Cruising to Essex, Connecticut

When it comes to idyllic New England coastal destinations, Essex, Connecticut is about as perfect as it gets.

This town near the mouth of the Connecticut River is home to breathtakingly gorgeous coastal scenery, making it an attractive destination to those who enjoy scenic cruising. Its historic streets, filled with impressive Colonial and Federal architecture, match the beauty of its natural scenery. If you think because Essex is a “historic” town it might be rigid, old or boring, think again! The town has a vibrant, lively atmosphere that is bursting with activity, from theaters and art galleries to world-class restaurants, fun shops and spectacular fishing. It’s also one of the most welcoming ports for boaters in New England.

Essex is on the western shore of the Connecticut River, five nautical miles north of Long Island Sound. Boaters visiting the town should follow channel markers up the river to G C “26,” and be sure to observe the no-wake zones along the way. Boaters should also pay close attention to channel markers off Hayden’s Point, as rocks extend underwater right to the edge of the channel.

Boaters will find the town landing and launch ramp along Main Street. Among the marinas in the area is Brewer Essex Island Marina (860-767-2483; VHF 9), which maintains 80 transient slips and offers fuel, electric, WiFi and more. Brewer Dauntless Shipyard ( 860-767-0001; VHF 9) is another full-service marina with transient slips. You can find a small anchorage just east of Nott Island, and another in Hamburg Cove, opposite Brockaway Island.

The beautiful Connecticut River is wonderful for cruising and is teeming with wildlife. Thousands of birdwatchers flock to the area each year to glimpse bald eagles, ospreys and the fall migration of tree swallows. The river also has small creeks and coves worth exploring by small boat. If you need to rent a kayak, check out Action Sports in Old Saybrook.

On land, visitors to Essex can enjoy walking the scenic streets, looking at the interesting architecture, visiting the many shops and art galleries, and dining at the area’s many fine restaurants. While in town, be sure to visit the Connecticut River Museum, which explores the history of the river with exhibits, educational programs and special events. The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat tours – featuring a 65-foot replica paddle wheeler – are a favorite among kids. Another great way to see the area is aboard the 54-foot boat Riverquest, which offers scenic cruises along the river.

To learn more about visiting Essex, Connecticut, visit