The spirit and texture of the maritime life and history of New England are captured in many ports along its indented coast, but nowhere more precisely than beside the Mystic River estuary and its harbor. This was a dynamic whaling and shipbuilding center during the Colonial period and into the 20th century, but the discontinuation of the first industry and the decline of the second haven't adversely affected the community. No derelict barges or rotting piers degrade the views and waterways (or, at least, not many).
Mystic and West Mystic are stitched together by a drawbridge, the raising of which causes traffic stoppages, at a quarter past every hour, but rarely shortens tempers, except for those of visitors who don't leave their urban impatience behind. There are complaints by some that the town has been commercialized, but T-shirt shops and related tackiness is limited, and the more garish motels and attractions have been restricted to the periphery, especially up near exit 90 off I-95.
The town is home to one of New England's most singular attractions, the Mystic Seaport museum village. It is a re-created seaport of the mid-1800s, with dozens of buildings and watercraft of that romantic era of clipper ships and the China trade.
The Mystic & Shoreline Visitor Information Center (tel. 860/536-1641; www.mysticinfo.com) is in Building 1D of the Olde Mistick Village shopping center (tel. 860/536-4941; www.oldmysticvillage.com). To get there, take exit 90 from I-95 and go south on Route 27. Turn left almost immediately onto Coogan Boulevard, and the shopping center will be on your left.
What to See & Do
As in Groton, several operators offer sailing and fishing cruises. One of the most convenient is Voyager Cruises, 15 Holmes St. (tel. 860/536-0416; www.voyagermystic.com). It offers trips on the Argia, a replica of a 19th-century schooner that docks 100 feet south of the drawbridge in Mystic. Offered are 2 1/2-hour "half-day" sailing trips and sunset cruises. Fares are $38 for adults, $35 for seniors, and $28 for children under 18 (must be accompanied by an adult). The same operation also offers 2- to 5-day trips on its tall ship, Mystic. Another company, Windjammer Mystic Whaler, at City Pier (tel. 800/697-8420; www.mysticwhaler.com), offers similar outings on its tall ship, Mystic Whaler. Its evening cruise features a classic New England dinner with a 1 1/4-pound lobster for $80. The season runs from June through mid-October.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of ho-hum but adequate area motels that can soak up the traffic at all but peak periods, meaning weekends from late spring to early fall plus weekdays in July and August, when it is necessary to have reservations. The Mystic Country website, at www.mysticcountry.com, lists over 50 to choose from.
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.