Home » Old Saybrook, CT, USA – New England Seaside Charm

Old Saybrook, CT, USA – New England Seaside Charm

by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Saybrook Point Inn Spa - Lighthouse - Photo by Luxury ExperienceThe historic New England seashore town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut is one of the oldest towns in the state of Connecticut; its history dates to 1635 when it was known as Saybrook Plantation, and was later incorporated in 1854. It is a charming and stately step back in time Connecticut shore town, one that is postcard perfect and deserves discovery.


Visiting Old Saybrook in mid-July 2014, we were delighted to finally make its acquaintance after learning about it from one of its most famous former residents, the legendary actress Katherine "Kate" Hepburn (May 12, 1907 – June 29, 2003), whom had spoken of it fondly in her biography and in interviews.

Welcome to Old Saybrook

Although we never met Kate, she had a lengthy film career and we had the opportunity "to get to know her" through her movies including Little Women (1933), Stage Door (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Philadelphia Story (1940), Adam’s Rib (1949), the African Queen (1951), Pat and Mike (1951), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981), to name but a few.

Where to Stay

The luxurious Saybrook Point Inn & Spa owned by the Tagliatela family opened in 1989 and is an elegant landmark with its yellow and white trim Inn by sea. The main building has 80 guestrooms, and their newest property, Three Stories, located across the street from the Inn, opened in May 2014 and has 8 exquisite guestrooms.

Three Stories – Saybrook Point Inn & Spa

We stayed at Three Stories, a stunning pink and white Italianate mansion built in 1892 by William Vars, which the Tagliatela family renovated and has incorporated into Saybrook Point Inn & Spa’s newest luxury accommodation. Three Stories, named for the three floors of the house has 8 sumptuously appointed guestrooms named for 8 interesting local people who made an impact on Old Saybrook and have their own stories to tell.

Three Stories – Parlor

We stayed in the Fitz Dibble Room located in the right corner of the house, on the first floor to the left of the parlor where we had our own private side porch complete with white wicker chairs and round glass topped wicker table perfect for enjoying our morning coffee with freshly made complimentary muffins.

The king bed featured a salt blue leather and studded headboard with luxurious European linens and pristine white coverlet with salt blue trim dressed with Euro shams and a plethora of comfy and inviting bed pillows. Reading lamp sconces and nightstands flanked either side of the bed.

Guest Room

Opposite the bed a large flatscreen television hung over the carved wood mantle of the electric fireplace. Although we stayed there in July, we could imagine how cozy it would be to sit in the leather wingback chair in front of the fireplace our feet resting on the matching ottoman, with the cranberry throw over our legs.

Fitz Dibble Room

Mr. Fitz Dibble, for whom the room was named, was the local ice man, and in reference to his occupation, antique ice tongs graced the built-in bookshelf, as well as an antique duck decoy, and interesting books.

A charming seascape graced the wall over the antique desk with brass lamp and woven chair topped with a cushion which beckoned invitingly for guests to write their own stories, even if that only involved writing a letter or a postcard.

The spacious bathroom featured a black and white basket weave heated tile floor with wide white tile border, jetted tub with safety rails, sumptuous bathroom towels, as well as a basket under the sink filled with towels to use at the indoor or outdoor pool, sauna, or steam room. Attention to detail included luxurious Sanno Puro and Zents amenities, which are also used and sold in the Sanno Spa, which we experienced during our stay.

Dining Room 

We enjoyed the complimentary fruit, muffins, breakfast bars and coffee at Three Stories to start our day. During our stay we found time to sit on the roof terrace and admire the daytime and moonlight views, and also played a few games of pool in the attractive billiards room located in the lower level.

There is a well-equipped Fitness Center with state-of-the-art equipment, as well as whirlpool, steam, sauna, and indoor and outdoor salt water pools in the main building which are open year round.  We also had a wonderful dinner at their restaurant, aptly named, Fresh Salt, which has a fresh sea-to-table and farm-to-table focus.

Indoor Salt Water Pool

The Inn has an eye on "green" and was named a Certified Energy Hotel in 2007, and has charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles, and also provides the use of complimentary bicycles for guests who want to explore the scenic area, which you can read more about in the Adventures section. Their marina, which can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet in length, was Connecticut’s first designated Clean Marina, and received the AAA 4-Diamond distinction.

Debra Biking Old Saybrook

Dog lovers will appreciate the Inn’s pet-friendly policy welcoming dogs 50 pounds and under, and of special note is the dog-walking service and special canine packages available.

