New London's protected deep-draft harbor at the mouth of the Thames River was responsible for its long and influential history as a whaling port. Possessed of an architecturally interesting but largely somnolent downtown district, the city is of note to travelers primarily because it's a transit point for ferry lines connecting the mainland with Block Island, Rhode Island; Long Island, New York; and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Connecticut College (www.conncoll.edu) has a large campus at the northern edge of the city, along Route 32 and Williams Street. At the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (www.cga.edu), north of exit 82A off I-95, a full-rigged sailing vessel, the Eagle, is the academy's principal attraction. Used for training current cadets -- it's the only such vessel actively commissioned in the U.S. -- it is out on tour much of the year, usually from mid-April to mid-September. The Eagle was built in Germany in 1936 to train that country's naval cadets and was taken as a war prize after World War II.
New London was more recently in the news as the focus of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that allowed the city to exercise eminent domain to raze residential homes for a redevelopment plan. What made the decision controversial was that it allowed the government to claim a "public use" need for a project headed up by private developers; the court decided that a project that creates new jobs, increases tax revenues, and revitalizes a depressed area qualifies as public use.
Getting Outside -- Not far from downtown is Ocean Beach Park, at the south end of Ocean Avenue (tel. 800/510-7263 or 860/447-3031; www.ocean-beach-park.com), an expansive recreational facility with a broad sand beach, boardwalk, 50m saltwater pool, carousel and other amusement rids, miniature golf, water slide, bathhouse with lockers and showers, concession stands, and lounge. Parking is $16, which includes park admission for everyone in the car.
From late May to mid-October, Block Island Express (tel. 860/444-4624; www.longislandferry.com/bif/home.htm) operates its high-speed catamaran daily between New London and the Old Harbor on Block Island. The passage takes a little over an hour. Round-trip rates are $37 for adults, $18 for children. Passengers and bicycles only. Reservations are essential.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.