Falling for Old Saybrook, a Connecticut Coastal Town
In Connecticut’s coastal region, Old Saybrook might seem over-shadowed by neighboring communities, but this shoreline town can stand out with its waterside views, historic ties, and plenty of New England charm.
And with lodging, staying near the Connecticut River is best.
For my town visit, I headed up to stay at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, whose main property is situated at the mouth of the river, in the hamlet of its namesake, Saybrook Point. Near where Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River meet, the main inn’s water’s edge location is quite lovely. The back of the main property is right next to Saybrook Point Marina, where docked sailboats can be seen straight from the outdoor patio area. Visitors can stroll the walkway and watch sailboats and yachts gliding along the water or swing by the inn’s marina bar for an afternoon or evening cocktail.
A family-owned, AAA Four Diamond inn, Saybrook Point Inn has more than 82 guestrooms—standard, deluxe, luxury, and one-bedroom suites—with fine décor that reflects the quaint elegance of country living. I would even say the inn’s furnishings could be compared with what visitors would find if they went antiquing in this region. Across the street from the main inn, rental villas are also available.
In the midst of its refined décor, Saybrook also incorporates eco-friendly measures, including a towel and sheet program, motion sensor lighting, the use of Green Seal cleaning products, and solar panels. Prime amenities at the main property include saltwater indoor and outdoor pools, a sauna, and a health club with a fully equipped gym.
The inn’s full-service European spa, Sanno (derived from Latin meaning “to heal; to live well”), offers massages, facials, and body treatments such as “The Kate,” named after the late actress Katharine Hepburn who had lived nearby. Seasonally inspired treatments are also offered. During my stay, I had a Harvest Organic Facial, which featured skincare products made with pumpkin, yam, or red currant. Their scents were wonderful; so was the facial.
With casual fine dining, Fresh Salt, the main inn’s restaurant that’s also the only Four Diamond restaurant in Connecticut’s Middlesex County, is all about New England’s culinary side and sustainably grown and raised ingredients. In-season menus showcase the region’s locally caught seafood, grass-fed beef, and poultry. Being a native New Englander, I felt I had to try a seafood dish at dinner so I ordered a combination platter of Connecticut oysters and scallops with Rhode Island calamari. Guests can opt to have their meals on the outdoor patio, where they can look out at the marina.
If guests seek a bit more privacy, or are celebrating an anniversary, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa has two neat options. The first is the opportunity to stay inside a lighthouse! On the main dock of the Saybrook Point Marina, the lighthouse suite is like a private apartment. The 900-square-foot suite contains a living room, a dining area, and a kitchenette. Plus, there are views of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River right outside the window. It’s available for rent seasonally (usually May through October).
The second unique accommodation is the Three Stories, the inn’s renovated guesthouse that opened in summer 2014 and is located right across the street from the main inn. The single-family Italianate home built in 1892 instantly reminded me of being in a bed and breakfast when I walked in. On the lower level, there is a pool table and private lounge and, when entering on the main floor, you’ll find a living room on your right for sitting and relaxing by the fireplace.
I stayed in one of Three Stories’ well-furnished guestrooms, which come complete with private baths and balconies. All of them are named after important Old Saybrook residents. Mine was dedicated to Ann Petry, an African-American author.
There is also a room for Katharine Houghton Hepburn, the mother of actress Katharine Hepburn and a leading suffragette. And one for Anna Louise James, who was a history-maker on her own right; she was one of the first women and African-American pharmacists in the United States (and yes, she ran a local pharmacy). Three Stories’ original owner and railroad engineer William Vars has one, too.
Visitors can get to Old Saybrook by rail (Amtrak and Metro North) or car, but it’s also nice to see the town on two wheels. Bring a bike with you, or, if you don’t have one, Saybrook Point Inn & Spa offers free bike rentals—helmets and a map of the area included. Starting from the inn, there are two routes you can do. I took the shorter one, about a three-mile or so trek over the causeway to Fenwick, an adjacent borough and a summer colony. Katharine Hepburn lived in a beachside house here until her passing in 2003, and I stopped to take a quick look from afar.
You can instead take the 10-mile loop ride up to Main Street. Here you will make your way to Old Saybrook’s downtown area lined with shops and restaurants as well as historic homes and an arts center/movie theater named for Katharine. Nature lovers will enjoy walking over to Fort Saybrook Monument Park, a 17-acre park right across from the main inn. You can get a nice panoramic view of the Connecticut River and learn more about Old Saybrook’s history through storyboard displays and a bird sanctuary.
And of course, with being in the middle point for the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, let’s not forget about getting on the water. Through one of the inn’s packages, guests can view Connecticut’s fall foliage on a leisurely sunset cruise aboard the Real Escape, a 56-foot private yacht that departs directly from the docks of the Saybrook Point Marina. A five-bell marina, this Old Saybrook site also offers charters for fishing, day cruisers, and groups. For seasonal boaters, the marina accommodates vessels from 13 feet to 130 feet (don’t be surprised to spot yachts). It also provides a great central location to other destinations: 35 miles to Block Island, 55 miles to Newport, and just under 10 miles from Greenport, New York. But then, staying along the local waters and taking in the autumn scenery is just as great.