air, BYOB seafood-feasting spot. The wait gives you time to build your dream order: steamers and butter-splashed lobster roll, whole bellies, and flaky fried fish. Named a 2018 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Seafood Shack.” (You’ll also find it on our list of Best New England Fish & Chips Spots).

Muddy Waters Café

Located in the heart of downtown New London, this popular eatery features an assortment of baked goods, hearty breakfast sandwiches, and its famous “Love Salad,”  which consists of lettuce, tomatoes, salami, sliced provolone, grated Parmesan, and enough garlic to last you a week.

On the Waterfront

This family-owned restaurant offers fine views of the Thames and offers a menu on which seafood apps, fish tacos, and a New York strip all play starring roles.

What to Do in New London, Connecticut | Hotels

New London offers a range of chain hotels for lodging options. But for those visitors looking for something a little more intimate, it’s worth considering nearby Mystic. Here are two of our favorite places to stay nearby when visiting New London.

Spicer Mansion

Guests slumber beneath stunning plasterwork and muraled ceilings uncovered during the Gates family’s two-year effort to rescue this Victorian sea captain’s home. Other highlights include Mystic’s loftiest views and locally procured breakfast fare.

Steamboat Inn

Book a room at this luxury B&B — the only waterfront digs in a historic town surrounded by water — and find shops, restaurants, and Mystic’s iconic drawbridge on your doorstep. Every one of the 11 guest rooms and suites comes with a tastefully decorated interior, and many have a working fireplace, whirlpool tub, and windows that frame views of boats gliding to and from Long Island Sound on the Mystic River. Named a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for “Best Inn with a View.” What are your favorite things to do in New London, Connecticut? Let us know below! This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated.