Why Visit Mystic Seaport this Winter.

Sure our Mystic Country region is well known for all the great things to “sea” and do during the warmer summer months, but that reality is changing with the ongoing development of new attractions in the region suited for winter time visitors to the area. And nothing currently reflects this more than Mystic Seaport’s new Thompson Exhibition building and inaugural “Sea Change” exhibit.

Mystic Seaport

Its very shape of the new Thompson Exhibition Building mirrors the sea. The breathtaking new Thompson Exhibition Building, now open at Mystic Seaport takes its design inspiration from the geometry of the sea and the curved hulls of the ships that sailed from the town of Mystic. With sweeping views of the Mystic River, it captures the soothing movement of the ocean in its graceful arch design, reflecting skeletal forms of marine animals while welcoming guests as the anchor of the Museum’s Gallery Quad.

The Thompson Building is the cornerstone and final element of the McGraw Gallery Quadrangle, a project which integrated existing buildings and grounds with new construction and unified the buildings of the north end of the Museum by focusing on their common role as formal exhibition galleries.

Thompson Exhibition Building at Mystic Seaport

With a grand and welcoming lobby, the state-of-the-art 5,000-square-foot exhibition space will allow Mystic Seaport to host major exhibitions and take the experience of America’s maritime story to new levels. The bold design reflects a distinct departure from the Museum’s traditional architecture. Relying on inspiration from the sea is a wholly new approach to the design feel at Mystic Seaport and introduces the Museum into a new, modern, and exciting exhibition era.

Wade Thompson, the which the new building was named after, was a Mystic Seaport trustee for 27 years who believed passionately in the need for contemporary exhibition space and its importance for the future of the Museum. The Thompson Building houses the Collins Gallery, a 5,000-square-foot hall featuring soaring ceilings and a flexible layout that provides the caliber of conditions required to curate not only exhibits from the Mystic Seaport collections, but also permit the borrowing of outstanding art and artifacts from other museums around the world.

Mystic Seaport Sea Change Exhibit

A green building, it includes geothermal heating and cooling systems and recycled roof material and carpet tiles. It is constructed with Douglas fir, red cedar and mahogany. Douglas fir is the wood used on the spars on the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s last wooden whaling ship. The first exhibit featured in the Thompson Building is titled “Sea-Change,” a dramatic presentation of a range of beautiful and unique objects drawn from the collections of Mystic Seaport. A special grouping of these intriguing artifacts will be on display for the first time, and all will be presented in a new setting which reveals surprising stories of transformation that continue to impact a contemporary audience and its experience with the sea.
The new Thompson Building and “Sea Change” exhibit opened on December 10, 2016. Come check it out.

Mystic Seaports Thompson Exhibition Building

Why visit Red 36 Restaurant in Mystic?

Red 36 Restaurant Mystic, CT

Red 36 Restaurant Mystic, CT

So, throughout the summer we here at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina have been recommending a local Mystic based restaurant called Red 36. And what’s not to like, great food, awesome setting and everything that embodies New England waterfront dining. Well, not only has Red 36 been a popular destination for our summer guests, our autumn guests have been enjoying it every bit as much. And so to that end, we thought we give you a bit more info on Red 36 via this blog post.

r36-outside1

Think – Stars and stripes hanging from the rafters of a huge whitewashed clapboard building on the Mystic River. You’re inside a stunning restaurant called Red 36 at Seaport Marine on Washington Street in historic Mystic. Opened in summer 2014, this glamorous, glorified clam shack has everything going for it. Mystic has gained fame for its relationship with the sea, so opening a waterside restaurant to capitalize on that connection seems like a recipe for success. The real challenge is actually taking that premise and making it work on a daily basis.

r36-menu

All summer long Red 36 has been one of our favorite places to visit, dine and recommend; especially for lunch. Great well prepared food and awesome views make this a perfect spot. Aptly named for the red buoy that marks the starboard side of the channel when returning from the sea, it’s the quintessential seaside eatery—think, wide wooden decks, sturdy picnic tables surrounded by comfy Adirondack chairs and platters of fresh seafood. In the summer, walls of windows completely open and lead to an outdoor bar, multiple lounge areas and dining tables. In the winter, the roaring fireplace and the intimate indoor dining and bar area create a cozy atmosphere with stunning views. The eclectic American menu changes seasonally, always offering fresh seafood and an extensive raw bar. A diverse appetizer selection, multiple burgers and great flat bread pizzas complete the menu, creating something for everyone. We also like the fact that in addition to the aforementioned offerings, they also offer one of the best orders of nachos around (very tasty).  However, one of Dave’s favorite dishes is the Truffle Mushroom Ravioli’s with seared local Stonington scallops.  #absolutelydelicious

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Their food is prepared somewhat upscale as Red 36 which is owned by the same owner of Bravo Brave and Olio, which are two of the more of our favorite restaurants in the Mystic Country region.  Next time you visit with us, be sure to ask us about visiting Red 36.

food-2

Upcoming Fall Festivals here in Mystic Country

Autumn or Fall – whichever you choose to call it, is a beautiful time to get out and about now that the colorful mums are being planted, leaves are changing to scarlet and gold, and beach umbrellas are down, summer novels are read and our tan is beginning to fade and kiss summer good-bye. We suggest that our guests get out and take a ride to some of our favorite fall locations. Here are some of our recommendations for fall adventures in shopping, celebrating and leaf-peepin’ that we think are great! Getting there is just one of the highlights of a fall getaway.

The fall is truly a time for scenic views and wonderful Fall Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals. For instance just about an hour north of our inn is the Quiet Corner, aka, Northeastern Connecticut. In this case, the journey getting there is truly one of the highlights of the destination as we send our quests up scenic Route 169, which runs north-and-south through the region. The Quiet Corner is much more rural than our inn’s southeastern CT waterfront location and is especially noted for its country/rural setting, antique shops, boutiques and restaurants. The region is also known for the many antiques shops within Putnam, Pomfret and Woodstock. Check out the following festival in Woodstock, CT:

October 15th & 16th which is the weekend after Columbus Day is the 34th Annual Roseland Cottage Fine Arts and Crafts Festival. fall-roseland-cottage-arts-festivalLocated right off of Rte. 169, Roseland Cottage in Woodstock hosts one of the leading juried fine arts and crafts shows in New England, featuring 175 local artisans and their wares: jewelry, painting printmaking, woodwork, pottery, clothing, Metalwork, and much more. Enjoy live music, a food court, and first-floor tours of Roseland Cottage. Hours are 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

As your ‘day trip’ continues to wind through the country side you will enter the antiquing capital of Connecticut! Putnam is home to the largest antiques market in the state. While perusing several floors of items you will most certainly find a treasure that you must have for your own! If you’re feeling fatigued from your travels this is the place to take a stop to refuel. Try the 85 Main Bistro, The Crossings Restaurant & Brew Pub or The Courthouse Bar & Grille where you will find some wonderful food in this small town location. Or perhaps you can plan to visit during the following festival:

October 22nd is the Great Pumpkin Festival and Foliage Train Ride in Downtown Putnam CT.
fall-pumpkin-festival-putnamArts and crafts, harvest fair, live music, pumpkin carving, pie eating contest and much more! The Town of Putnam & the Downtown Business Association proudly present this annual festival. Take a 90 minute foliage train ride excursion and you’ll wind at a leisurely pace through the Last Green Valley. All events make for a long and satisfying day!

In closing, autumn is one of the best times of the year to visit here at our inn, and for us locals “it is” our favorite time of the year. The summer crowds have come and gone, and the weather just keeps getting better. The days are sunny and warm, still perfect for walking the beaches or visiting the host of shoreline attractions. At night the cool ocean air off Niantic Bay provides the perfect excuse to light the fireplace in your guest room while you sip a glass of wine and relax after a long day exploring the southernmost New England state ~ Connecticut.

Lighthouse Tours
   on the Connecticut shoreline.

The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is located within a short distance of a number of beautiful and historic lighthouses. Did you know that people are fascinated by lighthouses? The historic naval and military review before construction, the folklore, the design and the locations all conjure up a vision of the history of the United States at sea.

When we named the rooms in our ‘Main Inn’ some years back, they were named for famous lighthouses on the southeastern portion of the Connecticut shoreline and three important lights in Long Island Sound.

Aside from history there is something mystifying about a lighthouse. I don’t know if it’s the vision of a structure standing alone out on the ocean and the apparent danger the house is constantly exposed to during storms and in protection of our harbors. Maybe it’s the countless books, movies, documentaries, and stories associated with the lighthouse. Who hasn’t seen a movie that has a wayward ship crashing up on the rocks by a lighthouse, lost at sea in a horrible storm or a soaking wet stranger arriving on the doorstep shivering and disoriented. This is the stuff books and movies are made of… mystery and adventure.

A very unique tour shoves off three times a week from New London and explores historic lighthouses in Long Island Sound. Some of “our” lighthouses and historic forts along the shoreline can be seen during wonderful lighthouse cruises that are offered by the Cross Sound Ferry (longislandferry.com). Enjoy two hour tours of history narrated by local experts while zipping aboard the SEA JET, a wave-piercing catamaran capable of cruising at speeds in excess of 30 knots (35 mph). Hit the high seas with all of the comforts and travel in air conditioned comfort with ample windows, airline seating and spacious outdoor decks.

If you’d like to strike out on your own and plan a self-guided daytrip from the inn here are our suggestions for lights of interest that are all within a half hour drive and can be seen by land. Pack a picnic and choose a waterfront stop along the way, smell the salt air and just enjoy!

Stonington Harbor Lighthouse, Stonington, CT – 1823
Stonington Lighthouse

In the early 1800’s, Stonington became a center for shipbuilding, whaling, and fishing industries, prompting the need for the current Stonington Harbor lighthouse to be built in 1823 at the entrance to the harbor. It was the first lighthouse built in Connecticut.

The lighthouse was offered for sale and the winning and only bid came from the Stonington Historical Society. In 1925 it was completely refurbished and opened it to the public as a museum. The Old Lighthouse Museum still operates today, and boasts as the only lighthouse on the Connecticut mainland that is regularly open to the public. The original whale oil light from the first Stonington light is one of the many items on display at the museum.

Mystic Seaport Lighthouse, Mystic, CT – 1966
Mystic Seaport Lighthouse

Mystic Seaport Light is a lighthouse at the south end of Mystic Seaport, 2 miles upriver from Noank, Connecticut. The light is a two-story white shingled structured topped with a glass-enclosed lantern constructed in 1966. It was formally dedicated in August 31, 1967, but remained unlit due to active navigational regulations imposed by the United States Coast Guard. The Mystic Seaport light is now an active light, but not an official aid to navigation.

The structure was used as an example of a lighthouse for Mystic Seaport visitors, but was not part of an exhibit until a 2008 renovation. The interior of the lighthouse was equipped with five LCD televisions to display two short educational films that highlight the history and architectural diversity of American lighthouses.

Morgan Point Lighthouse, Noank, CT – 1823 – Privately owned residence.
Morgan Point Lighthouse

To help mariners enter the Mystic River and the harbor, the Morgan Point lighthouse was built in 1823.

In the great New England hurricane of 1938, local residents reportedly took refuge inside the base of the tower during the hurricane, believing correctly that it was one of the safest places to be during a storm.

In 1991, a Connecticut native became the third private owner after seeing an ad for the lighthouse in the Wall Street Journal. “I had harbored the dream for 40 years of living a CT lighthouse. “When I found it, we were going to own it, that’s all there was to it.”

As a private residence, the lighthouse and the surrounding grounds are now closed to the public, although the structure is well-kept and remains an important visual landmark for maritime traffic coming into Mystic Harbor

Avery Point Lighthouse, Groton, CT – 1943
Avery Point Lighthouse

Avery Point Lighthouse is located on the east side of the Thames River entrance. You can visit the lighthouse situated on the University of Connecticut Avery Point campus. Avery Point is the last lighthouse in Connecticut to be built in 1943. The first light used consisted of eight 200-watt bulbs as a white light. In the late 1990’s some of the funding to restore the deteriorating structure came from sales of over 2000 personalized bricks from individual donors as part of a new landscaped walkway. Many of the services and materials were donated by the local townspeople to help complete the restoration in 2006.

New London Harbor Lighthouse, New London, CT – 1760, 1800
New London Harbor Lighthouse

New London Harbor Lighthouse is the fourth oldest lighthouse in the country and one of the earliest American lighthouses with a flashing light.

The original New London Harbor Lighthouse was built on the west side of the entrance to New London Harbor in 1760, before the United States was established as an independent nation.

On May 7, 1800, Congress appropriated funds to rebuild the lighthouse. It was removed in 1801 when the current stone tower was built. In 1855 a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the original 11 lamps with 13-inch reflectors. Illumination was converted to oil-vapor lamp in 1909 and acetylene in 1912. The light was electrified in 1930. The present keeper’s house was built in 1863.

New London Ledge “Haunted” Lighthouse, New London, CT – 1909
New London Ledge Lighthouse

This one-of-a-kind building was one of the last lighthouses built in New England, and it represents a rare case of an early 20th century offshore lighthouse that is not of cast-iron construction. By the early 1900s, New London, with its protected harbor at the mouth of the Thames River, had made the transition from whaling center to industrial city. New London Ledge Light was built because New London Harbor Light wasn’t sufficient to direct vessels around the dangerous ledges at the entrance to the harbor. When it was first lighted, the New London Day reported that the light could be seen up to 18 miles away.

The stately red brick building with its mansard roof and granite detailing makes a striking picture standing off by itself near the entrance to Connecticut’s New London Harbor, at the extreme eastern end of Long Island Sound. The lighthouse reportedly owes its distinctive French Second Empire style to the influence of the wealthy home owners on the local coast, who wanted a structure in keeping with the elegance of their own homes. Many of the large homes near the shore in the area were destroyed in the great hurricane of September 21, 1938.

Probably the best-known part of this station’s history and lore is the lighthouse’s infamous ghost, “Ernie.” It’s been claimed that in the 1920s or ’30s, a keeper learned that his wife had run off with the captain of the Block Island ferry. Distraught, the keeper jumped — or fell — from the roof of the lighthouse to his death, the story goes. Before the station was automated, the Coast Guard crew on duty reported various strange happenings: mysterious knocks on their bedroom doors in the middle of the night, doors opening and closing, the television being turned on and off repeatedly, and even having the covers pulled off the end of their bed. Falling back to sleep after being awakened by a strange noise was often a problem. If there’s any truth behind the legend, it’s elusive.

Playwright Eugene O’Neill lived in New London for many years, and his famous play Long Day’s Journey Into Night was set in the town. During one scene in the play, the characters refer to the fog signal at New London Ledge, a sound familiar to residents of New London.

New London Ledge was the last remaining manned lighthouse on Long Island Sound when it was finally de-staffed in 1987.

Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse, Old Saybrook, CT – 1886
Saybrook Breakwater Light

Saybrook Breakwater lighthouse was built in 1886 as part of a channel system that was dug to guide ships into the shallow harbor. Even though its location was close to shore, keepers would only stay there on average only a couple of years due to its constant dampness, and it was difficult with the strong currents and constant winds to row ashore for supplies. There were also no assistant keepers assigned to help the keepers until 1917.

During the hurricane of 1938, New England’s worst hurricane, most everything including a 1,500-gallon tank of kerosene was swept away except for the tower, which actually withstood the force. Keeper Gross and Assistant Keeper Bennett were able to survive in the tower and kept the light burning.

Actress Katharine Hepburn lived for many years near Lynde Point Lighthouse and Saybrook Breakwater Light.

Lynde Point Lighthouse, Old Saybrook, CT – 1803
Lynde Point Lighthouse

With increased shipping traffic and fishing, Lynde Point Lighthouse was built in 1803 to guide ships coming through Long Island Sound where the Connecticut River empties into the sound at Old Saybrook. The first wooden lighthouse with a whale-oil lantern placed on top was criticized by mariners as being too difficult to see. They complained it was too dim and too short, and the evaporation from the nearby marsh would cause a constant fog obscuring the lighthouse, even though the air would be clear out at sea.

So why choose to stay at
    a Bed and Breakfast?

When it’s time to plan for a trip, there are a number of things to consider. How will you get to your destination? Will you be going by plane, train, or automobile? You need to figure out how much and what to pack. These are important questions that often take time and effort to plan out.

In the process of planning, you might be tempted to reserve a room at a decent hotel and call it a day. It’s a strong temptation, and certainly understandable. Hotels are businesses that are specifically designed to make sure your stay is comfortable. You’ll usually get a decent bed in a nice room, at a reasonable price. However, it’s not the only option, and in fact, it’s not even the best one.

How is a Bed and Breakfast different From a Hotel?
Bed and Breakfast

A hotel may have nice amenities, it may be clean and well-tended, and it may have good customer service however, the staff is just that, staff. It’s a place where you go to stay for a few days, ignoring the world around you and often having the world ignore you right back. You may be able to use their pool, or their gym, or one of their other facilities but at no time is a hotel ever going to go out of their way to make you feel like their room could be your home. For some people, the idea of staying at a place that tries to feel like home is unnecessary. They just want a clean bed and a television, and perhaps internet access. As long as they have that, they’re fine.

But it’s always nice to have a choice and a Bed and Breakfast does exactly that by offering a warmer, more personal option. It’s much more than simply a room in which to stay, it’s actually a place that usually feels like home (minus the laundry, leaky faucet, etc.). A B&B accomplishes this with special amenities like complimentary WiFi, a glass of wine on arrival and home cooked breakfasts, local itineraries and pleasant surroundings. Though peaceful solitude is always an option you may find sitting in one of the common areas and talking with other guests or staff members is just what you need.

A Little History about Bed and Breakfast / inns…

The custom of opening one’s home to travelers dates back to Colonial America. Lodging establishments were few and far between and wayfarers relied on the kindness of strangers to provide a bed for the night. Hotels became more common with the advent of the railroad and later the automobile and most towns had at least one prominent hotel at this point in time.

Through the years there have been several steps to the evolution of today’s Bed and Breakfast Inn. In the 1980s and 1990s, B&B’s increased rapidly in numbers and evolved from homestay B&B’s with shared baths and simple furnishings to beautifully renovated homes and historic mansions with luxurious décor and amenities. By the mid-1990s, the Internet made it more affordable for innkeepers to promote their properties worldwide; it provided on-line reservation software and allowed travelers to view detailed photos, videos, and reviews.

B&B and Inn owners have been adding amenities such as wireless Internet access, free parking, spa services or nightly wine and cheese hours. To stay competitive with the rest of the lodging industry, larger bed and breakfast inns have expanded to offer wedding services, business conference facilities, and meeting spaces as well as many other services a large hotel might offer.

Innkeepers

      Sue & Dave Labrie Innkeepers ~ Inn at Harbor Hill Marina

Today there are hundreds of thousands of B&B’s throughout the world. In the United States, B&B’s are found in all states, in major cities and remote rural areas, occupying everything from modest cottages to opulent mansions and in restored structures from schools to cabooses to churches.

Check out the benefits to staying in a bed and breakfast

Staying at a bed and breakfast is a wonderful alternative to the traditional hotel stay. Gardens are often lush and offer comfortable seating, and rooms range from cozy to luxurious. Staying in a B&B can be a really unique travel experience and not one to be missed. Check out the following benefits of staying while making your decision.

  • Although B&B rooms can be priced higher than hotels, they usually offer a better value overall. More amenities are included such as breakfast and free Internet, you get much better service, and the experience tends to be more unique than an average hotel stay.
  • You’ll get more personal service. At a B&B, there are only a small group of guests, giving you a much more personal experience. Typically, your concierge is the owner and thus is invested in making sure you have a great stay.
  • Breakfast is included. It’s a wonderful amenity usually including special homemade offerings like coffee breads and cakes with everything from a continental spread to a hot breakfast with entrée.
  • You’ll encounter unexpected luxuries. B&B’s tend to offer all those special extra touches that can make your stay feel pampering. Some facilities even offer snacks and beverages (often to include wine) in the common areas for your enjoyment and convenience.
  • A B&B is the perfect romantic getaway. In fact, B&B’s have become so popular for couples that many cater to this romantic angle, offering special romantic packages. These may include pre-planned events or excursions that are included in your stay.
  • You can get a taste of the local flavor and lifestyle. B&B’s are usually established and run by locals, and tend to have their own character. Even better, B&B owners often have lots of tips concerning the best things to do and see in the local area.
  • Many B&B’s offer additional recreational activities in their regular packages. Depending on the location, you may be able to enjoy boating, biking, hiking, canoeing, golfing, or skiing.
  • Unlike hotels, B&B’s are often located in out-of-the-way areas or off the beaten path. This provides you with a great opportunity to see less traveled parts of the community that you would otherwise miss.
  • At a B&B, there are fewer people coming and going. With less going on, B&B owners tend to keep a much higher standard of security than a hotel property with a typical hotel staff.
  • You get the privacy and peace and quiet you desire. A B&B tends to be more exclusive with fewer guests and usually don’t often cater to families but are more popular among couples. If you’re looking for a place to spend a quiet weekend, a B&B may be your best bet.

So why stay at our Inn at Harbor Hill Marina B&B?

Well, here at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina we absolutely love what we do and that has been the driving force behind the inn experience that we’ve created, from the staff and team that we’ve chosen to all the little extras that we provide. We are committed to providing exactly what we value when we are traveling, and have also added important, unique items from our own traveling ‘wish list.’ At the bare minimum we all look for clean and well-appointed rooms, pleasant, accommodating and knowledgeable staff, good food and beautiful surroundings – and as you know we often don’t get them all.

However, here at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina we strive each and every day to exceed all standards and also offer our 24 hour complimentary snacks and beverages, fresh, home baked warm cookies in the evening and best of all accessibility to us, our staff and our incomparable knowledge of the Mystic Country region. We take great pride in being able to make tried and true recommendations for all things Connecticut Shoreline, providing custom itineraries of things to see and do or you can peruse our restaurant book and let us help you make those very important dining decisions. Perhaps you’re looking to spend some time at the beach, and if so, we provide you with everything that you’ll need to enjoy your day. All of these things are important to our commitment to exceptional customer service and offering you the experience of a lifetime here at our B&B.

The sign below and in our Gathering Room beautifully sums up perfectly:
Enter Strangers Leave Friends

So, if you’re planning on taking a vacation anytime soon, and if you have never stayed at a bed and breakfast before, then you just might find the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina a better choice, and a better way to stay!
We hope to see you soon.

The Book Barn; the most
   unique Book Store anywhere!

You know how we all sometimes take for granted some of the true local treasures we have right in our own backyards? Well so is the case with our local “Book Barn” right here in Niantic, CT. Often, when guests come to stay here at the inn they may be thinking of venturing out to Mystic Aquarium or Seaport or maybe finding their way to one of the many vineyards located here in Southeastern CT. However, many guests are also looking for recommendations for the really unique, fun and interesting things to do locally for a morning or afternoon.

Book Barn 001

One option that has become a bit of a New England legend is just fantastic and again is located right here in Niantic (just 1 mile from our inn). You can literally spend hours here. Take in the fresh air, take some time to relax and curl up with a book and be transported to a place away from the stresses of everyday life. Worth a trip for all ages! Explore away at The Book Barn!!

Book Barn 002

Financial success has given owners Randi and Maureen White the freedom to also transform their store into a tool to get kids excited about reading. They believe in a make it fun while they’re young approach. It doesn’t matter whether the kids are there primarily for the playground or the animals, Randi asserts: “Deep down inside, they’re associating that good time with being at a bookstore.” The place really does have an enchanted feel to it.

Book Barn 006

This southeastern Connecticut “book-shop” has grown over the past 2 decades and now spreads across four locations, which is understandable, given that the barn alone couldn’t handle the 500,000 plus volumes on hand. Bring a book to sell and find your next treasure among the fiction, nonfiction, children’s, and rare volumes on offer.

Book Barn 003

What started as a room with a couch and three bookcases has grown into a sprawling complex of themed buildings. No doubt about it, this is a wonderland for book lovers. The Book Barn is spread out among five locations in Niantic, CT. At the main Book Barn (yes, a real Barn!) at 41 West Main Street there is more than enough to engage you. Everything is well-organized. Most hardcover books are available at a bargain price of $1 – $4 and there seems to be quick turnover, so this is a place where frequent visits are rewarded.

This whimsical store attracts some serious book lovers, too. It’s become a pilgrimage site for bibliophiles across the region — including anyone looking to purge their old collections and stock up on cheap paperbacks. Many even make a day of it, spreading out on the lawn for a lunchtime picnic. Owners estimate that they buy at least a thousand books a day and sell about a quarter-million a year.

Book Barn 004

For those of us of any age, who enjoy a book on paper, you will find it here. There are folks that have visited it many times and almost always leave with a treasure. It’s just fun to visit and many return visitors to the Book Barn, plan time to come back to just hang out and read in one of the outdoor gardens in cozy seating areas. The ambience is so laid back and friendly and is conducive to simply hanging out and enjoying your books.

Quirky jokes and kitschy junk have a way of finding permanent homes at The Book Barn. This is a creative spot to visit and the water elements, decorations (whimsical and not) are just charming as you meander through the numerous buildings of books by genre. It is charming and quirky with goats, flowers, odd statues and signs, and the cats. Make sure you look for the cats! They even have a guide to find the cats on the property that boasts biographies for each feline. There is a pen holding two pygmy goats (the store’s most popular residents), Randi explains, “One day some friends just showed up with some goats in the back of their truck … That’s just the way things work here.”

Book Barn 005

And, not least of all, the staff is helpful, very knowledgeable and pleasant.

The Book Barn, 41 West Main St., Niantic, CT. 860-739-5715; bookbarnniantic.com
2nd location: The Book Barn Downtown, 269 Main St., Niantic, CT. 860-691-8078
Open 7 days per week (but closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day)
Hours: daily 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Come visit the Oldest Steam Powered Cider Mill in the US

Clyde's Cider Mill in Mystic CT

   Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic CT

Let’s face it, autumn or fall conjure up thoughts of New England highways and byways surrounded with beautiful vistas of trees decked out in spectacular, colorful foliage. Is there a more beautiful place to be in autumn than in New England? Many folks forget about Connecticut (and Rhode Island) when they think about taking a fall getaway to New England. Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and even Massachusetts are most popular when planning those New England leaf-peeping escapes. However, we’re here to tell you that all of the magnificent beauty and charm of autumn can be found right here in southeastern Connecticut.

Clydes Cider Mill 007

The oldest steam-powered Apple Press in the entire US.

For instance, we have B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Old Mystic. A visit to Clyde’s Cider Mill is like stepping back in time. If you come you will see the only steam powered cider mill in the U.S. in production with scheduled apple-pressing demonstrations.
Clydes Cider Mill 007a

There are locals that have been going to Clyde’s for so long that they remember getting cider and donuts and the only option for eating them was in the car! This cider mill has grown so much through the years but it hasn’t lost its’ historic New England charm. We think of Fall and we think of all things apple- Delicious pies, tarts, breads and cider served here every day. They start in September with a nice selection of Apple wines and hard ciders, jams, jellies, local honey, maple syrup, fudge, and what many people call “The best sweet cider on Earth!” Also available in the Fall are pumpkin bread, gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins, candy apples, kettle corn and apple cider donuts. A real favorite is the cider slushes, warm melt in your mouth cider donuts and the apple Dumplings. Also, let’s not forget the wonderful non-apple offerings of condiments and preserves. There are other areas at Clyde’s such as The Grist Mill which is a smaller shop with Christmas ornaments, tee-shirts, gifts, etc., a popcorn stand where they make fresh kettle corn, and tasting stations– for hard ciders and for apple cider wine.
Apple Cider Doughnuts

When you visit there are usually some tables from local vendors—perhaps selling cheeses and other products made from goats’ milk, and another selling honey and beeswax candles or offering local wines for tasting. They also have some colorful Adirondack chairs on the porch where you might be lucky enough to snag a seat and enjoy your cider and donuts.
Cinnamon Donuts with Sugar Daddy

This is a great stop for a historical/educational/tasting & shopping tour. You won’t be disappointed even though it can get crowded on weekends – it is worth parking on the road (if necessary) and taking a walk. The air perfumed with freshly pressed apples, and then the knowledgeable and kind staff, are just a bonus! So take a break from the ordinary and come visit a National Historic Landmark and see the 6th generation of the Clyde family making cider just like B.F. Clyde did in 1881.

OPEN 7 DAYS A WEEK FROM SEPTEMBER UNTIL LATE DECEMBER
SEPT. – OCT. 9AM – 6PM
NOV. – DEC. 9AM – 5PM

CIDER MAKING DEMONSTRATIONS:
Saturdays & Sundays
October – 11am, 1pm, 3pm
November – 11am, 1pm Weather permitting

For additional information about Clyde’s Cider Mill, visit: www.bfclydescidermill.com

Our Best Clam Shacks, Lobster Rolls and Outdoor Dining

It’s summer again here on the CT shoreline! Two of the most common questions we are asked here at the inn are “who has the best Lobster Roll” and “where is there a great place to eat outside”. If we were visiting the area for the first time we’d be asking the same questions. So, below is our take on some of our favorites and the area’s most popular choices for lobster rolls, clam shacks and outdoor dining.

When it comes to lobster, you’ll find they do things a bit differently in Connecticut. This state’s claim to fame is not a traditional cold lobster-salad sandwich, but a hot lobster roll overflowing with warm lobster meat and oozing with butter. We think it’s finger-lickin’ good!

Right around the corner are two of our favorite outdoor clam shacks and both serve great fried clams, lobster rolls, clam chowder, fresh fish and chips and much, much more.

Right here in our very own Village of Niantic we have:

Skipper’s Restaurant – Niantic, CT
Skippers Restaurant in Niantic
This is one of the busiest places in the area, and rightfully so. Beautiful views, great lightly-battered fried seafood, and in our opinion, one of the best Fried Fish sandwiches in the entire area. Skipper’s is open all year around, serving lunch and dinner daily. They serve a large variety of the freshest seafood including fried whole belly clams, lobster rolls, excellent fish and chips, and award winning clam chowder, as well as chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. Skipper’s offers plenty of indoor seating and outdoor dining overlooking the Niantic Bay. Come enjoy the warm, casual atmosphere of Skippers.

Dad’s Restaurant – Niantic, CT
Dads Restaurant in Niantic
Dad’s has been a local favorite serving seasonally since 1963. Located in the charming Village of Niantic, you will be able to take in the amazing views of Long Island Sound at Niantic Bay. It’s the perfect setting for everything from date night to family dinner. You will find a great selection of seafood, burgers, fries and if you’re looking for a foot-long hotdog – this is the place! You can also walk right over for that special treat of gourmet ice cream at Dad’s Restaurant!

Stepping outside our village of Niantic, we also like the following:

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock – New London, CT
Captain Scott's Lobster Dock
You’ll find at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, a quaint fish market and lobster shack on Shaw’s Cove in New London. Named for Captain Thomas A. Scott, who arrived in New London in 1871 to build the Race Rock Lighthouse, the restaurant’s signature lobster roll comes on a toasted split bun, full of hot, buttery pieces of lobster meat, topped off simply with sliced lemon. Grab a picnic table and a view of the water, and you’ll need little else. Hard to find (we have printed directions), but well worth the trip.

Ford’s Lobster – Groton, CT
Ford's Lobster
While many who visit the area know Abbott’s Lobster in Noank we’re here to tell you about a really awesome lobster spot called Ford’s Lobster. It’s not easy to find. It’s down by the water, just two small seaside shacks covered in lobster buoys and a deck overlooking a beautiful water view. This BYOB ‘shack’ is creative with their full menu plus they have a lobster bisque lobster roll option in addition to the usual hot with butter and cold with mayo. All YUMMY! Ford’s uses large chunks of tail and claw and in addition to the above options, they also make a ‘lobster bomb’ which is a bread bowl filled with lobster. The chowders here are fantastic, the New England chowder (creamy) and the Noank chowder (clear clam broth) are both winners!

The Back Porch – Old Saybrook
The Back Porch Old Saybrook
Dave loves the blackened Salmon over Caesar Salad, but they have a fair share of lobster dishes as well. One dish/sandwich in particular is their “Lobster Grilled Cheese”. Yes, you read right! If you have never had a lobster grilled cheese sandwich, this might be one of the best places to try one – to die for! With outdoor waterfront dining and New England American Cuisine, The Back Porch Restaurant is a favorite summer dining destination overlooking the boats at the mouth of the Connecticut River. Happy Hour six days a week and live entertainment Wednesdays through Sundays.

Dog Watch Café – Stonington, CT
Dog Watch Cafe Stonington, CT
The Dog Watch Cafe is located in beautiful Stonington Borough, on the marina directly overlooking Dodson Boatyard. A casual seaside atmosphere that’s perfect for kicking back with a cocktail or dining while enjoying beautiful harbor sunsets. We recommend the white wine steamed mussels – a favorite! Special events throughout the year guarantee a great time.

S&P Oyster Company – Mystic, CT
SnP Oyster
Looking to have some lunch or dinner while visiting Mystic? S&P is located right on the Mystic River by the historic bascule drawbridge. You can choose to set outside or in and have beautiful views of the boats passing through the bridge. To name a couple of favorites, the stuffing on the Seafood Ambrosia is decadent, and the tuna on the Grilled Sampler is excellent. The consistency of the food and service at S&P is what brings folks back every time. We HIGHLY recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants a water view and some refreshingly tasty good food!!

Sea Swirl of Mystic – Mystic, CT
Sea Swirl
Come to Sea Swirl of Mystic for some of the best dining in the area. Sea Swirl was visited by Rachael Ray for her show ‘$40 A Day’ on the Food Network and received a great review. They serve a menu of expertly fried local seafood, including scallops, shrimp and fish and have perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets on the horizon. For an alternative to seafood, there are hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, sandwiches and much more in this casual clam shack atmosphere. Oh, and don’t forget the ice cream!

Sunset Ribs – Waterford, CT
Sunset Ribs Waterfrod, CT
Sunset Ribs is one of those seasonal ‘beach-bars’ frequented by locals, vacationers and Sunday bikers. Sit on the deck and sip a cocktail, have a bite to eat and watch the sunset behind our inn. Situated on a vista overlooking the Long Island Sound and located right across the Niantic River from our inn, Sunset Ribs offers great BBQ and other offerings including steak, pasta and seasonal seafood dishes. On warm evenings dine outdoors on the patio and enjoy beautiful scenery and live entertainment with your meal.

We love sharing all of the places to grab some great seafood whether they are steps away from the inn or in little out of the way places north and south of the inn. What’s more perfect than coming to the Connecticut shoreline and indulging yourself with fresh seafood and beautiful water views!

Discover Mystic Seaport this Summer

We at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina love helping our guests figure out fun adventures to go on while they are staying with us. Every summer visitors flock to Mystic Country to enjoy not only our fantastic New England summertime beach experience, but our many interesting activities as well. There are so many different ways to enjoy the Connecticut shoreline such as our scenic beaches, array of restaurants, wineries, shops, hiking paths, museums, and so much more. However, one of our favorite recommendations is to visit Mystic Seaport and Museum of America and the Sea for the nautical history of our beautiful area and America. If you come and see what Mystic Seaport is all about you will find that you can easily spend an interesting afternoon there. Located about 20 minutes from our Inn on the southeastern coast of Connecticut is the jewel in our historic crown – famed Mystic Seaport.
Mystic Connecticut

As the great Age of Sail gave way to steamships and railroads, wooden ships and boats were turned into firewood and the nation’s seafaring traditions began to disappear, three Mystic residents decided to work together to keep the past alive. On December 29, 1929, the papers were signed incorporating the Marine Historical Association, today known as Mystic Seaport. Their dream: create a dynamic, educational institution to preserve America’s maritime culture–and turn the achievements of a past era into an inspirational force for the future.
Post Card Mystic Seaport

Despite the economic conditions of the Great Depression, Mystic Seaport grew rapidly. Donations of log books, photography, ships plans and other maritime artifacts poured into the one-building museum. In 1941, Mystic Seaport acquired the Charles W. Morgan, the country’s last wooden whaleship from the once-great Yankee fleet. Historic buildings from across New England were also moved in to complement the Morgan–and the authentic coastal village area of Mystic Seaport was born.
Mystic Country

