Goodspeed Airport and Seaplane Base — Haddam, Connecticut
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.
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 parlor.
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 on Mondays.
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 to Chester.
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 enjoying.
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.
Area Code: 203
Zip Code: 06423
Goodspeed Airport: 873-8568
Eagle Aviation: 873-8568
Aviation Maintenance: 873-1234
Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 395-0758
East Shore Taxi: 388-2819
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