Beaches, Birds and Beauty

Locations: Westport, Fairfield, Easton

Driving Time: Full Day Trip

Directions: From I-95 south take Exit 17, left at the end of the exit onto Rte. 33 north to Wesport. To visit Earthplace at the junction of Rte. 33 and Post Road West, take a left onto Rte.1 Post Rd. West a right on Kings Highway North (second traffic light), take first left on Woodside Ave. that becomes Woodside Lane, retrace your steps to Rte. 33 to Rte. 1. To reach the Westport Historical Society, take a left on Main St., take a right on Avery Place. At the junction of Avery Place and Myrtle Ave., take a right on Myrtle Ave., at the junction with Rte. 1 (Post Road East), take a left on the Post Rd. East. To reach the Minuteman Sculpture and Compo Beach, take a right onto Rte. 136 south /Compo Rd. South off of Rte 1. Retrace your steps to Rte. 1 and take a right on Rte. 1.  To reach I-95 and Sherwood Island, continue on Rte. 1 east, take a right onto the Sherwood Island Connector /I-95.  To reach Fairfield, take I-95 North to exit 21 to Fairfield. To get to the Connecticut Audubon and Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary turn left at the exit on Mill Plain Rd., go under the overpass and proceed straight on Mill Plain Rd. and bear right onto Unquowa Rd.  Retrace your steps to the intersection of Unquowa Rd. and Mill Plain Rd., take a right onto Mill Plain Rd. (becomes Burr St.) and follow for 4.5 miles to the CT Audubon Society Center at Fairfield.  Retrace your steps to the junction of Mill Plain Rd. and Sturges Rd. To reach the Ogden House, At the junction of Mill Plain Rd. and Sturges Rd., take a right onto Sturges Rd., at the fork (0.5) bear right continuing on Sturges Rd., cross the stone bridge, turn right continuing on Sturges/Mill Hill Terr.; at the junction of Sturges and Bronson go straight on Bronson Rd. for approx. 1 mile. Retrace your steps. Go under the overpass, passing Exit 21 and continue straight on Mill Plain Rd., at the junction of Mill Plain Rd. (Fairfield Arts District) and Rte. 1, take a left on Rte. 1. To visit the Fairfield Museum and History Center, take a right on Beach St. Retrace your steps to Rte.1, take a right on Rte. 1 and a left on Rte. 35 North (North Benson Rd.). At the junction of Rte. 58 and Rte. 136, take Rte. 136 North to Easton. At the intersection of Rte. 136 and Center Rd., take a left on Center Rd.
At the intersection of Center Rd. and Black Rock Rd. (Rte. 58), take a left on Black Rock Rd. (Rte. 58). At the junction of Rte.58 and Rte. 136, take a left onto Rte. 136 south (Easton Rd. becomes Westport Rd.) to Rte. 1 in Westport to Rte. 33 to I-95 where this loop began.

Saugatuck River - "Mouth of the Tidal River"

Take Exit 17, left at the end of the exit onto Rte. 33 north.  This drive takes you along the Saugatuck River whose name means "mouth of the tidal river" toward the center of Westport.  This historic river was a popular waterway used by local farmers to transport their produce to markets.  Westport began as a shipping and farming community but by the 19th century, Westport became a popular resort and by 1910, it became a favorite refuge for New York artists.  Today Westport is considered one of the most affluent and sophisticated suburbs of New York City that has retained its New England charm.
Leg Two

Herbs & Formal Gardens

Continuing on Rte. 33 north you may want to stop in at Gilbertie's Herb Gardens (one mile from exit. turn left after the Sunoco Service Station on your left on Sylvan Rd. South, take a hard left on Sylvan Rd.).  This is the largest herb plant grower in the country, featuring more than 400 varieties of fresh herb plants nationwide.  Here you will find greenhouses, outdoor formal display gardens, 400 plus varieties of herb plants including those that are hard to find, decorative herbal topiaries, seasonal vegetables, flowering plants and herbal fragrance products. To continue, take a right out of the Gilbertie's, at the junction of Sylvan Rd. and Rte. 33, take a left onto Rte. 33 north.


Arts and A Scenic View of the Saugatuck

The next stop, .4 mi from Gilbertie's is the Westport Arts Center whose bright and airy gallery with large windows overlooks the scenic Saugatuck River.  This organization has been dedicated to the visual and performing arts for nearly 40 years.  They offer a wide range of contemporary art gallery exhibitions, gallery talks, film screenings, and performing arts from traditional chamber music to folk and jazz, as well as a wide range of special events.

