Not much seemed to happen in these slumbering villages, only lightly brushed by the 21st century despite all the thrashing about in heavily touristed Mystic. That suited the residents just fine, explaining why most of them are not thrilled by the continual expansions of the nearby Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun gambling complexes.
It is difficult to imagine what those empire might do, eventually, to inland North Stonington, as peaceful a New England hamlet as can be found, with hardly any commercialization beyond a couple of inns. Sound-side Stonington, which marked its 350th anniversary in 1999, has a pronounced maritime flavor, sustained by the presence of the state's only remaining (albeit dwindling) fishing fleet. Its two lengthwise streets are lined with well-preserved Federal-style and Greek Revival homes.
What to See & Do
For an introduction, drive south to Cannon Square along Stonington's Water Street. Standing in the grassy main square are two cannons that were used to fight off an attack by British warships during the War of 1812. Opposite is a lovely old granite house and, on the corner, a neoclassical bank.
If you continue south to the end of Water Street, you reach Stonington Point, where there's a small town beach. The misty blue headland directly south across the sound is Montauk Point, the eastern extremity of New York's Long Island.
Here at the point is the Old Lighthouse Museum, 7 Water St. (tel. 860/535-1440; www.stoningtonhistory.org). The lighthouse was built of stone in 1823, moved to its current site 300 feet away in 1840, and active until 1889. Most of the museum exhibits relate to the maritime past of the area, with scrimshaw tusks and the export porcelain that constituted much of the 19th-century China trade. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 12. It's open May through October daily from 10am to 5pm.
About 4 miles north is one of the Nutmeg State's handful of earnest wineries, Stonington Vineyards, 523 Taugwonk Rd., Stonington (tel. 800/421-WINE or 860/535-1222; www.stoningtonvineyards.com), which has a tasting room in a barn beside its vineyard. There are usually five or six pressings to be sampled, with an aged-in-oak chardonnay leading the pack. Bring a picnic, buy a bottle, and take them to tables overlooking the vineyards or the brook than runs past. The winery is open year-round daily from 11am to 5pm, with a cellar tour at 2pm. From downtown Stonington, head north on Main Street until it merges into Taugwonk Road. The vineyard is about 2 1/2 miles after you've passed under I-95. From I-91, take exit 91 and drive north.
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.