Tranquil Adventures In The Bucolic Northwest Connecticut Corner

WHY GO: Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Day Lewis and Oliver Platt all have homes in Salisbury, Lakeville, Falls Village, Norfolk, Canaan, and other towns along the Northwest Connecticut Border. Paul Newman was a frequent visitor – mainly to race his cars at Lime Rock Park. In California or New York, A-List stars are hassled and harried. Not here.

Twin Lake CT Boathouse

So it’s no surprise that even stressed out New York No Names come up to Connecticut’s Northwest  corner to hide out – or send their kids, as some pretty tony boarding schools can be found here. Most of the area’s attractions revolve around its many lakes. But the Racetrack remains its main draw.Fishing, Twin Lakes, Salisbury CT

We introduce you to the places we love to paddle, shop, race cars (well, dream of racing), and eat, along with a couple of renovated inns worthy of the Getaway Mavens traveler.

Add on a stay a bit south in Litchfield County CT along the Housatonic River.

Or in Washington CT, also a part of the Litchfield Hills. 

For added pleasure – try out this Connecticut River Valley Towns Getaway, closer to the Connecticut Coast about 2 hours away.

We’ve got so many more recommendations, in our Best Romantic Getaways in Connecticut post.

Things to Do in Northwest Connecticut Towns

O'Hara's Marina, Twin Lakes, Salisbury CT

BOAT: O’Hara’s Landing Marina, Twin Lakes, Salisbury CT

Fish, canoe, kayak or just cruise around the larger of the “Twin Lakes” (562.3 acres). And then come back for a quick meal in O’Hara’s restaurant.

O’Hara’s Landing Marina is a small town, small lake marina and particularly mesmerizing at dawn and dusk. Consult website or call 860-824-7583 for reservations and for other rental rates and hours. Between the Lakes Rd. Salisbury CT

DRIVE: Between the Lakes Rd., Salisbury CT

On your way to downtown Salisbury CT, from O’Hara’s, take the self-explanatory Between the Lakes Rd. – a dirt road that cuts through East and West Twin Lakes.

You might see herons standing stately on docks, lily pads in bloom, and views shaped by green hills and pristine lakes.O'Hara's Marina, Twin Lakes, Salisbury CT

RECREATE: Salisbury Town Grove, Lakeville CT

The only place to launch a boat (10HP or less) into the fish-rich Lake Wononscopomuc is at Town Grove Park in the Lakeville section of Salisbury.

A public park, Town Grove also has a small beach with lifeguard, a small store, and a fishing pond for kids. Open 7am-8pm daily.

Salisbury Association Museum, Salisbury CT

VISIT: Salisbury Association Historic Museum, Salisbury

The tiny Salisbury Association Museum is located inside the 1833 Salisbury Academy Building. Exhibits illuminate the town’s obscure history as an iron mining and manufacturing center that supplied cannons and munitions to George Washington’s army during the American Revolution.  Open Tues-Sat 10-1, free.

Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy, Salisbury CT

SHOP: Salisbury General Store and Gift Shop,Salisbury 

The Salisbury General Store and Gift Shop once had a whiff of old-fashioned Florida souvenir shop meets 1800’s apothecary about it. In 2021, it went the way of most small-town pharmacies, closing its RX operations and sending townspeople to CVS. But, you’ll still find “period” children’s toys, sundries, and an expanded gift shop.

Lime Rock Park CT

GO: Lime Rock Park Racetrack, Lime Rock

Catch a car race or special event at what was Paul Newman’s “home away from home,” Lime Rock Park. Newman last raced on this 1.53-mile course at age 82, a year before he died. There are still swashbucklers that age taking the wheels of high performance cars here.

Various prestige car clubs (e.g. Porsche) rent the track for a few days for “Driver’s Ed.” And of course Lime Rock hosts important races. But the vibe is friendly, inclusive and welcoming – especially towards drive-by tourists who hear the roar of the engines and just want to gawk for a while.

Unless there’s a mega race going on (tickets required), you can enter for free. And if you have the guts, sign up for the Summer Autocross Series and enjoy 4-5  hours of track time with a coach as co-pilot, in your own car for “your own personal track day.” Track open various times during the season – check website for details.