Westport - Naturally

To visit Earthplace at the junction of Rte. 33 and Post Road West, take a left onto Rte.1 Post Rd. West a right on Kings Highway North (second traffic light), take first left on Woodside Ave. that becomes Woodside Lane to Earthplace on the right.  This is a lovely tree shaded country road that is a pleasure to drive any season.  This beautiful 62-acre wildlife sanctuary has miles of trails, exhibits, an interactive natural history museum with wildlife dioramas, and houses live wildlife for public viewing.  Family fun on trails range from how to identify trees or use a compass to following clues on the swamp loop walk.  There is also a Universal Design Nature Trail for individuals in wheelchairs or who use walkers.  This trail winds through an open meadow where native grasses and abundant birdlife can be found.  Animal Hall and the Outdoor Birds of Prey display cases show a varied collection of "species ambassadors"  that are housed by Earthplace because they can't be released due to their injuries.  Retrace your steps to the junction of Rte. 33 and proceed straight onto Rte. 1 to the center of Westport.

Open Air Summer Festival On the Saugatuck

As you cross the bridge look to your right across the river for the Levitt Pavilion for Performing Arts situated behind the red brick Public Library. Immediately after the bridge, turn right at the traffic light and then left onto Jesup Green. Bear left and go up the hill to the Levitt Pavilion sign and turn right until you come into the Levitt-Library parking lot (Arnold Bernhard Plaza). The Pavilion entrance is through arch at far right of parking lot.  Bring a picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy high-quality, free-of-charge evening's entertainment at this beautiful open-air summer festival. A variety of entertainment is presented almost every night in season at the beautifully landscaped amphi-theater, located on the banks of the Saugatuck River.  Retrace your steps to Rte. 1.

Westport Historical Society

To reach the Westport Historical Society, take a left on Main St., passing the old town hall and drive along the Main shopping area in downtown Westport.  At the intersection of Avery Place, Parker Harding and Main St., take a right on Avery Place, the Historical Society is on your left.  The Society is situated in the Wheeler House that started as a simple house, possibly a saltbox that was built in 1795. Over the years the house served its many occupants as a home and as a setting for businesses and mercantile interests.  In 1865, Morris Bradley enlarged and renovated the house to the popular mid.-19th century Victorian Italianate villa style characterized by the flat cupola roof, decorative brackets and gracious veranda that you see today. The house has three Victorian Period rooms and a gift shop. The most ornate room is the parlor that shows the gentility of a middle class American family in the Victorian Era and the kitchen showcases some of the new gadgets of the day that made domestic life easier.   Also on the property is the only octagonal-roof, cobblestone barn in Connecticut.  It was completely restored over a ten-year period and houses the Museum of Westport History that displays a diorama of the town as it looked toward the end of the 19th.

At the junction of Avery Place and Myrtle Ave., take a right on Myrtle Ave., at the junction with Rte. 1 (Post Road East), take a left on the Post Rd. East.  You will pass the Saugatuck Meeting House built in 1810 that is an excellent example of colonial architecture.

Historic Playhouse in a Trademark Red Barn

The Westport Play House is located just past the Saugatuck Meeting House in its trademark historic red barn on the left. This award winning Nationally Acclaimed professional theatre is devoted to the year-round production of contemporary plays as well as a wide variety of inspiring classics, comedies and musicals.

Revolutionary Compo Beach

To reach the Minuteman Sculpture and Compo Beach, take a right onto Rte. 136 south /Compo Rd. South off of Rte 1.  At the fork continue straight on Compo Rd. South under two overpasses.  This is a lovely drive architecturally with many beautiful Connecticut homes that epitomize the affluence of Westport. The word Compo (Compaug) derives from the Native American word meaning "the bears' fishing grounds".  On April 25, 1777, approximately 1,850 British Soldiers landed on Compo Beach enroute to sack the supplies in Danbury.  After their raid on Danbury the British marched to Compo Beach to retreat to their ships.  Minutemen were waiting for the British and a final skirmish took place-the British with their superior numbers successfully retreated to their waiting ships.  After this skirmish, the British continued to raid the Connecticut coast but never left their ships again.  The Statue of the Minute Man is located just beyond the Inn at Longshore Westport's Country Club at the intersection of Compo Beach Rd. and Compo Rd. South.  This statute perched on top of a mound and commemorates this battle as a symbol of colonial militia.  Legend has it that the Long Grave near the statute on Compo Beach Rd. holds the bodies of the colonists killed in this skirmish. If you continue past Westport's best known sculpture you will catch a glimpse of Long Island Sound.   Retrace your steps and take a right onto Rte. 1 (Post Rd.) to continue your drive.

