New London sits on the natural harbor of the River Thames just before it flows into Long Island Sound.
Two hundred years ago New London was one of the top whaling ports in the world, and in 1839 was the landing point of The Amistad.
In a seafaring city like this, you have no choice but to take a boat, sailing to spy on its famous lighthouse.
1. Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Tours
Off the coast of New London the waters of Long Island Sound can be treacherous to navigate, which explains the profusion of lighthouses out on the sound within a few miles of the town.
In July and August and the second half of June you can choose between a Classic or Lights & Sights Itinerary.
Each route takes in ten lighthouses, as well as Fort Griswold, Fort Trumbull, General Dynamic’s Electric Boat Division and New London’s historic waterfront.
2. Ocean Beach Park
A place made for one of those timeless summer afternoons, Ocean Beach Park has been hailed by National Geographic as one of the best beaches in the country.
And while you may not want to move from the long, broad crescent of soft pale sand, there’s plenty for families to get up to at the park behind.
And to unwind you could amble along the boardwalk and get a bite at one of the may eateries followed by a treat at the Boardwalk Creamery.
Read : Best Things to Do in Arcadia
3. New London Waterfront District
Set in sumptuous early 19th-century buildings are one-off boutiques, quirky restaurants, performing arts venues and galleries, some of which we’ll cover below.
Walking these streets you’ll be following the footsteps of ocean-going whalers, and historic figures both revered and reviled, like playwright Eugene O’Neill and turncoat Benedict Arnold.
At 76 Federal Street, the St. James Episcopal Church (1850) is endowed with beautiful stained glass by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
4. Fort Trumbull State Park
There is a fortress at this height jutting into the River Thames from the west bank since 1777. That first defense was captured in 1781 during an invasion by Benedict Arnold’s forces in the Revolutionary War.
The fort was repaired in the early 19th century, and used its current design between 1839 and 1852. Fort Trumbull has five sides and four fortifications, capable of accommodating 52 weapons in addition to howitzers for close combat.
It was part of the Third System, a network of 42 fortifications to protect American ports, and in the 20th century it was home to the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory.
5. Garde Arts Center
An opulent place to catch a show, the centrepiece of the Garde Arts Center is the Garde Theatre, which opened as a movie palace in 1926.
The theatre has a Moroccan-inflected interior, set off by the marvellous 3D bas-relief murals that line the auditorium.
Painted by Vera Leeper (1899-1969), depicting Bedouins, elephants, sand dunes, mountains and sky.
6. Lyman Allyn Art Museum
In a solemn Neoclassical building, constructed from local granite and in 12 acres of gardens and lawns, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum dates from 1930.
The collection here runs to more than 10,000 pieces, from Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia, and dating from the 16th century to the present.
There are works by Ingres, Poussin, Tiepole and Charles LeBrun, but the museum really shines for its collection of American Art, representing the Hudson River School, the Aesthetic Movement and Impressionism.
7. Custom House Maritime Museum
The New London Maritime Society, which cares for the New London Ledge Light, the Race Rock Light and New London Harbor Light is headquartered at the stately Custom House, a Neoclassical edifice from 1833.
This building is constructed from granite of different shades, with rusticated blocks as the main material, and smooth, lighter toned stone for the Doric columns on its porch and the pilasters that flank the main facade.
In 1839 New London’s Custom House was the landing site of La Amistad, the famous Spanish slave ship captured in a revolt, resulting in a court case that edged America closer to abolition.
8. Submarine Force Library & Museum
The United States Navy’s main submarine base on the East Coast is on the opposite bank of the Thames River in Groton.
This puts a first-class museum managed by Naval History and Heritage Command mere minutes away.
The main attraction at the Submarine Force Library & Museum is the USS Nautilus berthed out front.
9. Hempsted Houses
One of the oldest surviving houses in Connecticut can be found in New London.
The Joshua Hempsted House went up around 1678, and at this time was the birthplace of Joshua Hempsted the second.
His diary would prove to be one of the most reliable documents for life in colonial New England, detailing the life of his slave Adam Jackson, who lived on the property for more than 30 years.
10. Block Island Express Ferry
Pick a sunny day and there’s no better place to pass a few hours than Block Island, off the tip of Long Island and to the south of Rhode Island.
At this time of year the Block Island Express ferry departs New Island up to five times a day for a crossing time of one hour and 20 minutes.
Once you land at Old Harbor you can spend the day cycling and hiking, and seeking out landmarks, both natural and manmade.