Thumbing through the 2011 Conway Tour catalogue, I noticed a day trip to the Thimble Islands, off the coast of Stony Creek, Conn.
The description of the rocky coast of the tiny seaside community brought back memories of my youth, when my Uncle Ed took me fishing and crabbing in his rowboat.
Conway offers a comfortable motor coach ride down Route 95 to the beautiful, historic, seaside town of Guilford, where we stopped for lunch at the Stone House Restaurant. Guilford has an enormous town green, surrounded by churches, antique shops, 18th century houses and quaint stores.
Lunch was a giant step up from the usual quick stops at McDonalds or local diners. The Stone House is a stone house, with separate function rooms where our group of two dozen enjoyed an eclectic salad, sinful dessert and choice of perfectly prepared salmon and moist, tender chicken.
The Conway coach was too tall to fit under the railroad trestle leading to Stony Creek, so we switched to a local school bus for the five-minute ride to the pier, where we boarded the 40-foot Volsunga IV, complete with covered deck, for our 45-minute tour of the Thimble Islands.
Capt. Bob Milne was not only a good pilot, avoiding all of the dangerous reefs and jutting granite rocks, but also a humorous and knowledgeable guide. And what a great tour! We learned the fascinating history of how the islands were formed, and first inhabited, with a few tall tales about pirate treasure. The islands are described as “a piece of the Maine coast that drifted into Long Island Sound and came to rest at Stony Creek.” The 30-passenger boat gives everyone a clear view, and even has padded seats for your comfort.
I always thought that “Thimble” stood for the size of most of the islands, but learned that they were named after the thimbleberry bush, which once was prominent on the rugged islands.
The tour takes you “up close and personal, by 23 inhabited islands, ranging in size from less than a half acre of pink granite to 12 acres of lushly landscaped estates. Approximately 85 homes were constructed on the islands during the Victorian era, complete with widow walks, gingerbread trim, gazebos and even swimming pools. A few have electricity from underwater cables.
We have taken many island and harbor tours over the years, but the Thimble Island tour has to be one of the most interesting, educational and relaxed. Our trip home allowed for an hour and 15 minutes at Mystic Village, where we had a chance to shop, eat or just walk around the pleasant, shaded complex.
Brian, our helpful driver, suggested a popular restaurant, Ten Clams, with an ice cream take-out window. The sandwich menu included a hot lobster roll, a delicacy we remembered from our Connecticut days but have never been able to find in Rhode Island, where a lobster roll is cold lobster with mayonnaise, celery and lettuce. The toasted hot dog bun was loaded with nothing but lightly buttered fresh lobster and a bargain for only $9.95. It was a pleasant ride home after a most relaxing day.
Second best option is a drive down Route 95 to Exit 56, turn right and travel two miles to a stop sign. Proceed straight to the shore on Indian Point Rd. Warning: Parking is at a premium.
For information on the island tour go online at www.thimbleislands.com or call them at (203) 481-3345.
Conway has one more tour planned this year on Saturday, Sept. 3, and I highly recommend it. Call 1-800-888-4661 for reservations, information or to request their colorful catalogue of day and overnight tours.