Links to all Articles & Photos:
Exploring Romantic Mystic, Connecticut
Thomas R. & Deborah A. Fletcher
Mystic, Connecticut. America has a romantic love for the seafaring life. Mystic’s history is intertwined with seafaring. Founded in the 1650's on the banks of the Mystic River, the village became a shipbuilding center, wedding her destiny to the sea. Mystic takes its name from the Native American Algonquin word "missituk" which means "great tidal river." Mystic is a small town with a large seafaring heritage. Between 1784 and 1919 more than 600 vessels were constructed in shipyards on the Mystic River.
Perched on a hill bordering Pequotsepos Cove, overlooking Mystic Harbor and Long Island Sound, the Inn at Mystic offers some of the best views around. Comprised of five buildings on fifteen landscaped acres, the 67-room inn is well suited as a base for exploring the historic town. Mystic is suited to exploration by foot with many colorful shops and buildings along Main Street, including "Mystic, Pizza," made famous in the Julia Roberts’ movie of the same name.
Equally interesting is exploration by water–take out a canoe or grab the kayaks. Both are complimentary. Explore the harbor, paddle up the Mystic river and see the Mystic Seaport from the perspective of the water.
Dominating the property at the apex of the hill, Haley Mansion offers a commanding view. The Colonial Revival-style mansion was built in 1904 by Katherine Haley, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion’s second floor features five guest rooms, each with a private bath. Period furnishings, canopied bed, fireplace, and whirlpool bath complete the romantic setting. These rooms are for adult couples only.
The Gate House–a secluded, private hideaway overlooking the orchards is reserved for a single couple only. Built by Frederick Mosel, so his sister would have a refuge from the party atmosphere found at the mansion, the Gate House was the honeymoon site for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in 1945.
The East Wing with twelve guest rooms offers some of the same amenities as found in the mansion, including canopied bed, fireplace, and private balcony views. The Motor Inn has forty rooms each with a private bath, catering mostly to families. Inn amenities include an outdoor pool, tennis courts, outdoor 10-person heated whirlpool, two putting greens, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and complimentary membership privileges to the Mystic Community Center with its indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool, sauna, and fitness center.
Dinner at the Flood Tide Restaurant is reason enough for a trip to Mystic. Expansive harbor views and fine cuisine combine for a culinary experience of monumental proportions. Exquisite hardly describes the food. Exceptional doesn’t quite cover it either. Exceptionally exquisite comes closer. Soft strains of live piano drift through, softening the mood, adding to the relaxing atmosphere. An attentive wait staff sees that every need is met. Table-side preparations, ranging from a Caesar salad, to châteaubriand, to the flambéed bananas Flood Tide add to the sensory experience. A wide selection of wines from Australia, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and the US assure the most delightful of pairings. Open year-round, the Flood Tide offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Covering 17 acres on the banks of the Mystic River, Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea is the leading US maritime museum. The region’s shipbuilding and seafaring traditions are carried on at Mystic Seaport. The preservation shipyard employs 19th century shipbuilding techniques to preserve Mystic Seaport’s collection of wooden boats and ships as well as building sailing vessel recreations from times past. Here are tall ships, a 19th century seafaring village, exhibit galleries, a working shipyard, and the world’s largest maritime photographic collection. See the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whale ship in the world. Mystic Seaport offers insight into the area’s rich maritime history as no other attraction can. The museum is more than a tourist attraction. It is an educational center offering educational opportunities for people of all ages. One can learn to build a boat. Learn to sail aboard a 61' schooner or even earn a degree (both graduate and undergraduate programs are available). Take a course at the planetarium and learn to navigate by the stars. The Williams College-Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies program is a unique undergraduate semester offered by the museum. Students study mankind’s relationship to the sea aboard a fully rigged sailing ship. The John Gardner Boat Shop offers courses in boat-building, wood carving, black smithing and other trades. For the kids there’s the Children’s Museum where kids seven and up learn about the seafaring life. The Discovery Barn features interactive exhibits and hands-on activities that let kids get a feel for seafaring. Open year round, there are special events taking place throughout the year. Check the museum’s website for the latest schedule of events: www.mysticseaport.org.
For those with an interest in the sea, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration is not to be missed. Direct interaction with animals that live in and around the sea is available in the beluga and penguin contact programs. The penguin contact program takes visitors behind the scenes of the penguin exhibit. Participants then enter a classroom and sit in a circle on the floor as a penguin is brought in. The inquisitive penguin looks around, choosing a friendly face–or whatever it is that prompts a penguin’s choice–and approaches that person. The penguin in our group must have thought we were a friendly bunch as it approached each of us one by one. The 90-minute beluga contact program runs twice a day six days a week, with a maximum of six participants. Visitors gain more intimate knowledge of these undersea creatures as they interact with the aquarium’s three beluga whales. The aquarium offers an assortment of educational opportunities, both formal and informal.
Visit the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center to learn about the land-based inhabitants of the area. The three-hundred–acre preserve is just a short distance from I-95 and within walking distance from the inn. The center features eight miles of marked hiking trails on land owned by the Denison Family Association and the Avalonia Land Conservancy. There are indoor and outdoor exhibits that introduce visitors to the various creatures, from frogs and snakes, to owls and squirrels, that make southeastern Connecticut home. Learn about the woodland and wetland ecosystems found at the center. The "Night in the Meadow" exhibit, in diorama format, brings to life the hidden lives of nocturnal creatures that live in the meadow–a largely unseen and thus unknown life. The center is one of Connecticut’s top ten birding sites, with more than 170 species identified at the site.
If You Go: