Part of the reason I moved to Westchester from NYC was the water. I was tired of having to schlep out of the city to dig my toes into the sand and go for a swim. Lucky for us Westchester folks, we can take a dip in the Hudson — or head to one the region’s many beaches in Mamaroneck or Rye. (If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot at the oh-so-private Larchmont Manor Park Society’s Manor Beach, then you’ve got it made.) But for the rest of us, the nicest public beach is actually in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Our friends in Greenwich took us to Greenwich Point Park for the first time in the spring. We were wowed by the Hamptons-like beach houses on Shore Road along the way, but it was the long sandy stretches that thrilled us. After driving over a one-lane bridge built of riverstone, we found ourselves on a peninsula surrounded by the calm waters of the Long Island Sound. The beach itself is expansive, even if the sand is soft in parts, pebbly in others.
Still, we’ve gone several times this summer. Swimming is perfect for young children since the water gets deep gradually, and there are lifeguards on duty.
At low tide, the beach is transformed to a wide-open playground, and the children take over the expanse with pails and shovels. Set up your lounge chair in the wet sand, and let your little one roam, or at least let him or her feel like she can.
But wait! Before you pack up your beach bag, here’s what you need to know:
Where to Get Beach Passes
While Greenwich Point Park is a public beach, Greenwich makes it a teeny bit hard for outsiders to get in. You’ll have to stop at the Civic Center (90 Harding Road) in Old Greenwich to pick up a beach and parking pass first, otherwise the beach attendants will turn you away. (Note that the Civic Center is only open on weekdays, from 9am to 6pm.) The cost is $35 per vehicle and $7 per person ages 5 to 64.
Keep Your Eye on the Tide and the Horseshoe Crabs
The absolute best time to come to Greenwich Beach is at low tide. The beach is wide and space is plentiful. But the tide comes up quickly, and your blankets can easily get soaked if you don’t keep your eyes on the water. It’s best to claim a spot above the high-tide mark — where the beach slopes up a bit and there’s a row of seaweed and shells — while it’s still low tide. Then, when the tide comes up, you’ll have a spot secured on the sand, where people will suddenly be packed in like sardines.
When the tide comes up, it’s often easy to spot horseshoe crabs at the shoreline. The kids love touching their backs or picking them up by their tails. While these crabs won’t hurt you, be sure and respect that they’re living things and should be treated with care.
Don’t Pack Lunch!
There are two concession stands located at opposite ends of the main parking lot, and the food is actually pretty good. They sell standard beach fare, like grilled cheese, pizza, chicken tenders and fries. But they also have grilled chicken on a garden salad or pasta salad and smoothies. Don’t hit the concession without picking up a basket of onion rings. As a junk food lover, I can vouch for their twice-fried yumminess. Lunch for two adults and one child never costs more than $20.
Go For a Walk
If you need a break from the sun, the park has numerous nature trails that lead through the woods and along the craggy shoreline. I highly recommend the stretch nearest to the second concession stand, at the parking lot farthest from the entry gate. Pass by the concession and follow the sandy path south to a windy walk along the Sound.
There are bathrooms at the concession stand along with changing rooms and showers. They’re well-kept and tidy. When changing a messy diaper, I head to the grass under the shaded trees.
Greenwich Point Park is located at Tod’s Driftway at the end of Shore Road. It’s open from dawn to dusk daily. A lifeguard is on duty through Labor Day from 10am to 6pm. For details about the park, see the town’s information page.