Hammonasset Beach State Park: The Complete Guide

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Hammonasset Beach State Park

Address
1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443, USA
Phone +1 203-245-2785

The word "Hammonasset" means "where we dig holes in the ground" and refers to a piece of property where eastern woodland Native Americans farmed along the Hammonasset River and out towards the shore. In 1898, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company bought what is now considered Hammonasset Beach State Park as a testing site for their rifles. Then, in 1920, Hammonasset Beach State Park was opened to the public, making the miles of white sand and the soothing Long Island Sound surf a popular destination for weekend beachgoers.

Located just about an hour's drive south of Hartford, Connecticut, in Madison, Hammonasset Beach is ideal for families who want to play in the waves, build a sandcastle, picnic, camp, or visit the park's nature center. Make a day trip to Hammonasset Beach to chill out on the sand or explore the trails. Then, when you need to freshen up, the pavilion showers and a snack bar provide a nice reprieve from a day in the sun.

Things to Do

Hammonasset Beach State Park is the perfect place to play in the sand or simply stroll along the boardwalk, enjoying the salty sea air and the views of Long Island Sound. Arrive at Hammonasset mid-afternoon on a spectacular Saturday in July and you will find colorful umbrellas and kids' sandcastles dotting the beach. While Hammonasset is a popular local beach destination, it's large enough to always find a place to spread out your blanket, even on a summer weekend. The gentle waves of Long Island Sound make West Beach at Hammonasset an ideal beach for young kids and families. And, the walking trails and two miles of white sand to stroll provide for a perfect outing, even if you don't want to get wet. Hammonasset is also a popular place for camping and for visiting the park's nature center to learn about the area's flora and fauna (a good rainy-day activity.)

Best Hikes & Trails

Hammonasset State Beach has several miles of walking trails that put you up close with the area's natural spaces and geological features. The large rocks on Meigs Point show signs of receding glacial ice from almost 21,000 years ago. Some of the park's trails are paved and can get hot on a summer day for barefoot walkers and dog paws.

  • Hammonasset Beach State Park Walk: This 3.4-mile paved multi-use trail is the park's most heavily used pathway, as it takes you along the coast and provides accessibility to all. Start at the nature center and head north towards West Beach or combine the hike with Meigs Point Trail to get off the pavement and onto a sand and rock trail.
  • Meigs Point Trail: This out-and-back trail also starts at the nature center and takes you 1.4 miles out and around Meigs Point. Use this trail to access the rocky shoreline, good fishing, and birdwatching, or to view Connecticut's summer wildflowers.
  • Willard's Island Nature Trail: This 1.1-mile paved trail takes you inland through the park's salt marshes. It's a popular trail for runners and dogwalkers (be mindful of the hot pavement) and provides excellent birdwatching and wildflower viewing opportunities.

Meigs Point Nature Center

When you've had your fill of beach time and outdoor fun, take a drive along East Beach to the Meigs Point Nature Center. This renovated facility is the park's flagship and includes exhibits that give you a peek of the natural wonders of the surrounding beach, woods, water, and air. Each room in the nature center is dedicated to a specific ecosystem in the park, complete with activities for both young and old.

The tanks located "in the water" room are popular attractions for all family members. The room has several tanks—a touch tank, brackish tanks, saltwater tanks, freshwater tanks, and salt marsh tanks—that teach you about the different marine critters that reside here. Check out tiny crabs, seashells, fish, and lobster. A sign warns that some critters are not to be touched.

Visitors to the Meigs Point Nature Center at Hammonasset Beach can also observe a variety of other animals, including snakes, frogs, and a friendly Northern Diamondback terrapin turtle.

Where to Camp

Hammonasset Beach State Park has one large campground with 558 sites for tents and RVs and eight rustic cabins. This is definitely not a place to camp if you wish to get away from people and deep into the woods, but it's perfect for families wanting to partake in various campsite activities, like movie and bingo nights, pancake breakfasts, a Fourth of July bike parade, and weekly crafts for kids. The campground contains a clean bathhouse, complete with hot showers, a camp store, dishwashing stations, potable water stations, and dumping stations. Off-the-ground fires are permitted in your own firepit or in one of the store's rentals. Pets are not allowed in the campground and you cannot bring in your own firewood, as it could be harboring the Asian Longhorn Beetle, an invasive species. Site reservations can be made ahead of time or in-person at the campground's store on a walk-up basis.

Where to Stay Nearby

The neighboring towns of Madison and Easton (both only about 2 miles away) offer lodging nearby Hammonasset Beach State Park. Choose from four-star accommodations right on the beach or a historic inn that's close to specialty shops and a celebrated theater.

  • Madison Beach Hotel: Part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, the Madison Beach Hotel in Madison offers beachside accommodations, complete with an on-site spa and all the fixings you need for a day at the beach. Choose from king, double, and double queen rooms, including those with a Long Island Sound view. Two hotel restaurants and two bars offer casual dining, specialty drinks, and wine—perfect for après beach.
  • Tidewater Inn: The Tidewater Inn is nestled in downtown Easton, only a few miles from Hammonasset Beach State Park. Enjoy a night out at the nearby Avalon Theater before retreating to this historic inn that offers guest rooms and suites, an on-site restaurant and tavern, and a luxury spa.
  • The Homestead Madison: This boutique bed and breakfast in Madison appeals to families and groups looking to stay in one place. It's a family-owned operation that has gone through a massive renovation, offering 15 king and double queen rooms, each with a private bath. You can rent the whole property for a weekend, or just a room, for a relaxing beach vacation.

How to Get There

If you are traveling to Hammonasset State Beach from Hartford, take I-91 South to Route 9 South. Then, take Exit 9 and turn south onto Route 81. Take Route 81 to I-95 South, then hop on the freeway for approximately 1 mile until you reach Exit 62; turn left off the exit onto the Hammonasset Connector and take that for 1 mile, crossing Route 1, and heading into the park.

From New York City or points south, take I-95 North to Exit 62. Take a right off of the exit ramp onto the Hammonasset Connector. Travel 1 mile to the park's entrance.

Accessibility

At this state park, visitors can borrow beach wheelchairs free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, the campground offers six sites that are ADA compliant and are within close proximity to an accessible bathroom. Many of the park's 6-foot-wide paved pathways are wheelchair accessible, including the 3.4-mile Hammonasset Beach State Park Walk.

Tips for Your Visit

  • At Hammonasset Beach, a green flag means lifeguards are on duty, a yellow flag indicates there is no lifeguard on duty, but swimming is still allowed, and a red flag warns that the beach area is closed to swimming.
  • Boogie boards and other inflatables are not permitted in the water at this beach. Even when there are no lifeguards on duty, you will likely see beach staff patrolling and enforcing this rule.
  • The sand dunes at Hammonasset Beach State Park are fragile habitat—they protect the beach from erosion, contain temperamental beach grasses, and shorebirds and mammals live among them. For this reason, refrain from climbing on and playing in the dunes, as you'll disrupt the natural habitat.
  • Many visitors—even those who are not camping overnight—pack and camp out on the beach for the entire day. Arrive early if you want to claim a picnic table for your family or group.
  • If you are planning a family reunion, beach wedding, or another gathering, rent an open-air picnic pavilion at the park.
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Hammonasset Beach State Park: The Complete Guide