East Haddam: An ExploreCTShoreline Top Town

Best known for Gillette Castle, East Haddam entertains with this landmark alone, but locals and outdoor enthusiasts adore East Haddam for its multi-generational miles of hiking, fresh and saltwater boating, 18-hole disc golf course and the town’s skate park for youth, trick-bikers and skateboarders young at heart.

But wait, Connecticut has castles? Indeed, and this one’s origin story is as fantastical as the architecture. Gillette Castle was conceived aboard a riverboat as eccentric actor William Gillette witnessed the beautiful hillside called Seven Sisters, and he sought to fortify his legacy within this stunning setting. Best known for his theater role as Sherlock Holmes, Gillettes’ castle has been described as medieval-gothic-meets American fairy tale; a tour reveals intricate craftsmanship as well as mirrored corridors intended for spying and even secret passageways! Pack a picnic and don’t forget to bring your curiosity.

More adventurous travelers won’t want to miss a walk in the woods amid glacial boulders and the 60-ft cascading Chapman Falls at Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Atop the geological features, this park’s breathtaking vistas won’t get you winded, they’re easily accessed and well marked. 

If a couple trails are just a warm-up, avid hikers will rejoice in 40 years of conservation efforts at work; East Haddam Land Trust stewards a dozen preserves that feature an abundance of hiking trails within its 700 acres of protected land.

As quintessential as its Main Street address, Goodspeed Musicals professional musical theatre and opera house is not only the birthplace of the original productions of Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah, and Annie, it’s the first regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards. Perennially producing world-class musical treasures, of Goodspeed’s 250 musicals to date, 70 have been world premieres and 21 productions went on to Broadway. 

Off the beaten path and with sporadic Open Studio days, East Haddam’s hidden arts asset, I-Park, International Artists in Residence Program is an open-air and a closed-studio laboratory for pursuits in music, visual arts, architecture, creative writing and landscape design. Approaching 20 years in East Haddam, 900 artists have come through this inspiring space. If you’re in town and it is not during one of I-Park’s Open Studios, consider voluntourism- – they also host volunteer days.

Animal lovers find their way to Ray of Light Farm & Sanctuary where they can encounter horses and donkeys; some have been fortunate to find their forever home here and others are awaiting adoption or therapy training as companion animals.

Ready to sit back and sip? Treat yourself to locally produced wine and indulgent apps or savor a romantic dinner at Fox Hopyard Golf Club’s restaurant On The Rocks. Perched atop this award winning golf course, the bites are as well formed as the links themselves. Fox Hopyard’s 530 acres of rolling hills, dense forests and open pastures speckled with ponds are private but visitors are welcomed.

Perfect Day

Start with an “acoustic breakfast” of music and eats at Higher Grounds or enjoy the quirky Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Cafe. Take a hike at Devil’s Hopyard or a Gillette Castle tour. Power up with lunch at the road-side Moodus BBQ and rent a canoe or kayak at Lakeside Dan’s on Moodus Reservoir. Catch dinner at On The Rocks or additional fine American dining at the Gelston House followed by sunset vistas along the Sound and before your nightcap, savor an amazing show at the Goodspeed Opera House!

Come Back Soon

Once getting a sense of this coastal community of 10,000, visitors often have a “next time” short-list that includes more outdoor pursuits and both I-Park and Goodspeed Musical’s events calendars. The temptation of springtime berries at local farm stands also beckon visitors to come for another season of adventures… but of course, an ice cream on the waterfront is always in season!

Top Selfie-Spots

Be sure to say cheese at Chapman Falls, East Haddam Swingbridge over the Connecticut River & Gillette Castle. Don’t forget to tag #ExploreCTShoreline & #CTCoastalCommunities!

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