Connecticut is one of the most charming states in the country, full of beautiful hills, picturesque lakes, and old quaint villages with their signature white church steeples – all of which remind visitors of the simple life of past colonial days. But Connecticut is not all colonial villages like Litchfield Hills in the northwest, nor maritime port towns like Mystic Seaport with their faded glory of old when ship-building, fishing and whaling ruled the scene. While Connecticut certainly has its rural moments, being a chief agricultural producer of poultry, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products, it is also littered with pockets of major cities and New York commuter towns in the southwest, engaged in the industrial manufacturing of aircraft engines, submarines, machinery, helicopters, and hardware. And everybody is well aware of the Connecticut’s nickname, the “Insurance State”, being home to more than 40 major insurance companies. It is fair and reasonable then to describe this New England state as a nice blend of the slow-paced bucolic and the modern fast life.
Geographically, Connecticut is a compact state, the third smallest in the U.S. with an area that stretches 90 miles wide and 55 miles long. The landscape is streamed by water bodies all around that weave through the state’s coastal plains and hills. From the Connecticut, Thames Housatonic, Quinnipiac, and Naugatuck rivers to the Long Island Sound, Connecticut is drowned in water, perhaps one of the reasons why it became a maritime and ship-building force in the 18th and 19th century. Connecticut is also richly blessed with forests in all corners, from the Cockaponset State Forest in south-central and the Pachaug in the southeast, to the Mohawk in the northwest and the Salmon River Forest in the northeast.
Most of Connecticut’s rural areas and small towns occupy the state’s northwest and northeast regions whereas the industrial cities lie in the southwest. The state is also full of rolling hills and mountains with its highest point of 2,325 feet at Bear Mountain in the northwest. Much of the flatter terrains and fields are lined with pretty rocks, making farming an unrewarding endeavor.
Connecticut has excellent freeways, but the side roads offer the best way of seeing the state’s villages and countryside. Route 1 takes visitors directly through the coastal villages, while I-95 which runs parallel to Route 1 avoids the coast altogether.
Despite being a bedroom community for New York City, southwestern Connecticut has some pretty villages that retain their rural charm. Tree-lined roads wind past river streams and lakes, while in view of elegant estates from afar.
In the south and southeast along the Atlantic coast, Connecticut is full of small villages like Old Lyme and Old Saybrook, old whaling towns like New London and Mystic, and other coastal fishing villages like Stonington that remain virtually unperturbed by commercialism.
Left almost undiscovered in the 20th century, northeast Connecticut is nicknamed “The Quiet Corner”. Even though this region is located just south of Massachusetts and a short distance west of I-395, few people seem to aware it exists. Route 169 remains the best way to see the northeast. The road meanders and tumbles along the gorgeous Quinebaug River as it streams past Woodstock, Canterbury, Brooklyn, and Pomfret. The highway is considered among the top ten most scenic highways in the U.S. Along the way are old antique shops, cozy restaurants, old dairy barns, former stagecoach stops, and farmhouses and mansions that have been converted into bed and breakfasts. Today, “The Quiet Corner’ is largely a rural and agricultural area. It was not too long ago, though, when huge mansions dotted the region’s hillsides. Most of these estates are now elegant inns; some are museums.
The northwest region of Connecticut is a bucolic country, a charming getaway for urban New Yorkers. Being far enough from the Big Apple, the northwest is able to retain its idyllic appeal. And yet, it is close enough to attract a squadron of CEOs and corporate types who make it their exclusive summer retreat. Pristine villages surrounded in greenery are lined with beautiful mansions, colonial churches, cozy restaurants, and streetside bookshops. Litchfield Hills in particular is home to many exclusive private preparatory schools, educating boarding students from wealthy New York families. Hikers and bikers enjoy the Appalachian Trail, which follows the direction of the Housatonic River from Taconic to Bulls Bridge. Several more scenic trails are found in the region’s numerous state parks; many of them are hilly and unpaved, making their spectacular scenery more popular among hikers than bicyclists.
“Bear Mountain (Connecticut).” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Mountain_%28Connecticut%29>
Bond, Richard. The Insider’s Guide to New England. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc., 1992. ISBN: 1556504551.
Chase, Suzi Forbes, and Ann Lee. New England. New York: Macmillan General Reference, 1994. ISBN: 0671878999.
“List of Connecticut State Forests.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Connecticut_state_forests>
 Bond, 171-72
 Chase, 187
 Id. at 178-79
 Chase, 178
 Id. at 179-80
 Id. at 182-83, 185-86
 Id. at 187-88
 Id. at 189-90