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The Top 11 Things to do in Groton, CT

In this article, you will learn a bit about the town of Groton. You will also get 11 great ideas for things to do in Groton, CT.

Groton, Connecticut, located on Fishers Island Sound between the Thames and Mystic Rivers, is called the Submarine Capital of the World.

A U.S. Navy Submarine Base was established in Groton while General Dynamics’ Electric Boat division operates a plant that builds both diesel and nuclear-powered submarines. 

Groton is also a historical town. A Revolutionary War battle took place at Fort Griswold. The Noank neighborhood, known for fishing and boat building, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of Groton’s historical homes, farms, and battlegrounds became museums and are open to the public. 

Besides visiting sites displaying Groton’s Naval and historical significance, there are other things to do in Groton.

Food lovers with a love for lobster will enjoy what’s on the menu at Noank’s restaurants.

Those looking for recreational sites will find hiking and mountain biking trails, relaxing beaches, and scenic waters to swim, kayak, and paddleboard in. 

Here are the top 11 things to do in Groton, CT. Many of the sites and activities on this list, as noted, are only open at certain times of the year. 

image of bridge from new lndon to groton, one of the things to do in groton ct.

The Top 11 Things to do in Groton, CT in 2023

1. USS Nautilus and U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum 

The USS Nautilus is the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine and was launched from Groton in 1954. In 1986, the Nautilus returned to Groton, where it is the highlight of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum

The Museum has a collection of over 44,000 historical, cultural, and technical artifacts, only a fraction of which are exhibited at one time.

Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the Nautilus, with docent-led tours available to student groups. Young visitors can participate in a museum scavenger hunt

The U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and USS Nautilus are open Wednesday-Monday year-round except for twice a year when the Museum is closed for maintenance.

Admission is free. 

1 Crystal Lake Road, (800) 343-0079. 

2. Project Oceanology Public Cruises

Project Oceanology, a Groton non-profit organization specializing in marine education, offers three different Long Island Sound and Fishers Island Sound Cruises on board their EnviroLab Research Vessel.

A Seal Watch cruise teaches passengers about harbor seals while watching them migrate. An Oceanographic cruise allows passengers to use the ship’s oceanographic equipment to explore Long Island Sound’s sea life.

A Sunset cruise teaches passengers about the Sounds’ maritime history. 

Project Oceanology’s cruises take place in the spring and summer months.  The EnviroLab Research Vessel is based at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. 

1084 Shennecossett Road, (860) 445-9007. 

3. Eating Lobster in Noank

The historic Noank neighborhood of Groton was home, at one time, to a lobster hatchery operated by the State of Connecticut.

While the lobster hatchery is now an oyster hatchery, there are three restaurants that feature or specialize in lobster dishes.

Carson’s Store offers lobster benedict along with scrambled eggs, omelets, and breakfast sandwiches made with lobster. Carson’s is one of the top places for breakfast in Groton.

Named two of the best waterfront dining restaurants in Connecticut by Connecticut Magazine, Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough and Ford’s Lobster have a variety of lobster dishes on the menu, including lobster rolls, lobster bisque, and steamed lobster. Ford’s also includes lobster in a handful of pasta dishes. 

None of the restaurants accept reservations. Carson’s Store is open year-round while Abbott’s is open May-October and Ford’s is open March-October.

Ford’s doesn’t serve alcohol, but invites diners to bring their own wine or beer.

  • Carson’s Store: 43 Main Street, (860) 536-0059
  • Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough: 117 Pearl Street, (860) 536-7719
  • Ford’s Lobster: 15 Riverview Avenue, (860) 536-2842. 

4. Groton Beaches

Groton has three municipal beaches that are open during the summer months, Eastern Point Beach, Esker Point Beach, and the Main Street Dock & Beach. 

Eastern Point Beach, run by the City of Groton, offers scenic views of the Thames River where it flows into Long Island Sound.

The beach, open from mid-June through Labor Day, has volleyball and basketball courts, showers, a snack bar, and on-duty lifeguards.

Parking and walk-in fees are levied. Parking passes may be purchased from the City of Groton. 

Esker Point Beach, run by the Town of Groton, is located on Esker Bay. The dog-friendly beach has volleyball courts, showers, shaded picnic areas, and a launch spot on Palmer Cove for personal watercraft.

There are no lifeguards on duty. A summer concert series is held from mid-June through July. Parking fees may apply for concerts and special events. 

Main Street Dock & Beach, a.k.a. Noank Dock, also run by the Town of Groton, is located on the Noank Peninsula. The small dog-friendly beach offers views of the lower Mystic River and Mason’s Island. 

There is a boat launch area and a picnic area. There are no lifeguards on duty. 

Beaches are a main attraction in Connecticut and they are one of the favorite things to do in Groton, CT.

Eastern Point Beach, One Beach Pond Road; Esker Point Beach, 900 Groton Long Point Road; Main Street Dock & Beach, 112 Main Street.

5. Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park & Ebenezer Avery House

Groton’s Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park was the site of the Revolutionary War Battle of Groton Heights in 1781. British troops, led by Benedict Arnold, attacked Fort Griswold and killed 88 Fort defenders.

An additional 35 defenders were wounded, many of whom were sheltered at the Ebenezer Avery House, which became a makeshift hospital. 

Along with the Fort Griswold Battlefield and the Ebenezer Avery House, the park also has a 135-foot tall obelisk-style monument memorializing the battle, named the Groton Monument.

The Monument House Museum maintains a collection of artifacts from both the Fort Griswold battle and Groton’s history. 

The park grounds are open daily, from sunrise to sunset. The Monument House Museum and the Groton Monument are open Wednesday through Sunday, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. 

