Looking for a wonderful fly-in destination in New England? Here's a real gem in the southern Connecticut Valley! Enjoy the musical theater, a boat ride down the river, or just fly in for a bite to eat.
March 17, 1997
Imagine an airport located in rural New England along the picturesque
Connecticut River. You fly in on a crisp, autumn day, enjoying the scenery
that only can be experienced in New England in the fall. Hop out of your
plane and walk four hundred yards to an historic nineteenth century hotel
where you are served a delicious lunch or dinner. When your appetite is
more than satisfied walk next door for a musical theater performance recognized
as one of the best available in the U.S. As you takeoff over the river,
still applauding the performances of the actors and the chef, you realize
that you have found a wonderful fly-in destination. Spread the word. You
have discovered Goodspeed Airport in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Located 22 NM ENE of the New Haven VOR, you'll be able to easily locate runway
14/32 which is adjacent to the Connecticut River. As a matter of fact,
4,500 feet of this part of the river is a seaplane base.Traffic announcements
and advisories are on 122.8. As you approach the pattern watch for seaplanes
off the river. The only downside to this airport is the runway length.
At 2,120 feet with a hill to the east and the river to the west, this landing
site is not for every plane or every pilot. But if you are comfortable
with short field landings and take-offs, don't miss it.
Goodspeed is a great, small airport. The runway is paved, well maintained
and lighted throughout the night. There is a friendly FBO on site, Eagle
Aviation, managed by Tom Anzelone. They pump 100LL at $1.89 per gallon
and 80 to 87 octane is $2.24 per gallon. There is a $3 daytime parking
fee and a $7 overnight fee.
Have you ever considered getting your seaplane rating? This is the place
for you. Eagle Aviation offers a two day course for $600. Also on site
is Aviation Maintenance. Leave your plane here for an oil change or prop
balancing or any other of your maintenance needs while you enjoy East Haddam.
You really don't need any transportation except your own feet when visiting
Goodspeed. This small town has all of its sites within a mile of the airport.
You may want to rent a car to see the surrounding area. Enterprise Rent-A-Car
will deliver to the airport with advanced notice. Rates start under $30.00
per day. East Shore Taxi is the local cab company. Contact them if you
need a ride to neighboring towns.
In the mid-nineteenth century East Haddam was a bustling river port.
The Gelston brothers and their partner, William Goodspeed, built the luxurious
Gelston House Hotel in 1853. It catered to the ferry traffic traveling
on the Connecticut River.
Twenty years later Goodspeed added the opera house, a post office, steamship
offices and shipping rooms on the bank of the river. Steamboats brought
entire Broadway productions to the Goodspeed Opera House. By the 1920s
trains had replaced ferries and the opera house closed. By 1958 the hotel
had also fallen into disuse. Thanks to preservationists both were reopened
in the 1980s and now provide visitors with entertainment and lodging in
19th century style.
The Goodspeed Opera House is the most popular tourist attraction here.
But perhaps you'd like to journey down the Connecticut River? Walk over
the bridge to Camelot Cruises. River trips are offered every day from April
through September. The Ramblin River Cruise departs 1:30 p.m. each day
and Sunday brunch cruises are from noon to 2:30 and priced at $29 per person.
There are fall foliage tours on weekdays and even Murder on the River Cruises
on weekend evenings from April to December. There's a full day cruise to
Long Island offered from June to Labor Day.
We've flown into Goodspeed just to enjoy the little village. From the
airport walk up the hill to the main street. Turn right to route 149 which
proceeds further up the hill to the left. Visit the Nathan Hale Schoolhouse
built in 1750 where this Revolutionary War hero taught for one year. Next
door is St. Stephen's Episcopal Church whose bell has an interesting history
dating from 815 A.D.
Businesses in the village include a gift shop, bakery and ice cream
Where to Eat and Stay
We visited the Gelston House for lunch on a matinee day. The main dining
room and its outside Beer Garden were both full of theater patrons. Service
was relaxed, so allow ample time for your meal. Our tasty entrees of chicken
pot pie, swordfish and pasta with chicken were all priced around $8.
Appetizers, soups and salads are also available. Two out of three of
our desserts were delicious. (Skip the creme brulee!) The atmosphere of
this charming old hotel combined with the view of the Connecticut River
and good food make the Gelston House a popular attraction. You will need
to make reservations.
If you would like to stay the weekend, the Gelston House has six rooms
available for guests. Antiques abound in these rooms on the second and
third floors. Rates are from $100 to $225 per night with a deposit required
at time of booking. There is a seventy-two hour cancellation policy.
The Hale-N-Hearty Restaurant, which is 1 1/2 miles from the airport,
will pick you up at Goodspeed with thirty minutes notice. The restaurant
serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch all featuring American cuisine.
The adjoining Gillette Tavern has live music on weekends. It is closed
Directly across the river from the airport is the Dockside Restaurant.
Take the 1/2 mile walk over the bridge to enjoy an informal seafood lunch
or supper. On a nice day you can order your fish & chips ($4.95) and
enjoy them on a picnic bench beside the river. Hot dogs, hamburgers and
chicken sandwiches are available for those who don't want the fried clams,
shrimp or chowder. Menu items are priced from $1.75 to $8.95 and Dockside
is open from noon to 8 p.m.
Cafe Pronto is in the center of town. It opens at 9 a.m. for coffee
and homemade muffins. You can pick up some sandwiches here and spread your
blanket at the airport for a riverside picnic.
Within ten miles of East Haddam you will find Gillette Castle, an unusual
stone building built in 1919 by the actor William Gillette. It is located
in a 125 acre park with beautiful trails and river views.Further south
is Essex, one of the most beautiful towns in New England. Visit historic
Griswold Inn for lunch or dinner and enjoy browsing the many boutiques
and shops. There's a Connecticut River Museum here and a steam train ride
When you depart, climb out over the river. Noise abatement procedures
request no turns until you reach 1000 feet. If time allows, do a little
sightseeing from the air. This part of the Connecticut River is well worth
Gents grab your straw hats and ladies tie on your bustles. Head for
Goodspeed Airport for a great daytrip that will return you to an era when
the riverboat was king.
Hotel and Restaurants
Cafe Pronto: 873-81002 Norwich Rd.
Dockside Restaurant: 345-2470 1 Marine Park, Haddam
Gelston House: 873-1411 Route 82
Hale-N-Hearty Restaurant: 873-2640 381 Town St.
Camelot Cruises: 345-8591 1 Marine Park, Haddam
Goodspeed Opera House: 873-8668 Box A, Route 82
Gillette Castle: 526-2336 Gillette Castle State Park