The Saybrook Point Inn & Spa is easily accessible by car, train, plane, or boat as the hotel has its own marina with transient slips available. Driving time from Boston and New York City is approximately 2 hours.

For guests arriving by Amtrak the Inn offers complimentary shuttle service from the Old Saybrook train station to the Inn. For guests who want to fly to Old Saybrook, the closest airport is Tweed New Haven Regional Airport located approximately 35 minutes from the Inn.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa Marina

Visually stunning with luxurious amenities and attentive service by professional, knowledgeable, and caring staff, is what sets the high standards for the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa.

Read about our experience at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs’ Recipes, Spas, and Adventures sections.

Please visit their website, www.Saybrook.com, for more information.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa
Two Bridge Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
Toll-Free Telephone:    +1-800-243-0212
Telephone:                   +1-860-395-2000
Fax:                              +1-860-388-1504

Exploring Old Saybrook and its Neighboring Towns

Old Saybrook

We began our exploration of the town at the 17-acre Fort Saybrook Monument Park, located across the street from the Inn at Saybrook Point, which tells the fascinating history of Saybrook Plantation (1635) and features a prominent statue of Lion Gardiner, who was the engineer that designed the town plat, and there are also the remaining tracks from the 1871 railroad.

Historical remains from 1871 Railroad

We took a walk along the boardwalk over the marsh, which was a great place for bird watching and enjoying nature, and read the many storyboards along the way that describe the wildlife that reside in the marsh.

Wildlife Marsh

The park is open daily year-round from dawn to dusk. There is no admission fee.

Fort Saybrook Monument Park
Saybrook Point
Route 154
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
United States
Telephone:                         +1-860-395-3152

We continued our exploration at the Old Saybrook Historical Society, located in the General William Hart House, where we took a docent lead tour of the house, which the general built for his bride Esther Buckingham in 1767.

Old Saybrook Historical Society

The house is very interesting both for the architectural aspects as well as for the historical aspects, with insight into the details provided by both the docent and the short film. A few of the many charming details of the house are the wide plank floors, a status symbol of the time, as well as the multi-paned windows at a time when owners were taxed by the number of panes in a window, and a corner chimney. The period furnishings, framed samplers made by young girls, the paintings, china, and clothing, provide an interesting look into the past lives of Old Saybrook.

Dining Room

There are fascinating details throughout the house, including hidden closets, the tiles surrounding the fireplace in the library that were based on Aesop’s Fables, a sealskin carpet in the kitchen, and a multi-purpose Pilgrim tilt table which could be flipped to create a bench.


The historical gardens were lovely due to the volunteers that maintain the garden with plants appropriate to the time period, and we enjoyed strolling along the path and partaking of the garden’s tranquility and beauty. It was there that we met Linda Kinsella, the niece of Old Saybrook iceman Fitz Dibble, who told us how her uncle would cut ice from Crystal Lake and deliver it to the residents including Katherine Hepburn who still had ice delivered to her summer home into the 1940s over in The Fenwick section of Old Saybrook.

Beautiful Gardens

The Old Saybrook Historical Society was founded in 1958 and is "dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting the history of Old Saybrook."

The Historic Society offers tours, lectures, and exhibits, and the Garden is perfect for parties and other events that showcase the history of Old Saybrook.  Hart House is open for tours until August 31, 2014 on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm, or by appointment.

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Please visit their website, www.SaybrookHistory.org, for more information.

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Old Saybrook Historical Society
350 Main Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
United States
Telephone:          +1-869-388-2622

Main Street is dotted with historic properties, small shops, and restaurants, and we enjoyed taking a self-guided walking tour with the help of an Old Saybrook Walking Tour map provided by the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce, to admire the many examples of architectural styles including 17th century "saltbox" houses, center chimney "Georgian" styles, double and triple chimney "Georgians," Federal, and Victoria styles.

Also located on Main Street (300 Main Street) is the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, which has interesting programs and events throughout the year.

Harvey‘s Beach

A trip to this pretty seaside town would not be complete without a visit to Harvey’s Beach, located 7 minutes from the Inn. We thoroughly enjoyed strolling the beach and playing in the small waves and looking for seashells.

Harvey’s Beach

Beach parking is $10.00, however the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa provides complimentary parking passes for its guests.

Harvey’s Beach
Great Hammock Road
Route 154
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
United States
Telephone:                         +1-860-395-3152

We also spent an enjoyable amount of time at the Old Saybrook Town Beach, located 7 minutes from the Inn and a short distance down the road from Harvey’s Beach.