WALK: Industrial Walking Trail, Falls Village

The quarter mile Industrial Walking Trail that passes by a hydro-electric power plant and foaming waterfalls tells the story of this industrial center with pictures and signage. It also happens to be the entrance to the Appalachian Trail. Take a 16 mile hike (8 miles back and forth) to get to Rand’s View, called the “Jewel of Connecticut” by AT through hikers.

Dennis Hill SP, Norfolk CT

DRIVE/PICNIC: Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk

Drive to the top of the hill at Dennis Hill State Park for sweeping vistas of the Berkshires, New York’s Hudson Valley, and northern CT. There’s a covered pavilion with picnic tables.  So, enjoy some local wine and cheese with the view – amazingly spectacular in the Fall season.  Open daily 8-sunset.

Infinity Hall, Norfolk CT

MUSIC/ROCK. Infinity Hall, Norfolk

This fully restored 1883 Infinity Hall in Norfolk (there’s another one in Hartford CT) hosts world famous rock, folk and jazz bands on a regular basis. It sits right across the road from….

MUSIC/CLASSICAL: Yale School of Music Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk

Listen to some of the best orchestral music in the hills of CT during the summer at the Yale School of Music Festival. Combined with the shows at Infinity Hall across the street, you’ll have no shortage of evening events in rural Northwestern Connecticut.

Beckley Furnace, CT

VISIT: Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument, Canaan

Though not usually identified with heavy industry, this section of Connecticut was once rich in iron ore. It must have positively glowed with the light of dozens of iron furnace fires.

One of the last of these furnaces to operate in the USA (from 1847-1919) is now the marvelous Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument and State Park with interpretive signs. This particular furnace produced the ingots used to make the wheels of newfangled railroad cars in the mid-1800’s.

My favorite quirky remnant; a “salamander.” These multi-ton chunks of melted iron were formed through leaks in the masonry.

CowPots from CT

SHOP: Freund’s Farm Market, East Canaan

Buy plants, baked good, produce, preserves, cheese and lots of ancillary products at this farm-side market. On its surface, it may look quaint, but the adjacent Freund’s Farm was the first dairy farm in Connecticut to incorporate “Robotic Milkers” to milk its 300 cows.

Freund’s is a multi-generational family farm with focus on sustainability and ingenuity. Thus inspired, the Freunds created the best-selling bio-degradable manure-based seed-starter, CowPots ©.

Where to Eat in Northwest Connecticut

Salad, Morgan's Restaurant, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

EAT: Morgan’s at the Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Morgan’s excels in farm-to-table cuisine, winning raves from both tourists and locals. Though located inside a hotel, Morgan’s is a destination restaurant in its own right, with fresh from field, ranch, stream, and sea ingredients and a relatively new chefs, James and Daire Rooney Corcoran.

COFFEE/BREAKFAST: Sweet Williams Coffee Shop and Bakery & Dessert and Scoop Shop, Salisbury CT

First thing in the morning, locals, second home owners, and tourists gather at Sweet Williams for warm, ethereal, just out of the oven Ginger Apricot scones, croissants, and cookies, and deeply flavored coffee and freshly squeezed lemonade.

Falls Village Inn Restaurant CT

EAT: Falls Village Inn Restaurant

Dine in either the Falls Village Inn Restaurant or more casual Tap Room. Locals love it for consistently good food. I adored it for the quick and friendly service, decent house wines by the glass, reasonable prices, fresh “from down the street” produce and meats, and the fact that my comfy, cute room was right upstairs (see below).

Dishes range from Fried Calamari, to “Local Burt Burger” – from Hurlburt Farms nearby.

Mountainside Cafe, Falls Village CT

EAT/BREAKFAST: Mountainside Café

Right on Route 7, Mountainside Cafe attracts attention for its fresh cuisine in a modern-country space. Basic breakfasts (eggs, toast, home-fries, bacon) are delish, served on handcrafted inlayed wood tables.

Even better, Mountainside café is affiliated with the Mountainside Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment Center, providing extended stay clients with a supportive work environment. Service is friendly, and the chef knows his stuff. Eating here is a win-win for all.

The Woodland Restaurant CT

EAT: The Woodland, Lakeville CT

Thirty-something years ago, The Woodland was a shake shack (no, not that one). But it eventually became the local hangout it is today. Trendy places might come and go, but “everyone ends up here,” says one patron who lives nearby.

