If there is a month for walking on beach sand, nature's coastal cushion, it is August.
Usually a hot and humid month in Connecticut, to be sure, but that is part of the allure of beach walking. When the air is stifling and motionless inland, there often is a breeze where water meets land. Anyway, you get too hot walking the beach, you jump in the ocean.
It is for many of us, one of summer's great pleasures, the feel of soft sand on the arches, a kind of seasonal freedom from the usual.
The Connecticut coast of course is a very private coast, but, thankfully, we have the network of shoreline state parks with public beaches, some of them sizable, for great August walking.
Here are some parks to consider:
Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison. The most popular state park in the system, Hammo has 2 miles of unbroken beach. One option, park at Meigs Point in the eastern end of the park and walk to the western park terminus and back. You will have done some serious walking in sand. Or just walk part of the beach. I like that little ribbon of hard, wet sand between the water and the deep dry beach sand, but some people walk the dry beach sand until their calves scream. The entire beach is paralleled by a walking and cycling path on the other side of the coastal dunes, a nice alternative if long walks in sand are not your thing, but you still want salt air and views of the sea, though in places the views are obscured by the dunes.
Sherwood Island State Park, Westport. From the beginning of East Beach to the far end of West Beach it is almost exactly 1 mile. Jutting between the two beaches is Sherwood Point, where you will find a pavilion (closed this summer for renovations) and a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attack. The twin towers of the World Trade Center were visible from Sherwood Point. Pathways at the point connect the two beaches, allowing for a 2-mile round trip walk, most of it on sand.
Silver Sands State Park, Milford. The boardwalk in this park sustained heavy damage during the megastorm Sandy, but it has been rebuilt and visitors now have a choice of walking the beach or walking the boardwalk, or combining the two.
With everything back in order, park visitation this year is soaring. "People are utilizing the heck out of it," said Tom Tyler, head of the state parks division for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "People are there all the time. People from the community, and farther afield."
The beach at Silver Sands is about three-quarters of a mile long, including a neighboring town beach also open to state park visitors. Walk the beach, with views of Charles Island, where Captain Kidd may or may not have buried treasure centuries ago, and, where two streams come in, hop up on the boardwalk and go around them. Your choice: almost all beach walking, or the boardwalk. Also, at low tide you can walk the causeway to Charles Island.
Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme. The beach is about a half mile long, so you can make a one-mile beach walk here easily. But there also is a long woodland trail in the park if you want to combine a beach walk with a walk in the woods. If you are on the beach for an hour or two, count on one of the Amtrak long-distance trains roaring through —- close by — on the way to Washington or Boston. Some nice picnic spots here, and check out the pavilion built during the Great Depression.
Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford. The beach here is only one-quarter of a mile, but it is interesting, a mix of sand and rock, and far less crowded than other beaches. Walk the beach and continue on to the grassy grounds of the park that overlooks Goshen Point. Centerpiece of the park is the 42-room mansion called Eolia. Another great place for a picnic, with plenty of picnic tables.
Bluff Point State Park, Groton. This 800-acre coastal preserve is minimally developed and well worth a walk. From the parking area, it is 1.5 miles to tip of Bluff Point. A path leads to a crescent-shaped beach on the right, itself almost a mile long. To walk the entire beach and back to the parking lot is close to 5 miles, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing. Birding can be excellent at times.
Directions and detailed information on each park is available at ct.gov/deep.
Contact Steve Grant at firstname.lastname@example.org