Old Saybrook Town Beach

Parking is available on both sides of the street with a parking pass available through the Parks & Recreation Department.

Old Saybrook Town Beach
Great Hammock Road
Route 154
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
United States


Old Saybrook boasts two lighthouses, Lynde Point Light, (also known as Saybrook Inner Lighthouse), constructed in 1803, lit in 1839, and automated in 1975, and Saybrook Breakwater Light, erected in 1886 and automated in 1959.

Saybrook Breakwater Light 

The Lynde Point Lighthouse is 65 feet, has an octagonal tower, and has a fixed white light, whereas the Saybrook Breakwater Light is 48 feet, has a conical tower, has a green flash every 6 seconds, and is featured on Connecticut’s "Preserve the Sound" license plates.

Essex, Connecticut

Essex, located 10 minutes from Old Saybrook, settled in 1664 and incorporated in 1852, is another charming and historic village to discover.

Welcome to Essex

To get a feel of its history, we visited the Connecticut River Museum located in Essex Village and were fascinated by its many permanent and changing exhibits including "Bushnell’s Turtle" built in 1775 by David Bushnell, which was the first operational combat submarine, and was used to attack the Royal Navy in New York Harbor in 1776. Climbing into the working replica "turtle" we had an idea of how brave the men were to actually use this device in combat during the American Revolution.

Working Replica of the "Turtle"

Two of the other interesting exhibits we enjoyed included the "British Raid on Essex," and "The River That Connects Us" that told the history of the Connecticut Valley. In addition to its wonderful exhibitions, the museum has heritage festivals, education programs, year-round special events, and a 75-foot historic schooner where visitors can take a seasonal river cruise and explore the River’s heritage and natural beauty, and departs from their historic steamboat dock.

Exhibits at CT River Museum

"The Connecticut River Foundation at Steamboat Dock was established in 1974 as a small, all-volunteer organization dedicated to the dream of establishing a museum that would preserve the history of the Connecticut River and its people. The purchase of the 1878 Steamboat Warehouse building, docks and surrounding property was the beginning of that dream becoming a reality. Today, the Connecticut River Museum is a private, not-for-profit, education institution that is fully accredited by the American Association of Museums and is a member of the Council of American Maritime Museums and the International Congress of Maritime Museums. In 2012, the Museum expanded its ability to tell the stories of the Connecticut River and its people through the purchase of the historic Samuel Lay House, which adjoins the Museum campus."

CT River Museum Schooner

"Our mission is to lead in the study, preservation and celebration of the cultural and natural heritage of the Connecticut River and its valley. By deepening understanding of the River’s importance to past generations, the Museum will inspire the stewardship of future generations."

From Memorial Day until Columbus Day the museum is open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The rest of the year, the museum is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Admission: Adult: $8, Senior: $7, Student: $6, Children 6 – 12: $5, Children 6 and under: Free.

Connecticut River Museum

Please visit their website, www.CTRiverMuseum.org for more information on upcoming exhibitions and special events.

Connecticut River Museum -Essex, CT

Connecticut River Museum
67 Main Street
Essex, Connecticut 06426
United States
Telephone:    +1-860-767-8269

Old Lyme, Connecticut

Old Lyme, incorporated in 1855, is located 10 minutes from Old Saybrook, and is home to the Florence Griswold Museum, which was long on our radar list of museums to visit, due to its distinction as being the home of the Lyme Art Colony, and is where Miss Florence’s family homestead became a boardinghouse for artists and the center of Impressionism in America.

Florence Griswold House

Born on December 25, 1850, Florence was the youngest of four children of Captain Robert Griswold who was a wealthy ship captain. She grew up in one of the finest and largest homes in Old Lyme, a late-Georgian mansion built in 1817 on a twelve-acre estate by the Hartford Connecticut architect Samuel Belcher (1779-1849), which her father purchased for his bride, Helen Powers, in 1841. The home is considered one of the finest examples of Late Georgian architecture in America. After the financial downturn of the Civil War and the reversal of the family fortune, the family turned their home into a school and later into a boarding house as a means of financial support.

Dining Room

By the late 1890s, only Miss Florence Griswold was left to maintain the family homestead. The first artist to arrive at her boarding house in 1899 was New York artist Henry Ward Ranger who had returned from Europe and thought that Old Lyme would be an ideal setting for establishing a new American school of landscape painting. Word spread in the artist community and more artists came, and by 1903 "with the arrival of Childe Hassam, the focus of the art colony shifted from Tonalism to Impressionism and became the most famous Impressionist colony in America – the American Giverney."

