Ah, the beach. Sand everywhere. Hard-to-find parking. Distant restrooms.
It doesn't have to be that way. Steal away, on a weekday if you can, and keep it simple.
You'll be out the gas and $14 to park one carful of beach-goers at Ocean Beach Park in New London. (Holidays are $25, weekends, $18.)
No, these are not Rhode Island waves. Don't bring your surf board. Heck, there's not even much boogie in the boogie board. BUT, if your thing is scenic ocean views, what they call “sugar sand” and short trudges to find your setup spot not far from water's edge, Ocean Beach is the place for you.
Pack your own lunch and snacks and stretch out to read that book you've renewed at the library three times now. Be prepared to keep looking up, though, because there is a lot to ogle. Out on the water, we mean.
When we went this week, we saw what looked like a pirate ship slowly sailing on the horizon, the Block Island ferry, the nature walk at one end of the beach in a reclaimed dune area, and the odd but eye-catching New London Ledge Light in the middle of the harbor.
The light, built in 1909, is a three-story, Second Empire French mansion. It's reputed to be haunted since the '30s when the keeper leapt to his death because his wife ran away with the captain of the Block Island ferry. That's the yarn, anyway, and it plugs the gap of the soap opera you're missing this afternoon.
OK, if you must, bring the kids. But, if they're swimming age and know the buddy system, they'll play in the cool waters for hours on end and you can work work work on that tan. If there are males in your group, they probably will start digging a huge hole to China, somewhere near the beach blankets, and lug water from the sea to create a rudimentary Jacuzzi. Why they never work this hard at home boggles the mind, but there were several of these industrious seaside excavations going on within our little beach region.
On the off chance that the beach alone isn't enough of a draw, Ocean Beach Park sports a half-mile-long boardwalk, water slide, Olympic size outdoor pool, amusement park rides, arcade, miniature golf and workout facility.
On the free-parking Monday Cruise Night, 5-8 p.m., there are deep discounts in all the attractions. Other nights offer movies on the beach, magic shows, live music and karaoke. You can enter the park after 5 p.m. for $5, so one romantic option might be a sunset picnic.
Best of all, especially if you have sand diggers in your group, is the free water "spray ground," which lets you feel playful as you remove the sand before the ride home.
The bathhouses and restrooms are large enough to accommodate the crowds. Right now some of the boardwalk buildings are under renovation, but they don't detract from the view out there on the water.