When I travel, I will try to avoid traffic at any cost. I also love a quick trip. The best way to accomplish both is to hop aboard a ferry toward Mystic, Conn.
This bustling, historic seaside community is the perfect introduction to New England.
For me, in East Islip, the choice is clear — always take the Cross Sound Ferry.
I know my people in western Nassau will argue that it’s just as long to drive to Mystic, rather than take any ferry.
Point taken, but hear me out: Instead of sitting in traffic, you get an early start to your trip by relaxing on the 1.5-hour-long ferry with a drink (or two) in hand. And since the Orient Point ferry takes you to New London, you’ll only have to drive 10 minutes more to get to Mystic.
Just remember to purchase tickets ahead of time if you plan on driving on.
Where to stay
If you’re looking to be surrounded by New England charm, the downtown is where you want to be.
Some historic hotels don’t feel charming; they just feel, well, old
This place isn’t like that. While the accommodations do fit the setting and time it was built, it still feels fresh and welcoming with fireplaces and beautiful French doors. If you’re looking to get a real seafaring experience, book the Steamboat Dreams — a 35-foot Tiara yacht that’s docked alongside the riverfront hotel and available seasonally. Call the Steamboat Inn for availability.
I love when a hotel does nautical correctly. This luxury boutique in the heart of the downtown is in walking distance to most of the restaurants and shopping. This is my pick for families, as the Main Inn Junior Suite has an adorable little nook with bunk beds for kids. There’s also an on-site restaurant, The Shipwright’s Daughter. Important note, due to the history of the building, there are no elevators, so check to see where your room is located if you have limited mobility or a carriage.
Less than five minutes from the downtown is this surprisingly enjoyable and economical choice. This hotel is quite visually attractive, too. My absolute favorite detail is the open air atrium adjacent to the lobby, where guests can chill and order food and drinks from The Irons Restaurant and sip and nosh under strung Edison lights. Located across the street from the Mystic Aquarium and the Olde Mistick Village shops, this is another top choice for families or couples alike.
Where to eat
I hope you like oysters and surprises, as many restaurants in Mystic change their menus often to ensure freshness.
The food and drinks here are phenomenal. Since the menu is seasonal, I couldn’t tell you what to try, but you can likely always expect oysters that live up to the name. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, be sure to check out The Treehouse right next to the restaurant. Yes ,you are literally in a tree, it makes for a truly memorable and enchanting experience; and I am not just saying there because I celebrated my engagement here!
Voted the 2022 Connecticut Restaurant Associations best restaurant of the year. This restaurant is open for a breakfast buffet (daily), brunch, dinner and happy hour. So there is no reason why you can’t hit this place at least once!
Plot twist: I do not like oysters. Blasphemy! I know. But my friends are oyster snobs, so I do trust their judgment. The fried Oyster Po’ Boy was a clear winner. Not that you can ever get tired of seafood, but this restaurant’s fusion of traditional seafood with a South American touch is quite refreshing.
A new gem in Mystic! Italian food off Long Island has always been hit or miss for me. Via Emilia is a hit. The in-house handmade pasta makes all the difference, and my short rib pappardelle was perfect.
Where to drink
This sister restaurant to the Oyster Club is located in the historic Lathrop Marine Engine building with views of the Mystic River. This was definitely a more lively crowd and a younger scene than the other places I had been. I was most impressed by the bourbon selection. My drink of choice was the Flannel Fever, the rye with toasted almond bitters certainly gave me the ole’ “log cabin vibes” promised.
Continuing with the old-turned-new theme, Bank and Bridge found its home in an old bank in 2021. This “culinary-forward brew pub” also features a full scratch kitchen, which is lot more than the usual pretzel and chips I’m used to seeing at breweries. Actually, this brewery is a lot more than just beer, they have a full cocktail list as well. Fun fact, Bank and Bridge is veteran-owned and kid friendly.
I went back and forth on whether to put this contemporary Mystic mainstay (that moved roughly five years ago to a brand-new spot) in food or drink. For me, the ambiance made me feel like just kicking back at the bar and sipping wine with a pizzetta. If you’re looking for a good happy hour right in downtown Mystic, Bravo Bravo is the move.
What to do
Just as delightful and charming as the 1988 classic film. If you love the movie by the same name, you’ll also love the memorabilia dedicated to the movie (and others) that line the walls. The famous restaurant also has plans to open a rooftop deck in the summer of 2023. Oh and yes, the pizza is good too; take some back to the hotel for a late-night snack.
Just a few minutes from the downtown, you can tour this 19th century recreated seaport village year-round. Lined with actual historic trade shops and storefronts that were transported from all around New England, the village gives you a glimpse into the lives of a bustling 1800’s seafaring town.
This outdoor, Colonial-era style shopping center is home to dozens of small shops and eateries. From boutique clothing stores to candy stores and fudge shops, you can spend hours in Old Mistick Village. Be sure not to miss one of my favorites: Deviant Donuts!