Artists visiting Florence Griswold House

Taking a self-guided tour of Miss Griswold’s beautiful home provided us with great insight into the art colony as well as to the many artists who spent time there, both from viewing the many the paintings that grace the walls as well as the paintings done on the door panels, which was a definite highlight of our visit.

Paintings on Door Panels

As we were visiting on a Sunday, we got into the spirit of the art colony by participating in the complimentary "Make a Painting Sunday" by painting our own "masterpiece" to take home with us, to create a lasting memory of our visit.

Debra participating in "Make a Painting Sunday"

The Florence Griswold quote of 1937, before her death, best summarizes the importance of the art colony and describes the lasting impact that she had, and continues to have through her legacy, on the art world.

 "So you see, at first the artists adopted Lyme, then Lyme adopted the artists, and now, today, Lyme and art are synonymous."

Florence Griswold

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the museum, browsing through the gallery exhibitions, the attractive and inviting gardens, and discovering the studios. The multi-faceted museum consists of the Kreible Gallery, Griswold House, Hartman Education Center, Chadwick Studio, Grounds and Gardens, Rafal Landscape Center, Marshfield House, and Museum Shop, so allow several hours to fully experience all that the Florence Griswold Museum has to offer.

Florence Griswold Gardens

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, and Sunday from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm. Admission: Adult: $10, Senior: $9, Student: $8, Children 12 and under: Free. Admission covers entrance to the Griswold House and to the Krieble Gallery.

Florence Griswold Museum

Please visit their website, www.FlorenceGriswoldMuseum.org, for more information on upcoming exhibitions and special events.

Florence Griswold Museum
96 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371
United States
Telephone:          +1-860-434-5542

Colchester, Connecticut

Our last stop on our discovery trail was to Colchester located 35 minutes from Old Saybrook, and is the home of the 28+ acre Allegra Farm owned by John Allegra, who has the largest authentic livery service in the northeast.

John Allegra driving his team

To capture the essence of the charm and quaintness of the area, we took a romantic carriage ride along scenic Lake Hayward with John Allegra, whose impressive collection of antique carriages, which number close to 100, have been featured in numerous movie and television productions including Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, The Time Machine, Kate and Leopold, Sex in the City, and Ed, to name but a few.

Stagecoach on production site

For our ride, John selected brothers Billy and Bob, a matched pair of Norwegian Fjord horses to pull our carriage. The horses were gorgeous, brown dun with a dark chocolate dorsal stripe that ran from their forelock through their tail, with brush cut, stand-up manes. An interesting note about the Norwegian Fjord horse is that it is "one of the world’s oldest and purest breeds. It is believed that the original Fjord Horse migrated to Norway and was domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations at Viking burial sites indicate the Fjord Horse has been selectively bred for 2,000 years. The breed still exhibits strong survival instincts and remains healthy, fertile, and useful well into its long life. Fjords are extremely efficient foragers, and thrive equally well in the pasture or stable, adapting easily to the weather conditions of their environment, be it hot and dry, or cold and wet." (Information on the Norwegian Fjord Horse is from the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry, www.nfhr.com)

Debra and members of the Allegra Farm Team

We felt as if we had stepped back in time as we rode in the attractive and comfortable carriage over the pretty tree lined roads around Lake Haddam admiring the views and waving to passersby, with John wearing his period coachman’s hat accompanied by Hilda DelGaudio at his side, and an adorable dog named Pete who is a bit of a celebrity himself, having appeared in many movies with and without John.

For the past 40 years, John has raised horses and collected and restored antique carriages. He presently owns 26 horses and provides a very unique type of authentic livery service. Allegra Farm offers many experiences including Country Carriage Rides, Old Fashioned New England Hayrides, and Traditional New England Sleigh Rides. For the ultimate romantic wedding, they offer New England Horse Drawn Carriage Weddings for couples living in New England or in the Tri-State area. They also have funeral carriages for those who want a memorable send-off for their loved ones.

Allegra Farm Carriage Ride for Debra and Edward

"Allgra Farm is centrally located in Connecticut, and is the largest authentic livery service in the northeast, traveling from Maine to Maryland for weddings, movie and television work, city and town events, festivals, parades, private functions and elegant horse drawn funerals. With our drivers and footmen in period attire, you can choose your carriage and color of horses for your special day."

John Allegra and Debra Argen

We thoroughly enjoyed our summer carriage ride, and look forward to experiencing another Allegra Farm ride in the future, perhaps a Country Carriage Ride, Old Fashioned New England Hayride, or their Traditional Sleigh Ride in the winter.

