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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Connecticut

In the heart of New England, Connecticut embraces a different mode of life that is quieter and friendlier. In this state, it is difficult to find a stranger, and virtually everyone has a smile and a handshake at the ready. The New England appeal doesn’t end with its people, however; the landscape is one that still whispers of a connection to the earth and resounds with history. Historic markers, especially around the time of the Revolutionary War, are plentiful, drawing in history enthusiasts from all parts. Although the state is small in total area, its secret treasures take time to unlock. Begin your exploration of this multifaceted state with one of these scenic drives, and you’ll soon see what all the fuss about Connecticut is really about:

No. 10 – Colchester and Salmon River State Park

Colchester and Salmon River State Park Connecticut
Flickr user: Jay McAnally

Starting Location: Colchester, CT
Ending Location: Colchester, CT
Length: 17 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This winding route on country back roads may look short on paper, but – with stops – it can easily take up an entire day. Near the beginning of the drive, stop at Cato Corner Farm to sample homemade cheeses before setting off to explore Salmon River State Park, full of hiking trails and picnic areas. At the end of the day, don’t miss Priam Vineyards, which not only gives tours to the public but plays host to sweeping views of the area.

No. 9 – Connecticut River Loop

Connecticut River Loop
Flickr user: Daniel Hartwig

Starting Location: Essex, CT
Ending Location: Essex, CT
Length: 32 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This loop around a portion of the Connecticut River passes through the iconic New England towns of Essex and Old Lyme, with a myriad of historic buildings and specialty shops to peruse. Lyme is well known for its array of antique shops full of hidden treasures, and nature lovers will appreciate the trails and natural beauty of Gilette Castle State Park.

No. 8 – Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport Connecticut
Flickr user: J J

Starting Location: Mystic, CT
Ending Location: Mystic, CT
Length: 7 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Although this drive is short, it is full of spectacular views of the Mystic seaport. Stop along the way to watch to boats go by, or take a tasting tour at Stonington Vineyard or Saltwater Farm Vineyard. At Barn Island Wildlife Management Area, get your fill of native sea birds as you traverse the many hiking trails on site.

No. 7 – Countryside Loop

Countryside Loop Connecticut
Flickr user: Doug Kerr

Starting Location: Torrington, CT
Ending Location: Torrington, CT
Length: 51 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This loop through the northern central part of the state explores a rural countryside full of rolling hills and farmlands. History buffs will want to stop in Colebrook, which is known as an authentic post-Revolutionary War village that is rooted in a different time. In Norfolk, couples often seize the opportunity to meander around the Norfolk Green, which is particularly romantic.

No. 6 – Merritt Parkway

Merritt Parkway Connecticut
Flickr user: BEVNorton

Starting Location: Milford, CT
Ending Location: Greenwich, CT
Length: 41 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This drive along Route 15 doesn’t share the road with big trucks and bypasses most of the urban parts of the region of the state. Verdant woodlands dominate the scene, and drivers will pass an array of Art Deco bridges – each with its own unique flair. Railroad enthusiasts may want to stop approximately halfway in New Canaan to tour the Talmadge Hill Station and New Canaan Station, which are both part of the New Haven line.

No. 5 – South Litchfield Hills

Litchfield CT
Flickr user: bbcamericangirl

Starting Location: Litchfield, CT
Ending Location: New Milford, CT
Length: 19 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Explore the pastoral landscape along this leisurely route to find hidden treasures and capture a sense of nostalgia for days gone by. Saltbox farmhouses and winding stone walls are common sights, and it’s often difficult to discern one field from another the way they blend right into the landscape. Picnic or stroll beside Bantam Lake near the small town of Morris, which is the largest natural lake in the state.

No. 4 – Northeast Corner

Northeast Corner Connecticut
Flickr user: Jimmy Emerson

Starting Location: Winstead, CT
Ending Location: Canaan, CT
Length: 22 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Much of this rural route is through virtually untouched lands with an occasional small town to break up the scenery. Take a dip in the Housatonic River during the summer months, or see if any fish can be scared up with a rod and reel. The West Cornwall covered bridge is a favorite among photo hounds, and hikers may want to try a portion of the Appalachian Trail along the way.

No. 3 – Route 169

Route 169 Connecticut
Flickr user: 6SN7

Starting Location: Woodstock, CT
Ending Location: Canterbury, CT
Length: 18 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

A sense of serenity is nearly impossible to resist while driving this route through rolling hills, green expanses, and lush woodlands. Woodstock is full of quiet dairy farms and sprawling pastures, and stopping to view the pink Roseland Cottage, a prime example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, is a must. In Canterbury, explore the Prudence Crandall Museum, once a schoolhouse, to learn about the first academy opened for young black woman.

No. 2 – Litchfield Hills

Litchfield Hills Connecticut
Flickr user: FlickrUserName

Starting Location: Litchfield, CT
Ending Location: Kent, CT
Length: 53 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Although the roadside views are especially stunning with the changing of the leaves in the fall, this drive in the northwest portion of the state, an area known as Litchfield Hills, is pretty year-round. Browse specialty shops in Torrington’s historic downtown district or watch ballet dancers practice at the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts. Between Gaylordsville and Kent, stop to see Bull’s Bridge, a covered bridge crossing the Housatonic River.

No. 1 – Connecticut Coast Scenic Drive

Connecticut Coast Scenic Drive
Flickr user: slack12

Starting Location: Stonington, CT
Ending Location: Greenwich, CT
Length: 108 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This scenic drive snakes along Connecticut’s coastline and passes through numerous villages with a quaint and friendly air. With salt marshes, woodlands, and pristine beaches, photo opportunities abound and the outdoors beckons travelers this way to stop and explore the varied terrain. Stop in New Haven to view its historic buildings, peek at Yale University grounds, or climb to the top of Five Mile Point Lighthouse at Lighthouse Point Park.

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