Inn at Harbor Hill Marina ~
   Chosen a Top 10 US Inn

The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is honored to announce that we have been chosen as a Top Ten Inn in the U.S. by BedandBreakfast.com.

We are so proud to be recognized as one of the tops in the country providing the best travel experience in this category.

The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina is also a proud member of BedandBreakfast.com’s Diamond Collection, Select Registry and DINE (Distinctive Inns of New England). All the above are exclusive groups of professionally inspected and guest-reviewed luxury inn organizations offering the finest lodging accommodations found anywhere.

SR Logo        DINE Logo small-new

For those who may not be aware, BedandBreakfast.com is the most comprehensive global site for finding bed and breakfast properties around the world, with more than 11,000 properties worldwide representing nearly 75,000 rooms. To be recognized as a Top Ten B&B/inn in this vast collection of properties is a huge honor for all of us here at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina. “These award-winning inns, including the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, really showcase bed and breakfasts and inns that often become a destination to discover, and not just a place to stay,” says Matt Laessig, general manager of BedandBreakfast.com. “Travelers select bed and breakfasts because they enjoy staying in a one-of-a-kind place that offers not only character, special amenities and unmatched hospitality, but also enables them to discover new experiences.”

It’s a true honor to have been chosen for the Top 10 US B&Bs award, and we are thrilled that our hard work has set us apart on such a grand scale. This is the kind of recognition that brings guests to us from within New England, but literally throughout the entire country and abroad. This newest award and accolade also reinforces that who we are and what we do is recognized, valued and worthwhile, and want to thank the many guests who have visited with us over the years.  Our sincerest and heartfelt thanks to the folks at BedandBreakfast.com and all those who took the time to review their visit here at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina.

To read more about BedandBreakfast.com’s Top 10 Inn, click on “Top 10 Inns“:

 

Winter Escapes and Sleighrides

Yes, this year’s early Winter season has been a delight to many of us warm weather lovers with temperatures hovering in the 40’s and 50’s since Winter officially began back on December, 21st, but as we New Englander’s know, things change quickly and winter’s chill is just around the corner.

While we’re primarily known for our warmer weather getaways, don’t count us out as a winter getaway destination during the winter season. Chill and all, it’s still beautiful here in southern New England during the winter season and particularly by the seashore where you’ll see sights not seen at other times during the year. (Photo below is that looking up the Niantic River from our 3rd floor Balcony room #7  in the Main Inn)
01 Winter Niantic River Jan 2011

For instance, the ocean doesn’t freeze (LOL) so the beach and the waves and the gulls and all of the other shoreline accouterments never go away. There’s still beach combing/walking and some of the greatest things we’ve found while beach scavenging have been in the winter. Unusual driftwood and shells that are brought to our shores from faraway places during out to sea storms are aplenty. It’s just an entirely different experience to walk the boardwalk or feel the solitude of the docks with the boats safely tucked away in the marinas.

Additionally, we have warm rooms just waiting to envelop you as you sink into a steamy tub or cushy bed with a glass of wine, a good book or some wandering seasonal thoughts. Think back to a time long gone to days when the main form of transport was horse and carriage or sleigh as the season might warrant. Within a half hour drive from the inn we have wonderful Allegra Farms where your fantasy can become reality. Listen for … the clomping of heavy hooves as you’re squired around the farm in a beautiful winter carriage or snow permitting, a sleigh with all of the tinkling bells and comforts of furry warm lap robes as you are swooshed along the countryside in your grand historic splendor perhaps to stop for a wintry bonfire along your way. John Allegra is the owner and curator of the historic coach and sleigh museum on his farm and a wealth of knowledge on the subject. His historic transports have been used in many movies and for many more special occasions. John is the quintessential New England livery driver, guardian of historic time and his museum keeps those times and memories alive for all of us.

Horse Drawn Sleighride DINE

So, just because it is winter time don’t count us out for a winter destination getaway! The wineries remain open, the movie theaters begin showing some of the best films of the year and simple walks along the beach are just as beautiful as they are in the summer albeit with a lot less heat! And oh yea, when the last time you and your honey took a private horse-drawn sleigh ride together? So, think about coming for a winter visit. We are here and the possible adventures are only limited by your imagination!