Please visit their website, www.AllegraFarm.com, for more information.

Read about our experience at Allegra Farms in the Adventures section.

Allegra Farm
69 Town Road
Colchester, Connecticut 06415
United States
Telephone:          +1-860-537-8861
Telephone:          +1-860-680 -5149
Website:              www.AllegraFarm.com

Mailing Address:

Allegra Farm
P.O. Box 455
East Haddam, Connecticut 06423
United States

Where to Dine

We had an excellent dinner in Old Saybrook at Fresh Salt restaurant at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa where Chef Leslie Tripp is the talent in the kitchen, and Peter Marshall, Bar Manager, crafts interesting cocktails to tempt guests’ palates to complement the fresh farm-to-table cuisine.

Fresh Salt Restaurant

We began our evening by sampling three of Peter’s delicious and fresh cocktail creations, Foggy Harbor Raspberry Mist made with Foggy Harbor Vodka from Connecticut, muddled with fresh raspberries and fresh mint, The Point Tea made with Ketel One Citroen Vodka and green tea muddled with mint, and fresh blueberries, and the Karmarita made with Karma Silver Tequila muddled with fresh strawberries, all natural margarita mix, with a floater of Grand Marnier, and rimmed with Black Hawaiian Salt.

Karmarita Cocktail

A few of the many highlights of our dinner included starters from The Raw Bar with a selection of raw oysters and Oysters Rockefeller, followed by main courses of Block Island Swordfish, a Fresh Salt signature dish, with Lobster Risotto, Confit Tomatoes, and Artichoke Barigoule, and the Maine Lobster Salad, with Fresh Picked Lobster, Artisanal Greens, Tomato, Avocado, Asparagus, and Lemon Dressing.

Block Island Swordfish

We ended the evening on a sweet note with desserts of Peach Melba made with Roasted Peaches, Raspberry Sorbet, Vanilla Shortbread, and Whipped Cream, and the Pineapple Upside Down Cake which featured a miniature Pineapple-Cherry Brown Sugar Cake, Vanilla Anglaise, Graham Cracker Crumbs, and Vanilla Bean Gelato.

Peach Melba

Read more about the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs’ Recipes, Spas, and Adventures sections.

Please visit their website, www.Saybrook.com, for more information.

Fresh Salt restaurant at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa
Two Bridge Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
United States
Telephone:        +1-860-388-1111
Facebook:         www.Facebook.com/SaybrookPointInn

Spa Time

To complete our experience at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, we indulged in pampering treatments at Sanno, their attractive spa, which opened in 2012, and whose focus is, "Be well, look well, feel well, and eat well."

Welcome to Sanno Spa

Sanno at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa features an intriguing treatment menu divided into: "For Your Body" consisting of diverse massages, body wraps, and scrubs, "For Your Face" consisting of facials, peels, polishes, and lip and eye treatments, "For Your Beauty" consisting of make-up application, eye artistry, and waxing services, "For Your Hands & Feet" consisting of a variety of manicures and pedicures, and "Your Wellness" which focuses on fitness services, sauna, whirlpool, and therapeutic indoor/outdoor salt pools.

Make-Up Area

We opted for specialized massages, The Kate, their signature massage named in honor of Saybrook’s former neighbor, the legendary American actress Katherine Hepburn (1907 – 2003), and the Ocean Memory, to capture the shore experience. We left revitalized, refreshed, and with a lasting memory of our wonderful experience at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa.

Relaxation Room

The spa has eleven well-appointed treatment rooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms, multiple relaxation rooms, and caring, professional, and knowledgeable therapists to ensure that each guest has a memorable Spa experience.

Read more about our experience at Sanna in the Spas section.

Please visit their website, www.Saybrook.com, for more information.

Sanno at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa
Two Bridge Street
Old Saybrook, Connecticut 06475
United States
Toll-Free Telephone:    +1-800-243-0212
Telephone:                   +1-860-395-2000
Fax:                             +1-860-388-1504
Website:                        www.Saybrook.com
Facebook:                     www.Facebook.com/SaybrookPointInn

The Old Saybrook area and its neighboring towns are picture postcard perfect New England and offer much to appeal to visitors in every season. Come and discover the charm, the history, and the allure for yourself.

Lighthouse at Saybrook Point Inn Marina

For more information on visiting Connecticut, please visit the website, www.CTVisit.com.

Follow Luxury Experience on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LuxuryExperience 

Write Your Own Memory in Old Saybrook

© August 2014. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com   All rights reserved.

Related Articles