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Going Ashore in Branford, CT

When cruising the Connecticut coast consider a two-night stop in the town of Branford. This old New England town was settled in 1644 and has a population of about 28,000 people. It is located just east of New Haven and west of Guilford.
Cruising here is easy but you need to pay attention as you get close to the shoreline. If you are coming from the east, stay south of the Thimble Islands (more on that later). From the west and south, aim for the middle of the Branford River opening. Slow down and check your chart plotter for buoys and their adjacent reefs and rocks. Once at Branford Point go to no wake speed and stay closer to the left side. Look to your right for a mansion built to look like a medieval castle.
We docked two nights at Safe Harbor Bruce and Johnsons which is past their gas dock and straight up on the east bank. This is a nice marina with an attentive staff that met our boat promptly to ease us in. We were greeted with a welcome bag and information about the area. Safe Harbor has a nice pool, gas grills, and a gazebo. They also have long docks to stroll and look at other boats.
The marina is in a good location. It is a 30-minute walk to the center of town on Main Street where you will find shops, restaurants, and the town green. There are also two good restaurants a six-minute walk south. The Stony Creek Brewery is a 20 walk or a 5-minute dinghy ride away.

Things to Do
Nearly everything to see and shop is on Main Street. Main Street is about a mile long and has the Town Green on it.

Harrison House Museum, Barn and Gardens
This home was built in 1724 by Nathaniel Harrison. It is called a “two over two house” also known as a Salt Box. Starting in 1938 it went through a detailed renovation bringing the house close to its original specifications. The house is now owned by the Branford Historical Society. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is typical of what a house in this region looked like for its time.
Inside the house, you will see old wooden walls, oak corner posts, and exposed joists. There is also a very large fireplace in the center of the building. The kitchen is a period reproduction having an open-hearth cooking area.
Many of the rooms here are decorated as you would have seen those 300 years ago. This includes a four-poster rope bed and mechanism to tighten the ropes to hold the mattress, (some say this is where the term “sleep tight” comes from), chests, desks, warming pans, and foot stoves. There are rooms with spinning machines and yarn as well as a dining room set up with pewter dishes.
One room in the Harrison House is set up as a town museum. There are different artifacts showing its nautical, military, and industrial history. Residents are encouraged to lend or donate items that are relevant to Branford.
The property consists of 1.5 acres. On it, you will find an old barn and a small garden. Regular hours for the museum are Saturday 1 PM to 4 PM. The historical society is only too happy to open it on request with a little advance notice. Contacting them can also help point you to one of the six historic districts in town in case you want to view some of the old homes here.

James Blackstone Memorial Library
Branford has one of the most impressive libraries for a small town. It is a place you should stop by and take a look both on the outside and especially on the inside. It was built in 1896 for $300,000. Replacing it today would be in the tens of millions of dollars.
The entrance to the library has four large iconic columns copied in the style of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in Athens. There are marble doorways and large bronze doors. It is constructed of pink and gray marble from Tennessee.
On the inside, there is a large dome structure to be seen. Painted on the lower part of the dome are murals of famous American literalists. Closer to the top are eight large murals depicting the history of printing and books in colorful detail. It starts with ancient Egypt and continues with the invention of book-making machines.

Branford Arts and Cultural Alliance
The “BACA” Gallery is a non-profit organization on Main Street where local artists can present their work. Here you will find photography, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and other mediums nicely displayed by artists. Their events page on their websites features sidewalk sales, workshops, and musical performances.

Main Street
On Main Street, you will find boutiques for ladies’ clothes, a gift and pottery shop, places for coffee, restaurants, and Ashley’s Ice Cream that I recommend. Main Street also has the Town Green. Here you will find summer live music. For information on events in Branford and the Town Green click.
For information on their annual festival go to

Sea Mist Thimble Island Cruise
The Thimble Islands consist of about two dozen small and pretty islands discovered by Adrien Block in 1614. They are located off Stony Creek, just east of Branford.
It was a known place for the pirate Captain Kidd. Over the centuries it was used for farming, quarrying granite, and bootlegging. The base of the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial, and Brooklyn Bridge came from here. The Thimble Islands are now home to pretty homes where people spend their quiet time at the edge of the Long Island Sound. Outer Island is a park that you can visit via ferry or dinghy.
To get the most out of a visit here I recommend letting Captain Mike of the Sea Mist take the wheel for his 45-minute tour. There are two reasons I would not want to take my boat through this area. The first one is not knowing the waters here. Captain Mike during our tour brought his 44-foot boat tightly between islands knowing exactly where the rocks are. This got us close to seeing the different homes and mansions. The other reason to go with
Sea Mist is where tours are narrated. We were told about several of the islands, that lived there and the history of this unique coastal section of Connecticut.
To get to Stony Creek where the Sea Mist departs hourly you have three options. One is taking any onboard bicycles six miles. Another way would be to rideshare for about $15 each way. A third way would be to take your boat and anchor off Stony Creek and take the dinghy in.

Stony Creek Brewery
The Stony Creek Brewery is located in a 30,000-square-foot building at the end of the navigable part of Branford River a few blocks south of Main Street. Once passed the doors you will see the production area with its huge fermentation tanks. Past there is a large bar with up to a dozen styles of handcrafted brews and a few pre-made craft cocktails. The bartenders here are attentive and friendly.
Behind the bar outside is a large patio area to enjoy the river views. There are games to play and a place to bring your dog. Take a picnic and the dinghy to get here if you have one.

During our two nights here we walked to two restaurants on South Montowese. These were a 15-minute walk south of the marina.
Lenny’s Indian Head Inn is a local and popular favorite. They specialize in seafood. If something lives in a shell or has gills, you can order it here fresh. They also have a few landlubber entrees. We enjoyed the chowders, Lenny’s Famous Seafood Casserole, whole belly fried clams, the classic lobster roll as well as the slow-roasted baby back BBQ ribs. They don’t accept reservations so call ahead to see how long a wait will be.
Guacamole’s Mexican Cuisine Branford cured our fix for good Mexican food. They are located across the street from Lenny’s. Unless you are really hungry, I recommend two people share an app or two and then share the main course.

Of Branford
Good things are coming to Branford in the future.
We met First Selectman (similar to a mayor), Jamie Cosgrove, and asked about his town and boating here. He said “The Branford River is a wonderful destination for the boating community, with several marinas offering transient dockage. Along the river, there are several amenities including public parks, restaurants, and a brewery. The town is looking to construct a boardwalk along a section of the river and a dinghy dock to provide boaters greater connectivity to Branford’s vibrant town center. “
When staying in Branford, consider spending the day in New Haven. There you can walk the grounds of Yale University and visit a few of their world-class museums.
If you cruising west, Guilford nearby makes a nice one-day, two-night stop. For the story LI Boating World story on Guilford, email
U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Captain and Master Tab Hauser writes and photographs about travel and boating worldwide. He currently runs www.GlenCoveCruises.Com and charters out of Glen Cove.