Lantern Light Tours
   at Mystic Seaport

As we turn our calendars to November, we begin thinking about the upcoming holiday season. During our many years as innkeepers we are always amazed at just how many people getaway to celebrate special occasions during November and December. We often ask ourselves, just how do they/you do it with all the decorating, shopping, planning and hosting that goes on over a 6-7 week period. Just how are people able to getaway and enjoy themselves?

What so many of our guests find as a surprise, is just how many fun-filled things there are to do in our Mystic Country region during November and December. And one of our favorite things to do, and one of our best recommendations during the holiday season is the Lantern Light Tour at Mystic Seaport.

Lantern Light Tour1

The Lantern Light Tours transform Mystic Seaport into holiday splendor and you find yourself transported back in time. Actors in period costume greet and take you through the seaport while a seaside holiday story unravels. Each year the story is different and it’s always a lot of fun. This years story is set to portray Christmas Eve in 1876 and as the story unfolds you are brought through five scenes in exhibits around the Museums 19th-century maritime village. The original script has been written by acclaimed playwright Jacques Lamarre. Inspired by the traditional carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, the story is filled with seasonal hilarity as the citizens of Greenmanville attempt to deliver some unexpected Christmas gifts. Be prepared to walk through darkened streets with just a few kerosene lamps lighting the way while young and old alike will enjoy the seasonal delights that include a horse-drawn carriage ride, a spirited holiday dance, the beautiful glow of lanterns, and just perhaps, a visit with old St. Nick!

Small groups are escorted thru Mystic Seaport via Lantern Lights.

Small groups are escorted thru Mystic Seaport via Lantern Lights.

Each Lantern Light Tour is a 70-minute progressive performance that covers approximately half a mile of uneven terrain (including cobblestone, wood planking, grass, gravel, and stairs) and is performed in all weather conditions. Audience members walk or stand for the majority of the performance, so all are cautioned to wear appropriate footwear and dress for the seasonal weather conditions. To provide the best experience for the audience, each tour is limited to 16 people.
Lantern Light Tour 2

If you thought we were only a summertime getaway destination, think again. There is much to see and do here in Niantic and along the CT shoreline throughout the year. So, if you looking for a quick pre-holiday getaway to get into the holiday spirit or do some serious shopping or a place to celebrate an anniversary, birthday or special occasion during November or December, give us a call. As we like to say here at the inn, another season – another reason to come and visit.

CTs Quiet Corner ~
    the perfect autumn day trip

About an hour north of our inn, in the Northeastern corner of Connecticut, is what is known as the Quiet Corner. The Quiet Corner is much more rural and country-like than our inns southeastern CT waterfront location and is especially noted for its rural and rustic small towns, great antiquing, unique dining options, boutique shopping and vistas like no others. Getting there is just one of the highlights as we send our guests up Route 169, a 32-mile National Scenic Byway which runs north-and-south through the region.

Route 169, a 32-mile National Scenic Byway

Route 169, a 32-mile National Scenic Byway

The Quiet Corner has been written about as a great place to visit by numerous travel writers in several well know publications such as Yankee Magazine, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Connecticut Magazine, Worcester Living and more. While that part of our state is beautiful all year long, it is most popular during fall foliage season when blazing autumn colors draw leaf peepers from all over the world.

Why visit the Quiet Corner you ask? Well, we personally think it is as beautiful as any place one could visit during the autumn season, and one of the best places anywhere to view the beauty of autumns fall foliage. With its winding and stonewall flanked scenic roads, rolling hills, old faded red barns and farmhouses amid fields of corn and hay, well simply put, its the quintessential New England setting. Without a doubt, it is one of our most recommended Day Trips during the autumn foliage season (i.e., from late September thru October).

Beauty surrounds you

Beauty surrounds you heading to the Quiet Corner of CT.

As you head up to the northeast hills of Connecticut via Route 169, it becomes very clear why this corner of our state is called the Quiet Corner. Few visitors to Connecticut ever get to experience the old-fashioned ways of the state’s “Quiet Corner” where sparsely populated towns seem a world away from the rest of the state. The Quiet Corner has a reclusive allure: people who use to leave New York City for the Litchfield Hills; now seek the uninterrupted tranquility of the Quiet Corner.