Park Avenue & Monument Street, (860) 424-3200. 

6. The Gungywamp

Groton’s Gungywamp archeological site contains a series of stone structures, some of which date to the Colonial period while others predate the Colonial period. 

The Gungywamp’s stone structures were used by the early Colonists as foundations, walls, barns, root cellars, and animal pens. Paleo and woodland stone implements and pottery shards were found on the site. 

Native American arrowheads and multiple Colonial artifacts were also found onsite. 

The Gungywamp site is located on both state and private land. No individuals should visit the site without permission from the private landowners.

The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic offers both regularly scheduled and private tours of the site. 

North Gungywamp Road, (860) 536-1216. 

7. Cruising Groton’s Lighthouses

Groton is home to two lighthouses, both built in the 20th century. The Avery Point Lighthouse and the New London Ledge Lighthouse are best seen by boat, as the lighthouses are closed to visitors.  

The New London Ledge Lighthouse, constructed in 1909, was built in French Second Empire Style and towed to its location on the Thames River at the mouth of New London Harbor.

The lighthouse is believed to be haunted by the ghost of an early lighthouse keeper named Ernie. 

The Avery Point Lighthouse is located at the entrance to the Thames River, at Avery Point.

The lighthouse, built in 1943, was the last lighthouse constructed in Connecticut. Originally part of the Coast Guard Training Center, the lighthouse is now used by the University of Connecticut as a physics laboratory and an air sampling station. 

The Cross Sound Ferry takes passengers on a cruise to see the New London Ledge Lighthouse, the Avery Point Lighthouse, and six additional shoreline lighthouses.

The summer cruises depart from New London’s Cross Sound Ferry Terminal. 

Connecticut has the most beautiful lighthouses. If you are looking for things to do in Groton, CT, lighthouses are a must-see.

2 Ferry Street, New London, (860) 443-5281

8. Bluff Point State Park

Bluff Point State Park, situated on a Groton peninsula, is the last sizable undeveloped land area on the Connecticut shoreline.

The majority of the 806-acre park, surrounded by the Poquonnock River, Fishers Island Sound, and Mumford Cove, constitutes a coastal nature preserve. 

Bluff Point State Park has several hiking and mountain biking trails. In autumn, visitors hit the trails to see the foliage.

One trail leads to a scenic lookout area at Bluff Point. Another trail connects Bluff Point State Park to nearby Haley Farm State Park.

There are saltwater and shellfishing areas at Poquonnock Cove and the Bluff Point beach, which is a barrier beach open for swimming.

A non-motorized boat launch site is located near the parking lot. Birdwatchers can spot over 200 different bird species.

Park visitors can watch small airplanes take off from and land at the nearby Groton-New London Airport. 

Connecticut registered vehicles are exempt from parking fees. Shellfishing requires a permit from the Town of Groton.

The park entrance is on Depot Road, past the railroad tracks. 

9. Avery-Copp House

The Avery-Copp House was built by merchant seaman Rufus Avery on the banks of the Thames River in 1830. In 1895, Avery’s grand-niece Betsey Avery Copp inherited the house.

The Copp family kept the house the way it was, preserving the house as a time capsule for how the family lived in Groton before Copp’s death in 1930. 

Today, the Avery-Copp House serves as a museum that provides a view of what life was like from the post-Revolutionary War era through World War II.

The grounds also include Victorian-era gazebos and a carriage house where the museum’s archives are kept.

The Avery-Copp House is open on weekends for first-floor tours from May through October.

The tours also take visitors behind the scenes to the kitchen and other rooms used by the household staff. 

154 Thames Street, (860) 445-1637.

10. Jabez Smith House

Groton’s largest original agricultural region was the area around the Poquonock Bridge.

The last surviving farmhouse in the area that dates from the 18th century is the Jabez Smith House, which sits on the site of one of Groton’s earliest settlements.

Built around 1783 by farmer and exporter, Jabez Smith’s father, Nathan, the Cape-style house is one and a half stories tall, with a gable roof and a central brick chimney.

The house has its original woodwork and plaster. The foundation of a 19th-century barn can be found on the property. 

The Smith family occupied the property until 1974. The town of Groton acquired the house and uses it today as a museum, displaying 18th and 19th-century antiques.

The house is open to visitors from April through November. 

259 North Road, (860) 445-6689. 

11. Kayaking & Paddleboarding Groton’s Waters 

Groton has several places for kayakers and paddleboarders of all levels to explore, with four launch areas located throughout town.

The launch areas are located at the Bayberry Lane State Boat Launch, Bluff Point State Park, Eastern Point Beach, and Esker Point Beach Park

Kayakers looking to explore Groton’s waters have two routes to choose from. One is to go from Bayberry Lane to Pine Island, then go northeast to Mumford Point and back.

The other is to go from Esker Point to Long Island Sound, then west along Long Point to Long Point Harbor and back. Kayakers interested in a longer journey can circumnavigate Fishers Island from Esker Point or take a round trip journey along Groton Long Point and around Pine Island. 

Paddleboarders can explore the Poquonnock River from Bluff Point to Long Island Sound and back. Another paddleboard option is to circumnavigate Pine Island from Bayberry Lane.

The most protected area for paddleboarders is Palmer Cove, accessible from Esker Point. 

Kayaks and paddleboards may be rented through Adventure Mystic, Blue Heaven Kayak & Paddle Board Rentals, and Lockwood Marinas in Mystic. 

There are things to do in Groton, CT for everyone!

Visitors to southeastern Connecticut and locals should for sure make plans to explore the top 11 things to do in Groton, CT. 

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