Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Thimbles – Magic islands

    Salmon colored granite islands sprinkled across a green sea.   Fishing boats in the harbor.   Abandoned quarries which once sent granite to New York and Washington to build grand memorials.  A shoreline dominated by huge “cottages” awaiting their summer guests.
     Thus far the Thimble Islands, off Stony Creek, Connecticut sound like Stonington, Maine, but there are key differences. 
     There are many Thimble Islands, up to 365, depending on the tide and the generosity of the counter.  But rather than being scattered across a wide bay, they are concentrated in a tiny region, within two miles of the shore.   Also many Thimbles appear to be dominated by houses with greater square footage than the island possesses. 
      And forget landing on the islands- most are privately owned, festooned with no trespassing signs.
     Outer Island, a National Wildlife Refuge, is open weekends from June to September for a limited number of visitors. It was not open on the day we were there. 

     But access matters less with islands packed as tightly as these.  You can circle about and back and forth along the shore a few times in a couple hours. 
     There was so much to see.  Grand houses were getting ready for summer.  Backhoes and gardeners seemed to be everywhere. 
    It appears palm trees are the new must-have plant.
    Hundreds of terns danced over the sea; it must have been mating season.

    As a young girl, I once was invited to a gathering on Money Island.  Living near a lake, I eagerly awaited winter so I could explore the lake’s two islands.  But this was my first visit to an island by boat.  Money Island is covered with a cluster of small cottages.
Money Island
    It was a magical place, a neighborhood with no cars, a rocky shore to scramble over and explore.  And the tales I heard:  “Garry Trudeau owns a whole island.” “Captain Kidd buried treasure here.”  “Tom Thumb lived here.”

      A few years have passed since that first visit.  And parking by the ramp certainly hasn’t increased.  So the Thimbles are a good place to explore off season.  And our visit wasn’t ideal, there were rain showers, and on shore there were clouds of no-see-ums hungry for guests. 
Count the bugs...
      But still it was worth it, the Thimbles launched my love of islands, which call me out to explore every day. 

Summary:  Launch from Stony Creek (a division of Branford CT) town dock.  No kayaks are allowed on the town beach.  A portapottie is available.   About 1.75 miles in a straight line to Outer Island.
Bear Island used to have a quarry on it; granite from there was used in Grant’s Tomb, the Lincoln Memorial and the base of the Statue of Liberty.   Granite from an active quarry in Stony Creek was used on the Brooklyn Bridge and Grand Central Station.
The Thimble Islands are a part of Connecticut’s Water Trails.
More Information:


  1. What a great and interesting story! Houses bigger than islands. It looks surreal.

  2. Lots of "money" sitting on those islands! Hopefully, the home owners have flood insurance and don't mind the prospect of rebuilding every now and again?

    1. Good question Mike, I wondered that myself. (Actually I thought - "I hope my taxes don't subsidize flood insurance for these properties.") Long Island Sounds is not the wild ocean, but Connecticut does get hit regularly with hurricanes. I'm not fully versed in flood insurance, but I think flood insurance is limited to $250,000. Flood insurance is generally option if the property is not mortgaged; and I suspect it is not.
      More information about flood insurance is here:

  3. This is my home turf, great place to paddle.