Sherwood Island - Beauty of the Sound

Continue on Rte. 1 (Post Rd.), take a right onto the Sherwood Island Connector /I-95 and follow to the entrance of Sherwood Island State Park. This park is named for the Sherwood family who were the original settlers in this area.  The park offers excellent bird watching, two beaches on either side of Sherwood Point, bathhouses, swimming, fishing, scuba diving, a nature trail, a nature center and concessions.  At the west end of the park there is a viewing deck.  In 2002, the State constructed a 9/11 Living Memorial dedicated to the Connecticut residents that lost their lives on September 11th.  The Memorial is located on Sherwood Point with a view of the Manhattan skyline where the World Trade Towers were once visible to the park.
As you exit the Park, take I-95 North to exit 21 to Fairfield.

Fairfield Naturally

To get to the Connecticut Audubon and Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary turn left at the exit on Mill Plain Rd., go under the overpass and proceed straight on Mill Plain Rd. (toward Fairfield Ludlowe HS) passing the 1840 Jonathan Sturges Cottage which is one of the most important American Gothic Revival houses in the United States. At the fork in the road, bear right continuing on Mill Plain Rd., at the next fork bear right onto Unquowa Rd., passing the High School go under an overpass to the entrance of the CT Audubon and Birdcraft Museum on the left.  This 6-acre sanctuary begun in 1914 is one of the first private bird sanctuaries in the U.S. The founder, Mabel Osgood Wright was Fairfield's Friend of Nature as well as a famous author of 26 books and a pioneering photographer and conservationist. Birdcraft offers a scenic Teaching Bridge and Pavilion that abut Birdcraft Pond as well as a natural history museum and a nature store. Over 120 birds have been documented here because the sanctuary has many plantings that attract birds and butterflies.

A Sanctuary of Natural Beauty

Retrace your steps to the intersection of Unquowa Rd. and Mill Plain Rd., take a right onto Mill Plain Rd. (becomes Burr St.) and follow for 4.5 miles to the CT Audubon Society Center at Fairfield. Located in the historic Greenfield section of Fairfield this 155-acre sanctuary has 7 miles of trails including a Wheelchair-accessible Trail.  Interpretive signage, an Algonquin wigwam replica and raised boardwalks and bridges allow access to a variety of habitats perfect for bird spotting.  The Center has live education animals, nature-related exhibits and a butterfly atrium.  The "Birds of Prey" Compound is home to a variety of owls and hawks, two Peregrine Falcons, a Turkey Vulture and other raptors.  Retrace your steps to the junction of Mill Plain Rd. and Sturges Rd. (near Sturges Cottage).

A Typical 18th Century Farmhouse

At the junction of Mill Plain Rd. and Sturges Rd., take a right onto Sturges Rd., at the fork (0.5) bear right continuing on Sturges Rd., cross the stone bridge, turn right continuing on Sturges/Mill Hill Terr.; at the junction of Sturges and Bronson go straight on Bronson Rd. for approx. 1 mile.  The Ogden House is on your right. This austere styled saltbox house (Sun. June-Sept) is an exceptional example of a typical mid-18th century farmhouse.  Deeded in 1750 to David Ogden the house was built at the time of his marriage to Jane Sturges and remained in the family for 125 years.  It was one of the few homes that escaped the burning of Fairfield by British Forces during the Revolutionary War.  The house is has been authentically restored and furnished as an 18th century farmhouse repleat with an 18th century style kitchen garden. To continue your tour, retrace your steps to exit 21.

Fairfield's Historic Green

Go under the overpass, passing Exit 21 and continue straight on Mill Plain Rd., at the junction of Mill Plain Rd. (Fairfield Arts District) and Rte. 1, take a left on Rte. 1.  Along this section of road you will see many shops and restaurants.  To reach the historic heart of Fairfield, take a right on Beach St. The permanent settlement of Fairfield began in 1639 when Roger Ludlow laid out four "squares" of land divided by five roadways in order to define the center of the new settlement that remains today as the Historic Town Green with town government buildings, churches, and the surrounding neighborhood. The town hall was rebuilt in 1794 after it was burned down by the British in 1779 and is the core of what you see today.  The imposing brownstone Congregational Church is the 6th on the site and St Paul's was erected in 1854. There are four houses on Beach St. that survived the burning of Fairfield.

On July 7, 1779, the people of Fairfield awoke to a warning from the fort at Black Rock that the British had been spotted off the coast. The British invasion came in late afternoon as the troops disembarked and marched to what is now Beach Road in the center of town. As they came within the range of cannons at Black Rock Fort, Isaac Jarvis, the fort's commander, ordered his men to fire on the troops. Local militia near the town center opened fire with muskets. Undaunted by the attack, General Tryon and his troops set up headquarters in a home on Beach Road while the men of Fairfield made a fortification at Round Hill and destroyed a strategic bridge crossing.  General Tryon's plan to attack Black Rock Fort was foiled with the destruction of the bridge at Ash Creek. In retaliation the General began burning homes one by one. As the British withdrew, a rear guard of German mercenaries set fire to all the buildings, including the churches and ministers' homes, which Tryon had given protection.  It was years before Fairfield recovered from this destruction.

Preserving & Interpreting Fairfield's History

The Fairfield Museum and History Center is located on Beach Rd., on the right. This bright and airy 13,000 square-foot museum presents engaging exhibition galleries, a special collection library and reading room, a family education center, an 80 -seat theater overlooking Fairfield's Town Green and a museum shop.  Collections displayed here preserves and interprets the history of Fairfield. Retrace your steps to the junction of Beach St. and Rte. 1

University Arts

At the intersection of Beach St and Rte. 1 take a right onto Rte. 1,and a left on Rte. 35 North (North Benson Rd.)  Along the way, you will pass the Walsh Art Gallery & Quick Center for the Arts, at Fairfield University.  At the fork in the road bear right and continue on Rte. 35.  At the junction of Rte. 135 and Rte. 58, take a left on Rte. 58 north to Easton.  Along the way you will pass the Hemlock Reservoir.

A Legacy of Education

At the junction of Rte. 58 and Rte. 136, take Rte. 136 North to Easton. Historic Rte. 136 was the road used by the British on their march to raid Danbury during the American Revolution. This small rural community is one of the most affluent communities on the eastern seaboard.  Scenically stunning, almost half of the town's land is owned by the Aquarion Water Company, a major supplier of water for Fairfield County.  The Hemlock Reservoir and Aspetuck Reservoir are on either side of the road before this country road takes you back into the woods making this tree lined drive colorful in the fall and cool in the spring and summer. Within two miles you will pass see the Adams School House on the right. The school was built in 1854 and was used until 1920.

Bucolic Easton

Just beyond the schoolhouse is the historic heart of Easton.  To your left is the Staples Academy Building, the oldest building in Easton.  It offered free private education from 1795 to 1895 and is regarded to be among the first in the country to offer this.  Today, it is the parish house of the Congregational Church that is in front of you perched on a hill.  Captain James Johnson, who was the grandson of the first Pastor of the Church, built this classic Congregational Church in 1836.  To your left is Greiser's Store that was once a stagecoach stop and is reminiscent of bygone days.  At the intersection of Rte. 136 and Center Rd., take a left on Center Rd.

Bradley-Hubbell House & Scenic Water Views

At the intersection of Center Rd. and Black Rock Rd. (Rte. 58), take a left on Black Rock Rd. (Rte. 58). Located on the right is the Bradley-Hubbell House on the National Register of Historic Places built in 1816. This is an excellent example of Colonial architecture with a center-chimney plan and Federal-style ornaments.  In 1912, Bradley descendants sold the property to the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, which flooded much of the farmland for a reservoir and leased the house to one of its employees. In 1998, the house was donated to the Easton Historical Society, which is restoring it.

Ride along the Reservoirs

Continue on Rte. 58, a designated scenic road passing the Aspetuck Reservoir owned by the Aquarion Company, the largest investor-owned water utility in New England and among the seven largest in the U.S. A portion of the Aspectuck Trail is located in Easton and is open for hiking, jogging, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Trail maps located at trailhead kiosks serve as permits and must be carried at all times.  At the junction of Rte.58 and Rte. 136, take a left onto Rte. 136 south (Easton Rd. becomes Westport Rd.) to Rte. 1 in Westport to Rte. 33 to I-95 where this loop began.