Update: This article is from 2016 and has been updated with more relevant information here.
Good news, everyone! It’s beach season! Memorial Day has come and gone, and with it, Connecticut is (finally!) sufficiently warm enough to lie out and worship the sun, like our ancestors probably did when they weren’t being attacked by bears.
But here in a (mostly) post-bear-attack society, we can freely lounge out at the beach, soaking in that sweet, sweet vitamin D, working on our tans, and even swim, unless you’re some sort of coward who constantly says things like “Eww, the Sound? Gross!” even though the EPA is a thing which totally exists and tests the safety of water.
But which beaches are worth it? You don’t want to sit in traffic all day only to spend too much on some crappy, rock-covered beach. Luckily, you know me, and I know beaches, roughly. And now I’m gonna tell you. For FREE. Cause I’m just a nice guy like that.
So let’s get this party started.
5. Silver Sands, Milford, CT (map)
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?
And when the tide is low, you’re in for a hike as you wonder where all the water went! That’s fun, right?
Pros: Free parking. Large beach. Relatively good-looking crowd. 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.
4. Cosey Beach, East Haven, CT (map)
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.
I’ve also found that Cosey Beach has a significantly higher babe factor. At least for dudes. I can’t speak for the fellas there, but they’re probably comparable. Especially if you’re into that East Haven thing. You know. Tattoo-covered, cigarette-smoking, a bit-trashy-and-weirdly-Italian thing? Not that I’d stereotype a whole town.
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.
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.
3. Hammonasset Beach, Madison, CT (map)
The most popular beach in Connecticut. You know where it is. Everybody does.
It looks exactly like what you expect a beach to look like. Almost white sand. Long (though weirdly short) beaches. Upgraded facilities for bathrooms and changing. The price is $13, which isn’t free, but if you go with a few people, it’s an easy pill to swallow.
Lots of young people who look good in bathing suits. If you’re into that kind of thing. And if you’re not, what are you doing at the beach anyway? You could just like… go to a park or something.
Of course, when you’re stuck in evening beach traffic with everybody coming back from Cape Cod and Misquamicut and cursing the very gods at your misfortune, you may wonder if it was all worth it, to which I’d say… maybe… ?
Pros: Beautiful beach. Pricing is reasonable-ish. Great facilities. Popular with attractive, like-minded people (maybe?).
Cons: Not free. Beach traffic can be a nightmare. Dragging your cooler back to your car isn’t as easy as it felt like the first time.
2. Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven, CT* (map)
*Disclaimer: Only free to residents. If you don’t live in New Haven, this shouldn’t even be on your list.
For New Haven residents, 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.
They even have a snack bar which has some food items which are… totally… edible.
Sure, there aren’t as many young, hot people, 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?
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. Nazi lifeguards who won’t let you play with cool toys in the water.
1. Walnut Beach, Milford, CT (map)
Another quasi-free beach, Walnut Beach technically costs money to get into if you’re not a resident. But let’s say you just happened to notice that there’s plenty of free parking nearby on the street and you don’t mind a short walk. Well, I guess it is free after all.
Walnut Beach is a great combination of all the things you want in a beach: decent sand, solid swimming, good views, young people, volleyball nets. There’s even a couple of hot dog/ice cream carts around.
Though I’ll say some of the people who play volleyball here are super serious about it. Seriously.
Plus, they let you throw footballs and I think you can even use boogie boards if you’re a 12 year old. Which you probably aren’t, if you’re here.
It’s convenient, it’s nice, and it’s free enough. What else can you ask for?
(Sorry, I couldn’t find a good picture of it to steal from the Internet.)
Pros: Nearby free parking. Good sand. Deep waters not too affected by low tide. Attractive crowd. Volleyball. Lifeguards are mostly chill.
Cons: You have to drive here. If you want food afterwards, you’ll probably have to drive there, too. Ugh.
Well, that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed the list! Feel free to let me know if you disagree, and I will feel free to ignore it, knowing deep down that I’ve never really been wrong about anything except that one chicken salad sandwich which had been in the sun too long.
Regrets. We all have ’em.
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fyi you can walk from silver sands along a new boardwalk all the way to walnut beach, but it is far
also charles island is “closed” to people for the nesting season for some birds that live there
I’ve ridden my bike to every one of those beaches, which makes them all free. None of those beaches charge for visiting the beach, just the parking (this statement was true as of 2 years ago, if it has changed ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Sure Hammonasette might be a bit far for a quick dip, but it’s doable (especially if you take your bike on Shoreline East).
Great article, thanks!
Thanks for reading!
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