As you begin your day trip passing through the town of Lisbon you cant help but notice weathered-clapboard homesteads around every bend. Continuing up Rt. 169 youll see tons of stone walls and never ending fields as you come into Canterbury. Here youll find the Prudence Crandall Museum that honors a courageous white woman named Prudence Crandall who was ahead of her time when she educated African American girls from 1833 to 1834 before a club-wielding mob brought an end to her school.

The  Prudence Crandall Museum

The Prudence Crandall Museum

Continuing your journey you will eventually come to Brooklyn, CT, which was settled in the 1600s and is known for their famous Brooklyn Fairgrounds, site of the oldest agricultural fair in the country. For a special treat, visit The Golden Lamb Buttery, a 1,000-acre estate just off Route 169. Enjoy a late-afternoon hayride or relax with a cocktail while sitting on their deck overlooking the lake, and their roaming and meandering stone walls. In our opinion, they are one of the most unique restaurants in the state, and if you can get a reservation, try their roast duckling, a house specialty thats so tender it falls off the bone. Even if you dont feel like visiting for lunch or dinner, do stop by just to see this gorgeous setting and take a few pictures; we guarantee you wont regret it.

The Golden Lamb Buttery Restaurant

The Golden Lamb Buttery Restaurant

As you travel on, a stunning path of giant trees cast long shadows as you pass faded red barns, orchards thick with apples and picked out cornfields, rolling hills, farm houses and ancient stone walls all set with breathtaking beauty as autumns colors surround you. Another place you may want to visit is the Vanilla Bean Caf, voted Connecticuts Best Country Caf by Yankee Magazine. The Vanilla Bean opened in 1989 with a seating capacity of 16, but today seats 90 inside and 40 outside! It is located in a restored, early 19th century barn in scenic town of Pomfret and features home-made soups, sandwiches and decadent desserts. This small country town is also home to Sharp Hill Winery and Celebrations Gift Shoppe and Tea Room ~ both worth more than a casual stop!

Celebrations Gift Shoppe, Gallery and Tea Room

Celebrations Gift Shoppe, Gallery and Tea Room

As your day trip continues through the country side you will enter the antiquing capital of Connecticut, and maybe all of New England ~ historic Putnam, CT. Putnam is home to the largest antiques market in the state, the Antiques Marketplace. While perusing their 350 showcases and booths, 22,000 square feet on four levels, you will most certainly find a treasure that you must have for your own! Finally, if at this point youre feeling a bit fatigued from your travels this is the place to take a stop to refuel. Try the 85 Main Bistro, The Crossings Restaurant & Brew Pub, Bellas Italian Bistro or The Courthouse Bar & Grille where you will find some wonderful food in this small town location.

The Crossings Brew Pub

The Crossings Restaurant & Brew Pub

Finally and sadly, were onto our last little town on this autumn adventure. Woodstock is just twenty-six miles from the start of your trip and is host to a historic huge annual country fair every Labor Day weekend. Stop and visit Taylor Brook Winery for a relaxing glass of wine and continue through this little town to historic Roseland Cottage, a beautiful raspberry colored Gothic Revival house built by a local boy who struck it rich. He and his family returned to the cottage every summer and their original furnishings are still on display here.

As we end, we hope the above adventure is something you get to experience one day, and hopefully during one of the most beautiful times of the year ~ Autumn in New England!

A Visit and Day Trip
   to Block Island

If you have every stayed at our inn, you know that we are big fans of sending our guests to places throughout the region via our “custom itineraries”. Our custom itineraries provide our guests a brief summary of the place of interest and our personal recommendations on how to get there as well as what to see or do once you are there. Well, one of the places we love to recommend for a summer day trip is Block Island.

Welcome to Block Island

Welcome to Block Island

Why visit Block Island? Well, just like our inn and our village of Niantic, we like the laid back atmosphere and casual mode of life on Block. Block Island is probably unlike anywhere you have ever visited with ferry boats that bring you into Old Harbor where most of the shopping, restaurants and beaches are located. We personally take the relaxing trip each summer to just browse the shops, people watch, have lunch and maybe, just maybe, have an early afternoon libation.