The chef does wonders with a range of food. Munch on specials like the Crispy Chicken and  Lemongrass Dumplings – or a variety of Sushi, or burgers  – always on the menu. It was packed on a mid-summer Tuesday and the busy bartender stated that it’s “like this year round.”

Where to Stay in Northwest Connecticut

Lakeside Cottage, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

STAY: Interlaken Inn, Lakeville

Just 2 miles from Salisbury CT, the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville CT (not to be confused with the one in Lake Placid NY) has hosted parents and friends of next-door Hotchkiss School, along with newlyweds and other romantics, for decades.

In-house Morgan’s Restaurant draws foodies and travelers seeking rural rustic-luxe peace and quiet as well. (See under “where to eat”)

Pool, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

With expansive property encompassing the Main building (40 rooms and suites of various sizes), several cottages, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a separate waterfront beach and dock on Lakeville Lake (aka Lake Wononscopomuc), some guests don’t even leave the compound once settled in.

First Impressions of Interlaken Inn in Northwest CT

Entrance, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

From the driveway, the Interlaken Inn looks less like the upscale hotel it is than a 50’s ski lodge, with it’s weathered grey siding and modernist design.

Lobby, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Not to fear. Walk inside and you’ll find a warm greeting and several striking landscape paintings – often the first thing visitors comment on when checking in.

Rooms and Suites at Interlaken Inn CT

Paul Newman Room, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Most rooms have been renovated, or at least updated and refreshed with soft and comfy new bedding and furniture.

View from Balcony, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

But in the Paul Newman Suite at least, both the bathroom, and screened-in-porch with pool and landscape views, are the stars of the show.

Though small, the beautifully designed bathroom, with iridescent glass backsplash, bead-glass sconces, granite sink-top, and sizeable glass/subway tile walk-in shower is a funky-cool departure from and nice counterpoint to the earth-toned bedroom.

Paul Newman photo, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Why a Paul Newman Suite? Until his death in 2008, the Hollywood star lived in Connecticut, and came to Lakeville often to race his cars at Lime Rock Racetrack, just 4 miles from the Interlaken Hotel. The Suite, in homage to him, features several photos and paintings of the philanthropic and well-liked celebrity.

Honeymoon Suite, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Honeymooners – and brides preparing for an on-site wedding – prefer to stay in the contemporary Penthouse Suite, with its own entrance and enclosed hot-tub deck.

Suite Bathroom, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

The Penthouse bathroom, with soaking tub inside a massive mosaic-tiled shower, is in a luxury class all itself.

Lakeside Cottage, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT

Travelers looking for even more privacy should check out the Lakeside Cottage – with small beach, fire-pit, dock with loaner canoe, screened in porch, King Bedroom and pull out-couch in the living room.

Amenities at Interlaken Inn

Ellora Spa with Workout Room

Game Room with Multiple Games

Screening Room (complementary, but purchase candy from desk)

Tennis Courts

Outdoor Heated Swimming Pool (Memorial Day to Mid-Sept)

Falls Village Inn CT

STAY: Falls Village Inn, Falls Village

When gutting a disintegrating flop house and revamping it into a stylish inn, it pays to be friends with a renowned New York City Interior Designer – in this case, Bunny Williams, queen of cozy-comfy chic.

The NY Times wrote of a typical William’s interior – it’s “a place to put your feet up and your drink down.” This is precisely how you’ll feel at the Falls Village Boutique Inn just a few miles from Lime Rock Racetrack.

Falls Village Inn Tap Room

Across from a package store and Jacobs Garage, Falls Village Inn has delivered a bit of elegance and outside interest to this quiet hamlet.

The restaurant is a draw in itself, but rooms are lovingly and beautifully redone with wainscoting, colorful art, fine antiques, soothing pastel colored walls and soft luxe bedding. It’s Ralph Lauren Country with a lighter, more feminine hand.

Each room is a perfect retreat after a meal downstairs – and an excellent base for those heading to Lime Rock Park or learning to race at the Skip Barber Racing School.

FYI- this is not a “B&B” – no breakfast is served in the morning. But you are directed to the Mountainside Cafe – just a mile plus down Route 7.

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  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine,, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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1 thought on “Tranquil Adventures In The Bucolic Northwest Connecticut Corner”

  1. The author forgot to mention Sweet William’s, a wonderful place to go for delicious coffee and great conversation. A real coffee shop.

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