If you’ve been itching for an eastern getaway that feels far from any urban chaos, the coast provides an especially attractive lure for the formerly landlocked. Nothing feels quite as boundless as the seaside, and while most of the Northeast has been hibernating, two favorite ports have not only spruced up their celebrated attractions, but they’ve quietly crafted new reasons to visit. A drive through Mystic, Connecticut, and Greenport, New York—both quick trips from either New York City or Boston—present easy itineraries for locals who want to get their travel feet wet again, while enjoying the charms of the land and sea.
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The iconic sight of Mystic’s tall masts embodies the essence of the town, which was settled as a shipbuilding port in the mid-seventeenth century. What many don’t know about the river port is that it also has a laid-back art community and an up-and-coming dining scene that goes way beyond the pizza joint made famous in the 1988 movie.
Check into the historic The Whaler’s Inn (rooms from $170) overlooking the Mystic River. Made up of 45 rooms in five buildings, each from a different era, the oldest dates back to 1818 and has been welcoming lodgers for over 200 years. Rooms in all the buildings maintain maritime charm, some with four poster beds, gas fireplaces, air-jet tubs, and river views. You may even spy the iconic Bascule Drawbridge, built in 1920, as it mesmerizingly lifts to let through boat traffic. The hotel completed renovation of all rooms in March 2021.
What to do in Mystic
You can see those masts up close at the Mystic Seaport Museum, by exploring historic ships such as the Charles W. Morgan, the U.S.’s oldest commercial ship, built in 1841. The museum also includes reproductions of the Mayflower II and the Amistad Schooner; an 1800s seaport village recreation; rotating exhibits; and the working shipyard where painstaking restoration takes place. If your “waterlust” is piqued, head downtown to set sail on the schooner Argia for day or sunset cruises (May 1 through October). Pro-move: pop into the brand-new boutique bottle shop Spencer & Lynn a few blocks from dock for a bottle of wine to bring on board. To see what’s under the sea, visit Mystic Aquarium. Certified by the American Humane Conservation Program, it’s known for its beluga whale rescue and rehabilitation program, as well as housing penguins, sea lions, sharks, and rays.
Browsers will enjoy lingering through Olde Mistick Village, filled with shops and eateries within Colonial-style barns and buildings. The charming grounds also hold a community green, a watermill, and some lovely landscaping. West Main Street in Downtown Mystic is also lined with worthy independent shops, proffering everything from books to Victorian-inspired clothing to sailor knot jewelry. But perhaps the best reason to stay on land in Mystic is to enjoy the notable Mystic Museum of Art, founded in 1913 by a colony of New England artists who were inspired by the landscapes of 19th century French painters. Its permanent collection showcases artists from the 19th to 21st centuries, and works from the neoclassical to impressionism to deconstructivism. Mystic’s artists continue to thrive today in local galleries such as Finer Line, Trade Winds, Studio Jeffrey P’an, and Betsy Barry Art.