One interesting note about Block Island; you will not come across a single traffic light or a big chain business, but you will be blown away by the natural landscape with stone wall-lined rolling hills, breathtaking bluffs, and pristine beaches. To us, its a place that time seems to have forgotten.

Many of our guests and people who visit Block Island will rent a moped or bicycle to tour some of the island lighthouses, bluffs and beaches. A couple of must-sees, at least in our opinion, are the Southeast Lighthouse and the Mohegan Bluffs.

Scenic view of the cliffside Southeast Lighthouse. Block Island, Rhode Island.

The Southeast Lighthouse

Block Island Bluffs1

Block Island Bluffs

Walk down the Bluff steps to the Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, what do we recommend when you get hungry and/or thirsty? Well, Daves most favorite place for lunch is the Mohegan Caf & Brewery or the National Hotel which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Both are located right on Water St. and a short 5 minute walk from the ferry boats. The Mohegan Caf offers a nice variety of craft and bottled beers, a very good Pan Blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich, burgers, fish & chips, salads, sandwiches and tex-mex favorites.

5 Mohegan Cafe

One of our favorites ~The Mohegan Cafe

The National Hotel also offers pretty good food and breathtaking views with tables on their big shaded porch overlooking scenic Old Harbor. Its no wonder why this place is so popular with visitors. We also like Aldos for a cup of coffee and pastry if we arrive early in the day or we stop in for a mid-afternoon cup of Gelato.

What many people don’t realize is just how easy it is to get to Block Island from our inn. Only 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast, we personally like taking the ferry out of Point Judith, Rhode Island which is an hour drive from our inn. The reason we like taking the 55 minute ferry ride from Point Judith, is the quintessential look and feel of the classic New England commercial fishing community that also resides in Point Judith.

3 Block Island Ferry Sign

4 BI Ferry Boat

We also like that you can sit outside on the Pt. Judith ferry boats and catch the beautiful Rhode Island and Connecticut coastlines as you cruise to Block Island. For those who dont want to take an hour drive to get to Point Judith, you can take a high-speed ferry from New London, Connecticut which is just 15 minutes from our inn. The Block Island Express gets you to Old Harbor in just over an hour on a high-speed catamaran which runs from May thru September.

20 BI High Speed Ferry1

The Hi-Speed Ferry from New London

You can relax, renew and refresh at our inn and head out to where we go to do the same – on Block Island. And oh yea, September is one of the best months to visit Block Island. Be sure to ask us about Block Island and other great day trips when visiting with us.

 

Lobster (and more) in the Rough
   at Ford’s Lobster

If youve ever been to the southeastern coastline of Connecticut, you may have heard of Abbots Lobster. And why shouldnt you have. They are a CT lobster-inthe-rough rock star and have been in business since 1947.

HOWEVER just before Abbots and a short 20 minute drive from our inn is Fords Lobster & Harings Marina also in the village of Noank. Fords Lobster in Noank, CTWe feel its a bit more authentic and offers that quintessential New England seaside dining-out experience that so many of our guests seek.
This gem of a lobster shack is what many of our guests rave about when looking for a Lobster Roll or dinner at a place with great views. The tables literally sit outside on the docks, all food is prepared outside, the sights and sounds of the marina and shipyard with all of the sea views and salty smells – making this dining experience like few others in the area.

They serve only the freshest ingredients available and have something for everyone on their menu, lobster, risotto, seafood dishes including – halibut, cod, scallops, steamed lobster dinner and hot or cold lobster rolls oh did we say LOBSTER rolls well how about the Fords lobster bomb it can be served hot or cold, but if you get it hot you can convert it to the lobster bisque bomb which is a massive amount of lobster meat topped in thick and delicious lobster bisque. OH Yum! Specials change daily and include soups, salads, mussels, clams and as we noted above a variety of seafood entrees as well as some chicken, steak and pasta offerings. As a matter of fact, Dave recently ordered a New York Strip Steak dinner special that was finished in a Portobello Mushroom and Marsala Wine sauce and felt it was as good steak a steak as anyones in the area.Fords Lobster Steak

ALSO, liked by many of our guests, is that Fords allows BYOB which is a rarity here in CT. For BYOB, Fords provides glasses and wine openers so plan ahead. Fords is open year round and in the winter months dining and prep moves inside in their cozy indoor dining space!