Over the next 50 years, Mystic Seaport experienced explosive growth, amassing the world’s largest collections of maritime photography (over 1 million images) and boats (nearly 500), as well as collecting two million other maritime artifacts. And the 1970s saw the creation of the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, additional exhibition buildings and several new accredited educational programs. The largest recent undertaking was the complete restoration of the Charles W. Morgan which once again sailed the high seas in the summer of 2014. You can visit the ship and see how life was aboard this antique wooden sailing vessel when she was out with a crew searching for whales in her historic past. Currently on display for all to view is the Mayflower II which has been brought down from Plymouth, MA to receive a multi-year restoration. The shipyard is also restoring the oldest steam powered ship the Sabino which is in permanent residence at the Seaport. The shipwrights use many of the traditional historic boat building practices along with current day building applications to ensure the historic nature of the vessel is maintained during their modern day restoration.
Mystic Seaport Entrance

Now, Mystic Seaport is making the history of America’s relationship with the sea even more accessible to all-new audiences. As part of a an extensive expansion plan that includes new exhibit halls and reception areas, the Museum’s state-of-the-art Collections Research Center provides easy and convenient ways for scholars and researchers from around the world to access Mystic Seaport’s renowned archives, via the Internet and integrated databases. It’s just one of many ways this showcase of the past two centuries is preparing for the next one.

Visiting and strolling through Mystic Seaport takes you back in time as you wander through this reconstructed authentic coastal village with appropriate character actors giving enlightening demonstrations of a life past. The Museum’s exhibition halls are brimming with permanent and changing exhibits that offer rare glimpses into other eras and cultures, including restored vessels, figureheads, ship carvings, and vintage photography. Each exhibit and art gallery at Mystic Seaport offers a unique perspective of our nation’s history with the sea and voyages on the water.

There are many rare and historic boats you can climb aboard at Mystic Seaport. Even better, they also have several you can ride aboard or self-pilot. Take a waterfront tour aboard one of their launches, charter a sail aboard one of the historic sailboats or spend the day relaxing underneath a historic catboat’s billowing sail. Rent a classic wooden rowboat or sailboat and explore the river firsthand. Before you leave Mystic Seaport be sure to see the Museum from this entirely different vantage point!
Mystic Seaport at Night

If you can plan ahead you may want to coordinate your visit with one of the Mystic festivals like the chowder or lobster fest or the holiday Lantern Light tours at Mystic Seaport. It’s the great events and places like these that make coming to Mystic Country during the summer or any time of year such an excellent choice for a vacation getaway. While there are so many places in our Mystic Country region to choose from, consider staying with us at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina. Our beautiful waterfront B&B is like a home away from home. Each morning join us for a delicious breakfast and end your days relaxing with other guests and exchanging stories of what you have done that day. Summers in Mystic Country are a very popular choice so please call us and speak to one of our fantastic team members and we will be happy to help you plan a wonderful vacation trip.

Lantern Light Tours
   at Mystic Seaport

As we turn our calendars to November, we begin thinking about the upcoming holiday season. During our many years as innkeepers we are always amazed at just how many people getaway to celebrate special occasions during November and December. We often ask ourselves, just how do they/you do it with all the decorating, shopping, planning and hosting that goes on over a 6-7 week period. Just how are people able to getaway and enjoy themselves?

What so many of our guests find as a surprise, is just how many fun-filled things there are to do in our Mystic Country region during November and December. And one of our favorite things to do, and one of our best recommendations during the holiday season is the Lantern Light Tour at Mystic Seaport.

Lantern Light Tour1

The Lantern Light Tours transform Mystic Seaport into holiday splendor and you find yourself transported back in time. Actors in period costume greet and take you through the seaport while a seaside holiday story unravels. Each year the story is different and it’s always a lot of fun. This years story is set to portray Christmas Eve in 1876 and as the story unfolds you are brought through five scenes in exhibits around the Museums 19th-century maritime village. The original script has been written by acclaimed playwright Jacques Lamarre. Inspired by the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, the story is filled with seasonal hilarity as the citizens of Greenmanville attempt to deliver some unexpected Christmas gifts. Be prepared to walk through darkened streets with just a few kerosene lamps lighting the way while young and old alike will enjoy the seasonal delights that include a horse-drawn carriage ride, a spirited holiday dance, the beautiful glow of lanterns, and just perhaps, a visit with old St. Nick!

Small groups are escorted thru Mystic Seaport via Lantern Lights.

Small groups are escorted thru Mystic Seaport via Lantern Lights.

Each Lantern Light Tour is a 70-minute progressive performance that covers approximately half a mile of uneven terrain (including cobblestone, wood planking, grass, gravel, and stairs) and is performed in all weather conditions. Audience members walk or stand for the majority of the performance, so all are cautioned to wear appropriate footwear and dress for the seasonal weather conditions. To provide the best experience for the audience, each tour is limited to 16 people.
Lantern Light Tour 2

If you thought we were only a summertime getaway destination, think again. There is much to see and do here in Niantic and along the CT shoreline throughout the year. So, if you looking for a quick pre-holiday getaway to get into the holiday spirit or do some serious shopping or a place to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or special occasion during November or December, give us a call. As we like to say here at the inn, another season – another reason to come and visit.