Thimble Island's sunset Photo by slack12 via Flickr Creative Commons

The water plays an important role in Connecticut’s list of things to do. With Long Island Sound stretched along the whole southern coast and a half dozen major rivers like the Thames and Connecticut flowing to the sea, the state is an overlooked destination for boating and fishing.

Connecticut also has 137 state parks, 800 miles of hiking trails (including a section of the famed Appalachian Trail), and a dozen or more lush, rolling golf courses. The highest point in the state only reaches 2,385 feet, so most outdoor recreation takes place on the flatlands. Connecticut is a great spot for biking, strolling along the coast, and taking an overnight drive to a colonial-era village tucked deep in the interior.

The Connecticut River is one of the wide, lazy waterways that wind their way through the state to the sea. Outfitters like Long River Adventures in Windsor arrange all kinds of canoeing or kayaking excursions along an amazing stretch of river known as the Farmicut (the Farmington and Connecticut rivers). Historic towns lie along all of these banks, which open up the possibility of multi-day outings.

One of the best ways to spend a relaxing day absorbing the scenery of the Connecticut River Valley is a combination train and riverboat excursion. The Essex Steam Train began running in the 1920’s, and today provides a popular one-hour chug along the river to the historic village of Deep River. Here, you can hop on the Becky Thatcher riverboat with its cool paddle wheel and add another two hours to your tour. The Essex also runs special dinner trains with a delightful four-course meal.

There are plenty of golfing options in Connecticut, thanks to the gentle, rolling terrain which is ideal for links. Middlefield’s Lyman Orchards Golf Club is one of the prettiest, with two 18-hole championship courses to choose from. After playing a round, head to neighboring Lyman Orchards and savor a magical country meal with arguably the tastiest apple pie in the state. Owenoak International Golf and Travel can arrange an entire golf getaway to the fairway of your choice.

Connecticut’s coastline is home to some of most unique and enjoyable soft adventure activities. Head to the historic Thimble Islands just off the harbor at Stony Creek where you can rent kayaks to paddle around this little archipelago or join the 45-minute guided boat cruise aboard the Sea Mist to learn about the special history of these islands. Back at Stony Creek Market, a vintage trolley takes passengers around the scenic coastal marshes.

The Housatonic River is one of New England’s finest in terms of fishing waters. The town of Cornwall is a good place to start, as several river guide companies are based here including Housatonic Anglers and Housatonic River Outfitters. They can arrange a fishing license, rental gear, and a guide to show you the sweet spots along the banks.

If you have a need for speed and motor racing, Connecticut has both a NASCAR track and the Skip Barber Racing School. The latter is the perfect place to learn the skills needed to race powerful engines and dozens of Indy car drivers are graduates of the academy. Once qualified you can try your hand at Lime Rock Park, a 1.53-mile track with seven turns, or simply attend one of the many motor races held here annually.

Click here to learn about Attractions in Connecticut