This delightfully small place with awesome sunsets and views has a simple seaside setting and a very casual dress code. But bring a jacket at night because it can get chilly sitting right by the water. If you are visiting with us, be sure to ask us about Fords Lobster.

Below are some photos of Fords Lobster’s outdoor dining area and more.

 

Fords Lobster Dining2

Outside Dining area (approx. 12 tables)

 

Fords Lobster Dining3

 

Fords Lobster Dining4

Fords Lobster in the Rough

 

Fords Waiting Area below:

Fords Lobster Waiting Area

Fords Waiting Area (for before and after dinner) Recommendation; bring a cooler & 2 bottles of wine :-)

Fords (16)

Sitting, waiting for your name to be called and sipping some wine.

Fords (12)

Not on the menu…. ;-)

 

 

 

 

Mystic, Connecticut ~
  The Town that Isn’t

Located just 20 minutes north of our inn is the historic settlement called “Mystic” (circa 1654) actually located within the towns of Groton, CT.and Stonington, CT.,and bordering both the east and west sides of the Mystic River. Hence, though Mystic, Connecticut is not a legally recognized municipality it is the most visited settlement, town, municipality or destination within the entire state of Connecticut.

Mystic Sign

Identified in the New York Times #1 Bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (A Travelers Life List by Patricia Schultz), Mystic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of New England. Mystic offers visitors many things to see and do, and features two of the regions most popular tourist attractions, Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium. However, Mystic offers so much to see and do that its a popular place to visit and re-visit many times during any time of the year. You might find our Taste of Mystic Getaway Package of interest just follow the link!

Anyway, for those of you who have never visited Mystic just sit back and picture this those of you that have think of the chance for new memories (maybe without the kids?).

Theres sparkling water bordering most everything in town. Listen to the sounds of the gulls and sea birds flying overhead. Imagine a sea of boats, including sailboats and historic Tall Ships and schooners like the Argia all in your view. Walk through the unique shops of Olde Mistick Village and boutiques offering treasures to be snatched up and taken home for your enjoyment or to be shared with others. Smell the wonderful smells of the sea combined with some of the best cooked lobsters and local sea scallops or look for the best place in town to enjoy a nostalgic piece of Mystic Pizza or maybe just a big sloppy ice cream cone. Plan to come for the Chowder Days or the Lobster Days or the Mystic Arts Festival or the Mystic Blues Festival. As you might sense, there’s a little something for everyone, anytime of the year!!!

A View of Mystic Seaport from across the Mystic River.

A View of Mystic Seaport from across the Mystic River.

At any given time you might also visit beluga wales, penguins, sea lions and everything aquatic that you can think of at the beautiful Mystic Aquarium. Regular and unusual new exhibits give a new excitement to the aquarium every time you visit.
Also right down the street youll find friendly folks that showcase times long past and entertain you as you enter into the history of America at Mystic Seaport, considered to be one of the jewels of Mystic Country and is home to a world renowned maritime museum. People dressed as they did in the 1600s all working in their shops in the village, building their sea vessels and taking their day to day routines all in stride. The Mystic Seaport hosts interesting and unusual capsules in time to include historic special sailings of beautiful Tall Ships like the recently launched Charles W. Morgan and Holiday Lantern Light Tours through the Seaport.

Mystic Aquarium Belugas

Beluga Whales at Mystic Aquarium

Yes, as you might imagine, it does get busy and crowded in Mystic, but we think Mystic is also scenic, historic and quite possibly the absolute quintessential historic New England seaport town to sea. One thing is for sure; whether you want to eat, shop, stroll or just observe, Mystic isone town (or not) to do that inany time of the year!

