If you’re looking for an untainted town with historical New England buildings, mom-and-pop shops, and some of the best lobster rolls in Connecticut, take a trip to Guilford, CT. It’s a hidden CT gem. Here are my top 8 things to do in Guilford, CT.
As a traveler, I’m always looking to go to far away lands and experience new and unfamiliar places and cultures. But I forget that you don’t need to go far from home to experience something new and special. On Mother’s Day, I decided to take my mom on a trip to Guilford, CT and Old Saybrook. Not knowing what to expect, I went in pretty blinded, thinking all we were going to do was eat some lobster rolls and walk around by the sea. Boy was I wrong. There were plenty of things to do in Guilford, CT and my mom and I instantly fell in love with the town and its charm. Here’s why you should make your next New England trip to Guilford, CT.
1. Guilford Lobster Pound
On the top of my list of things to do in Guilford, CT, was obviously lobster and food. The main reason we happened to stop by Guilford was to grab a to-go lobster roll from the Guilford Lobster Pound. The pound is located down by Guilford Harbor. My mom and I pulled up to the parking lot and watched as two women disappeared behind a light gray and white shingle shack with multicolored lobster buoys hanging off the side. We followed them behind the white picket fence that read “Open.”
Behind the lived-in establishment is a beautiful casual dock right on the water. In the summer it’s packed with picnic tables that overlook boats docking into the marina with the backdrop of Faulkner Island, Grass Island, and acres of protected Salt Marsh. A wooden sailboat wheel can be found at the farther end of the dock. It’s the perfect setting to enjoy a fresh, hot lobster roll on a sunny day or while watching the sunset with a beverage in hand–oh and extra perk, it’s BYOB.
The Guilford Lobster Pound’s owner Captain Bart Mansi has been lobstering in the Long Island Sound since the 1970s. He catches fresh fish every day so it’s made for you right on the spot. To satisfy our New England seafood craving, we ordered two small clam chowders and a 4 oz lobster roll. The wait time was about 20 minutes so we went for a walk around the Guilford marina.
I wandered around the back of Guilford Lobster Pound and found tall pilings of stacked lobster traps, colorful buoys, and a large tin lobster sign hung onto the shingles. Men were still working on the pounds and docks unloading things from their large fishing boat. I tiptoed around them making sure not to get in their way and made my way towards the Guilford marina.
Guilford Lobster Pound is cash only.
2. Guilford Marina
A walkway wraps around the marina and ends with a parking lot surrounded on all sides by marshes and water. Some vintage car collectors were meeting in the parking lot with their impeccable classic cars. Another group of people had brought pull out chairs and set up a spot next to the water to have a few drinks and enjoy a few snacks. A small stretch of walkway has a row of benches and picnic tables where you can enjoy a meal while overlooking the sound.
3. Pergola near Pa’s Place
20 minutes had passed and our food was ready to go. We brought it over to a newly opened pergola or pavilion located in front of Pa’s Place restaurant. The pergola has two lawn chairs at the end that overlook the marsh and waters. We started by slurping on our small yet delicious clam chowders. These weren’t your stereotypical New England clam chowders, actually these were the OG clam chowders. Every state makes clam chowder in a different way, but the original way is known as “Connecticut,” “Southern New England,” or “Rhode Island Chowder.” That’s what Guilford Lobster Pound had. No dairy, just the pure oily soup of the clam steeped in potatoes and pork. It’s much lighter than Northern New England’s creamy chowder. We finished off our meal by stuffing our faces with a hot toasted bun drenched in butter with chunks of fresh lobster.
What is Connecticut Chowder?
Did you know that dairy and clams were not included in chowder recipes until the mid-19th century? By not tampering the chowder with milk or dairy, the potato-thickened broth makes the taste of the clams more intense. The States of Rhode Island and Connecticut are the two that have preserved the original chowder tradition the best.
4. Guilford’s Town Green
After lunch we decided to take a stroll around Guilford’s main town. I guess this is my second top thing to do in Guilford, CT. At the center is the Town Green sandwiched between Whitfield Street and Park Street and Boston Street and Broad Street. Town Green is a beautifully manicured square park surrounded by old and colorful New England stores and houses. Guilford actually has the third largest collection of historical 17th, 18th, and 19th century homes in New England. Old school signs showcased stores, antique galleries, and antique markets such as the Guilford Coin Exchange.
But what makes Guilford so special is that you won’t find any big brand names surrounding the Town Green, it’s all local mom-and-pop shops. From the Village Chocolatier to Breakwater Books and The Marketplace, it’s all unique and inimitable. Boutique stores such as Flutterby may be small, but catch your eye with their fun and unique items in their window displays. They beckon you to go inside and search for more.
5. Greene Art Gallery
The Greene Art Gallery can’t be missed, literally. It’s a big red barn hiding behind Whitfield Street that sticks out like a (beautiful) sore thumb. The gallery includes a small outdoor garden with a cool art installation that looks like a bar and a wonderful outdoor restaurant that overlooks it all called Chapter One Food and Drink.
6. Blazing Fresh Donuts
Although this was not originally on my things to do in Guilford itinerary, Blazing Fresh Donuts HAD to be the highlight of our trip. The place had immediately caught our eye as soon as we drove into the Guilford Town Green. The custom-made-to-order doughnut shop is the best doughnut I have every had. Blazing Fresh Donuts is small yet busy, and at times has a line out the door. Walk in or pre-order, choose your frosting, choose your topping, and your drizzle. Can’t decide what to make? Their wall is lined with pictures of some of their best sellers for inspiration. We ordered a cinnamon sugar doughnut and their best selling doughnut, French Toast.
Before placing our order, the woman behind the counter let us know that they needed to make a fresh batch of dough and that we would need to wait an extra five minutes. Five minutes later a woman walked up from the kitchen with a mixing bowl with fresh dough and went back down to make more. The doughnut could not get any fresher than that…they then proceeded to fry it and batter it in front of our eyes before giving us two plastic containers to-go with our piping hot donuts. They were so hot the plastic was fogging up! Just how I like them. These are best eaten on the spot so we immediately sat at their table outside and took a healthy bite of the warm, sweet dough. There was nothing in the world like these doughnuts (especially their signature French Toast doughnut. It was like biting into a sugar-coated cloud. I wiped my sugar coated fingers on my napkin and swapped doughnuts with my mother. The cinnamon doughnut was equally as delicious–and it’s my favorite doughnut flavor.
Eat A Steamed Burger From Ted’s Restaurant, CT
7. Cilantro Specialty Foods
A taqueria truck was parked at the end of the Town Green. It was calling to me, but I was too full. Next time. What we did need though was something to wash down the deliciousness of Blazing Fresh Donuts. We walked on over to Cilantro Specialty Foods and got ourselves a hot tea to go. The place had an on-site coffee roaster proving that the coffee they serve is as fresh and authentic as it gets. They also serve some really good looking sandwiches and sweets worth trying if you have a couple of days in the area and some extra room in your stomach!
8. Indian Cove
We finished off our trip with a stop by Indian Cove. My picture might not say much, but I promise you it’s worth a trip down there, it was just very difficult to capture in photo. If you have bikes, I would spend an entire day biking around the Guilford town, through the marshes, by the Long Island Sound, and around Indian Cove. Alternatively, you could drive here. Indian Cove has a charming small beach and is surrounded by a private community, but has stunning views of the coast.
>> Next: Greenwich Avenue, CT: What to Expect and Find
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