Looking to “play tourist” in your own state? The maritime village of Niantic is the seaside center of East Lyme that’s waiting to be your day trip destination!
Before the long haul, be sure to grab breakfast to go from a local eatery like Olympos Diner, perfectly located on the way to Route 66 as you head East out of Meriden. It’s a bit of a drive to your destination, so the best move is to get your grub on before you hit the long stretch of highway towards the sea.
Once in Niantic, the main attraction of your trip will be The Book Barn. A multi-location business, The Book Barn is home to a wide selection of books, cats, and other oddities that bring loyal customers from far and wide. The three locations that make up The Book Barn are all within a mile of one another for optimum guest-visiting ease, and offer a unique experience with one common thread: gently used books.
Of the three, the most touristy spot is the Main Barn. With a rich history and hodge-podge aesthetic (including two friendly goats, large checker boards, and literary murals) the Main Barn is a welcoming destination for visitors of all ages.
After the literary stop, following the road down to the shore is the next move. Niantic offers nautical storefronts and eateries on Main Street that all run parallel to the shore. Driving down this busy strip with an ocean view (and occasional passing train) is bound to make any traveler feel right at home in this beachy oasis.
While all of the brilliant locally-owned businesses have something special to offer, my recommendation would be to pop inside Grace, tucked just off of the main stretch. The “seascape and good vibes”-inspired boutique has unique gifts for the special ladies in your life. Take them to Niantic, or take some Niantic to them.
If you're a nature-loving tourist, the mile-long paved boardwalk trail will be the place for you to drop anchor. Slipping through the hole-in-the-wall tunnel, located under the railroad tracks to reach “Hole-In-The-Wall Beach”, visitors are greeted by the gorgeous view of McCook Point and the aforementioned boardwalk. Sea, sand, grass, and concrete are your options for exploration, and all in one breathtaking spot.
After a day of fun in the sun, make sure to try some local flavor before your long ride home. The Black Sheep serves Irish comfort food, a rotating list of craft beers, a patio and live music, and is located right there on Main Street for a convenient final stop of the day.
As always, this adventure is one best enjoyed with great company. Pack your pod into the car, and get ready to explore one of the state’s best kept secrets!
Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she's not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School, she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@east_side_vibes_ on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach . Email Francesca at email@example.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!