The Back Porch ~
  one of our favorite
  summertime restaurants

Back Porch Front Sign blog

For those of you who have visited with us, you know we LOVE to eat out and try our best to recommend the best local restaurants based on what our guests are looking for. That said, were often asked, whats our favorite restaurant. The simple and honest answer is we really dont have a favorite restaurant. Actually, we like many restaurants in the area, and usually dine out based on the type of food, atmosphere and setting were looking for. So, being that its summer and all, we thought we would write about one of our favorite summertime restaurants ~ The Back Porch in Old Saybrook, CT.

The Back Porch is a short 20 minute drive from our inn and isnt fancy by any means, but usually has a lively crowd and great views overlooking the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. Nice beer and wine options with half-price Happy Hour on Monday thru Saturday nights from 4:00 till 6:00, and good food at a fair price makes this place one of our regular dine out spots. As noted earlier, we like this place for its setting, and like its name is literally a big covered porch that overlooks the water and several marinas. However, they also have a large/nice indoor dining room as well.

Back Porch Dining room blog

The Back Porch Dining room with the “Back Porch” in the background.

We are big fans of their Salmon, either over an entre salad or as a dinner entre. Dave personally likes the Blackened Salmon and feels it might be one of the best pieces of Blackened Salmon in the entire area. And the Salmon dinner entre is served with Lobster Mashed Potatoes. Thats right, LOBSTER MASHED POTATOES!!!

Anyway, The Back Porch features a variety of starters, homemade soups, salads, seafood, steaks, sandwiches and more. Some of our Back Porch favorites include Lobster rolls, Fried Clams, lb. Black Angus burgers, and the Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich. The Back Porch is a must try if youre in the area, and live bands usually play from Wednesdays thru Sundays.

Back Porch Salmon blog

Blackened Salmon over Lobster Mashed Potatoes

Back Porch Band1 blog

Live entertainment Wed. thru Sun.

Back Porch Band2 blog

The Back Porch is a must try if you’re in the area, and worth the trip if you’re not.

 

Niantic, CT. ~ Connecticuts
    Fan Favorite Town

Niantic Sign3
Welcome to the Village of Niantic

Located along the shores of Long Island Sound sits the quaint seaside village of Niantic, CT. Our small town has made a big impact with residents and tourists alike recently, and thanks to them Niantic was voted Connecticuts Fan-Favorite Town in 2013 in a contest spearheaded by the states Department of Tourism.

What makes Niantic so special, you ask? Well, many things, but lets start with location, location, location. If you were to drive two hours north youd end up in Boston. Head two hours south and youd be entering New York City. Our seaside escape lies halfway between these two major cities. And if you’rea local, you know that Niantic is within 20-30 minutes of almost every attraction in southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island. For a quick insight into Niantic, check out the video the State of CT. created about Niantic here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKmEWbw_Vfc)

CT Fan Favorite

Niantic ~ Connecticut’s Fan Favorite Town of 2013!!!

Its all well and good that being based in Niantic one could cover a lot of ground, but we feel that you really dont have to. Niantic has a lot going on throughout the year. Our towns Events Calendar (http://www.discovereastlyme.com/calendar.php) is filled with events from our annual Winter Light Parade (the oldest and largest in all of New England) to our annual summer bash-on-the-bay festival called Celebrate East Lyme, and tons of things in between. Our Farmers Market draws huge crowds from June to October and in the winter Holiday season you can see our Main Street light up and transform into a classic New England Village.

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Hole-in-the-Wall Beach overlooking McCook’s Park

While we enjoy our annual events, we in Niantic also love the laid back beach lifestyle, which is good because our town features three town beaches AND Rocky Neck State Park. Its not uncommon to spend an entire summer day soaking up the suns rays and swimming in the calm waters of the Long Island Sound. Niantic is also a mecca for boaters and fisherman alike and boast numerous marinas as well as charter fishing boats. And, as a side note, after spending the day at the beach or out on the water be sure to stick around to witness some of the most amazing sunsets right from the lawns of our inn.

Sunrise Oct 2013 sm

The beach may take up a lot of our time in the summer, but we always find time to visit our handful of local restaurants and shops, most of which are open year-round. In future BLOG posts we will be highlighting some of our favorite local places and events just to provide a more detailed look at what our town has to offer. We love Niantic and hope youll have a visit and see for yourself why we are one of Connecticuts best kept secrets.