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The Coast is clear

Sleepy but scenic seaside town is minutes from Mystic's bustle

A 125-year-old anchor on the grounds of Abbott's Lobster in the Rough restaurant.
A 125-year-old anchor on the grounds of Abbott's Lobster in the Rough restaurant. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / October 8, 2008
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NOANK, CONN.
DISTANCE FROM BOSTON: 108 miles
POPULATION: 1,830
WEBSITE: mysticcountry.com
ODD FACT: Amelia Earhart married George Palmer Putnam at his mother's house here in 1931.

As the crow flies, Noank lies just a few miles across the harbor from Mystic, but the two villages are vastly different. Both belong to the town of Groton but Mystic bustles with tourists and shops and carefully re-created history, while Noank is sleepy and secluded. Noank, however, is far from ordinary. The village was built along a dazzling stretch between Fishers Island Sound and the mouth of the Mystic River. Pequot Indians lived here until the early 1700s, and the name of the village, which sits on a peninsula, came from their word for "neck." Fishing and seafaring have long ruled this area. The village once was home to one of the largest shipyards for building and repairing wooden vessels on the Atlantic coast. Today, the water is still filled with boats, and the tourists who come here usually show up to eat lobster. In perhaps Noank's most famous moment, when Amelia Earhart married George Palmer Putnam in 1931, The New York Times summed up the town this way: "Noank is a quaint little village, celebrated in Summer time chiefly for the excellence of the lobsters. . . . In Winter Noank dozes."

Do
The Noank Historical Society (17 Sylvan St., 860-536-3021) may be the most architecturally interesting building in town. The small museum, built with round stones, showcases both historical exhibits and art by local artists. The society also runs the Latham Chester Store Museum (108 Main St., 860-536-3021), which exhibits local art. The museum is open in the summer and other times by appointment. The Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton (Park Avenue, www.ct.gov/dEP/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&;q=325198&depNav_GID=1650) is where Benedict Arnold led British troops to capture the fort in 1781, killing 88 American soldiers. The park includes a Revolutionary War museum and the restored Ebenezer Avery House, where the wounded were taken during the battle.

Rest
There is no place to stay in Noank, but the Mystic area is packed with hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfasts. In Mystic proper, the Steamboat Inn (73 Steamboat Wharf, 860-536-8300, www.steamboatinnmystic.com, $125-$300) is one of the nicest, with views of the Mystic River. At the Inn At Mystic (3 Williams Ave., 860-536-9604, www.inn atmystic.com, $75-$295) , guests can stay in the cottage where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall honeymooned. The area has plenty of chain hotels, including Residence Inn Mystic (Whitehall Ave., 860-536-5150, www.residenceinn.com, $129-$389), and in Groton the Best Western Olympic Inn (360 Route 12, 860-445-8000, www.best westernconnecticut.com, doubles $98-$188), Days Inn & Suites (135 Gold Star Highway, 860-448-3000, www.daysinn .com, $69-$119), and Ramada Groton (156 Kings Highway, 860-446-0660, www.ramada .com, doubles $79-$159).

Party
In warm weather months, Costello's Clam Shack (see Fuel) has music on Wednesday nights (weather permitting). Carson's (see Fuel) also has music from local performers - and ice cream sundaes - on the front porch on summer Friday nights starting at 7. Create your own party by swinging by Ford's Lobsters (15 Riverview Ave., 860-536-2842) for some fresh lobsters ready for steaming. Ford's moment of fame came when a shot of the buoy-covered building showed up in the movie "Mystic Pizza."

Play
Noank has a sweet but tiny public beach - and by tiny, we mean about 12 feet wide - at the base of Main Street, beside the Latham Chester Store Museum. The park has a handful of granite benches and a picnic table. For a larger beach, head to Groton's Esker Point Park (Route 215, 860-536-5680). The park has a concession stand, shaded picnic tables, and a boat launch. Also in Groton, Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve (Depot Road, www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view .asp?a=2716&q=325178) spans more than 800 acres and has a 3.6-mile trail with plenty of water views for walking, biking, and running. Haley Farm State Park (Haley Farm Lane, www.ct.gov/dEP/cwp/view.asp?A=2716&;Q= 325208), with a bike trail that is wheelchair-accessible, is an old shoreline farm with stone walls that once separated pastures.

Spend
Other than its restaurants and lobsters, Noank doesn't give you many excuses to part with your money. One exception is The Pratt-Wright Gallery (48 Main St., 860-536-9243) which specializes in local art. Mystic, however, is filled with small shops and tourist attractions.

Fuel
It would be a sin to come to Noank without eating lobster. The most famous restaurant here is Abbott's Lobster in the Rough (117 Pearl St., 860-536-7719, www.abbotts-lobster .com). Abbott's offers a glorious view of Fishers Island Sound, with picnic tables on a dock and along a grassy stretch. And the food is memorable. Try the hot lobster sandwich, pure meat dressed only with melted butter, and once listed by Esquire as one of the best in America. But go soon - Abbott's closes Columbus Day and won't reopen until May. The restaurant doesn't have a liquor license but it's BYOB. Stop by Universal Package Store (19 Pearl St., 860-536-0122) on the way there for drinks to accompany your dinner, or at Abbott's sister restaurant, Costello's Clam Shack (145 Pearl St., 860-572-2779, www.costellos clamshack.com). You can't visit Costello's until spring, though, because it's closed for the season. Unlike Abbott's, Costello's, on the grounds of the Noank Shipyard, serves fried food. The Fisherman Restaurant & Lounge (937 Groton Long Point Road, 860-536-1717, fishermanrestaurant.com) also looks over the sound and serves lobster but has a long menu for the seafood-averse. For an old-fashioned breakfast or lunch, try Carson's Store (43 Main St., 860-536-0059, www.carsonsofnoank .com). Noank Bakery (19 Pearl St., 860-536-0182) is a tiny shop with treats for humans, (cupcakes, cookies, and quiche, among others) as well as for dogs (home-baked biscuits).

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