Ranking Greater New Haven’s Best Beaches (2018 Update)

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Lighthouse Point Park
By Charles Barneby.Cbarneby at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Two years ago, I published a list of Greater New Haven’s Best Beaches. And to this day, people continue to visit this page in order to figure out where to worship the sun near New Haven.

But a lot can change in two years. For instance, how has the Trump Presidency affected the tides at Walnut Beach?

Okay, not really. But in reality, the beach landscape has actually changed significantly since then. In part, because of the Connecticut Passport to Parks Program, which allows free entrance to all Connecticut State Parks and Beaches for a $10 car registration fee.

Meanwhile, a few of the beaches have changed their parking rules or fees, etc. So I figured, with Memorial Day past, and beach weather back again, it would be a great time to update this article for 2018, and re-rank Greater New Haven’s Best Beaches.

Just remember: always wear your sunscreen.

Dropped out of Rankings: Walnut Beach

They’ve made it wayyyy harder to park at Walnut Beach, putting hour parking signs everywhere, so I can’t really recommend it anymore. It’s still a great beach, especially if you’re a Milford resident, but it’s gotten a lot less free and you have to really hunt for parking, so it kinda kills my vibe on the place.

5. West Haven Beaches (map)

Previous Ranking: Unranked

I can’t recommend any particular part of the West Haven Beaches, cause I find the whole thing rather confusing. But if you go over to West Haven, there’s a whole boardwalk and a long strip of beaches.

The boardwalk itself is lovely, and a great little area. You’ll see all kinds of people out and about there, and Stowe’s Seafood is right down the street.

The beaches themselves are… decent. But if it’s low tide, watch out. The water goes way out, to the point that it’s almost unswimmable. So you really want to make sure you’re timing your visits during high tide if you actually want to swim.

West Haven Beach
It’s weirdly difficult to find decent pictures of this place.

I haven’t parked here, but it’s not a bad bike ride at all, but watch out for broken glass. I definitely got a flat tire and had to take the bus back home once.

Pros: Easy to bike to. Cool boardwalk. Food/retail options nearby. Bus access.

Cons: Very vulnerable to tides. Can be smelly. Some people say it’s near too near a sewage treatment plant, but that sounds made up to me.

4. Silver Sands, Milford, CT (map)

Last ranking: 5

Technically the only 100%, totally free-as-in-free-lunch beach on the list, Silver Sands is pretty popular, relatively easy to get to (since it’s not on the less popular side of I-95), and features a pretty diverse crowd of young-ish, attractive-ish people. It doesn’t have a lot of frills, but did I mention that it’s free?

Silver Sands Beach
Gotta love that low tide smell.

And when the tide is low, you’re in for a hike as you wonder where all the water went! That’s fun, right? Just don’t be like that person who got caught out on the island once the tide came back in. You’re gonna look like a real idiot.

Charles Island path
The walkway to your new home, Charles Island

They’re doing construction here, so I believe they’ll have real bathrooms at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Pros: Free parking. Large beach. Solid mix of young and family people. Easy-ish to get to. During low tide, you can walk out to Charles Island and hopefully not get stuck out there, starting your new life as an island dweller.

Cons: Only bathroom is a port-a-potty, which… marinates nicely in the sun. During low tide, you have to walk like 15 minutes to get into waist-deep water. No frills and the sand is a bit rocky.

3. Cosey Beach, East Haven, CT (map)

Previous Rank: 4

Cosey Beach is for East Haven residents. Which you probably aren’t.

But if you just happened to park your car on Cosey Ave (the legal side!) and walk over, what’re they gonna do, throw you in jail? Probably not?

The swimming is pretty decent and gets relatively deep relatively quickly, if not a bit rocky. Low tide doesn’t seem to affect this bay area too badly.

Plus it’s a great way to meet people from East Haven. If you’re into that kind of thing.

However, one day I was here with some friends someone stole my friend’s wallet while we were in the water and nobody seemed to notice. Bummer. I’m not going to blame the entire town. But. Apparently it’s a Den of Thieves.

Cosey Beach
Not sure where everybody is. Probably flexing somewhere.

Pros: You can find free parking nearby. Solid, deep swimming. Attractive, tattooed people around. Restaurants nearby if you’re feeling famished.

Cons: Everybody in East Haven is a thieving bastard. (Not really, but still.) Water is a bit rocky. Small beach overall.

2. Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven, CT*** (map)

Previous Rank: 2

***Disclaimer: Only free to New Haven residents. If you don’t have your car registered in New Haven, this beach is comically overpriced.

For New Haven residents (whose cars are registered in New Haven), the free parking at Lighthouse Point is awesome. It’s nearby. You can just pop over for a few hours, enjoy the sun and water, and get the heck out of there. Plus, it has an enormous picnic area for BBQ’s, and a lovely carousel and lighthouse.

Lighthouse Park
Definitely a much nicer beach when nobody’s there.

They even have a snack bar which has some food items which are… totally… edible. You don’t mind paying $4.00 for a microwave Tyson chicken sandwich, right?

Sure, it’s not quite as much of a meat market, but there are families. You like families, don’t you? Sure you do!

Of course, the bathrooms look like a scene out of Candyman, and if you aren’t a resident, they charge a comical $30 for a carload (seriously?), but those aren’t your problems. You were probably just gonna poo in the ocean anyway, right?

Candyman
Okay, maybe it’s not QUITE that bad.

It’s easy to get to, easy to enjoy, and virtually no traffic on the way home. Plus, you’re basically just getting your tax dollars back by using it. You pretty much owe it to yourself to come here.

Pros: Free for New Haven residents. Pretty views. Plenty of places to hang out. Snack bar has some edible items. Perfect BBQ area.

Cons: Expensive for non-New Haven residents. Murder Bathrooms. Plenty of screaming kids around if that sort of thing slowly erodes your soul. Militant lifeguards who won’t let you play with cool toys in the water.

1. Hammonasset Beach, Madison, CT (map)

Previous Rank: 3

We have a new Champion! Thanks to the Passport to Parks program, Hammonasset is now free for people with Connecticut plates. While things have gotten trickier for other beaches, CT’s most popular Greater New Haven beach is more accessible than ever.

They’ve upgraded the facilities, and it maintains the best sand anywhere near New Haven, though the water feels inexplicably colder than other beaches. The beaches are short, but long. I hear it’s all about girth anyway.

(Ugh I’m sorry.)

Hammonasset

They also have a popular campground for reasonable prices, so it can definitely be worth staying overnight, and you might even find some bio-luminescence if you show up at the beach at night!

By Karl Thomas Moore [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
(Just don’t say anything dumb like, “Some things are just too beautiful to be photographed”, cause your friends will remind you of that shit forever.)

Of course, the evening beach traffic on I-95 can be absolutely brutal, so it’s best to just hop over to The Place in Guilford, grab some food, and wait our those pesky New Yorkers visiting Rhode Island.

Edit: One reader recommended Clam Castle as a much more affordable option and is not particularly impressed with The Place or its prices, so, y’know… might be worth checking out.

Pros: Beautiful beach. Free for CT residents. Great facilities. Popular with attractive, like-minded people (maybe?).

Cons: Beach traffic can be a nightmare. Dragging your cooler back to your car isn’t as easy as it felt like the first time.


Well, that’s it! This is the new update for the Best Beaches in the Greater New Haven area! Disagree? Cool, cool. I don’t really care. Thanks for reading anyway!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I like the offering you have here, but wanted to offer up a few extra suggestions for good quality beaches especially if you don’t mind parking a block away and walking over.

    Stony Creek Beach, Branford
    Branford Point, Branford
    Jacob’s Beach in Guilford
    Madison Surf Club beach- They don’t check membership/charge after a certain time of day, I think 5/6pm but its very nice.

  2. It’s kind of embarrassing how you pick on East Haven in this artcicle. Considering how diverse it is compared to some of these other areas you review, your jokes come off as a sort of ironic hipster-racism/classism. Definitely not what I was hoping to see in this article. Very disappointed.

    • Hey Michell,

      Did you read the reviews of the other places? I literally make fun of every beach I recommend. No place goes unscathed, including my own beautiful and very diverse New Haven.

      A previous iteration of the article may well have been considered ironic hipster-racism/classism, and I did my best to improve upon that. But I think the humor is mostly tongue-in-cheek and I think I made fun of all of the beaches with equal vigor and silliness. If there is anything in particular you felt was classist (calling East Haven full of attractive tattooed people?), I’d be curious to hear it.

      I do appreciate your feedback and do my best to incorporate other views and ideas and thoughts into the blog.

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