Silver Sands State Park and Charles Island




Silver Sands State Park, Milford Connecticut
Silver Sands State Park, Milford Connecticut
Miles of natural beach are preserved for free public use in Milford at Silver Sands State Park. If the tides are right you can also walk out to Charles Island - the "thrice cursed island" and home to many legends and artifacts of Connecticut history. Walking is a pleasure along 3 miles of wide and well crafted boardwalk. The beaches are rocky and rough, but low tide allows for wading between sandbars.





The first time I was out to Silver Sands, the tide was high enough to prevent me from walking out to Charles Island. So, today I woke early and checked the tide schedules. I made it to the beach exactly at dead low tide. This time a landbridge (tombolo) of rocks and shells was fully elevated above the water line. I was given a two hour window for making the 1 mile journey, exploring the island, and returning before the tides took back the bridge.

A tombolo connects Silver Sands to Charles Island at low tide
A tombolo connects Silver Sands to Charles Island at low tide.
The island is a wildlife refuge and all but the shoreline sits behind a fence with warnings to keep out and not to disturb the egret nesting areas inside. There are more than egrets inside. Being a typical tourist I wandered in where I did not belong.

I definitely did not belong, and the wildlife wasn't shy about letting me know that I had walked into their house without knocking. The sounds which permeated the island interior were unworldly. Having canoed the Boundary Waters, hiked along the Appalachian Trail, and camped on a desert island in the Florida Keys, I have never been to a more wild place than Charles Island. Guttural whoops, squawks, whistles, and hoots warned of my intrusion. That most birds were nesting with chicks at this time of the year likely made for a more defensive attitude than is typical for coastal avia.

Dense verdure interior of Charles Island, Milford CT
Dense verdure interior of Charles Island, Milford CT
I had worn sandals and shorts on this Memorial Day weekend half believing that I may have had to do some shallow wading to reach the island.This dress prevented me from blazing through the dense interior of the island.

I hiked along the shore, trying to stay clear of geese guarding their young with incredulous and threatening body language. Having circumvented half the island I dodged into the woods in search of rumored ruins.

In the 1800's a resort hotel and small village made a home on the small island at the mouth of the Wepawaug River known as the Charles Island House and later as the Ansantawae House.  There was also a religious retreat that opened and closed in the 1930's called the Aquinas Retreat.  I happened to find the remains of the chapel from this second retreat, but not from the Ansantawae House.


Remains of the Aquinas Retreat on Charles Island
Remains of the Aquinas Retreat on Charles Island
There were several ruins clustered together.  An archway leading to a pastoral scene, the nave of a chapel, and foundations of some cabins or buildings.

An eeriness pervaded Charles Island, despite my daytime exploration. There is something anthropophobic about this place.

There are many legends surrounding the island which are well documented.  It is considered to be the Thrice Cursed Island by some. I will leave the ghost hunting stories to others more versed in the local lore.

Nevertheless, there is one story I cannot ignore; that of Captain Kidd's landing here, burying and cursing his last treasure before sailing into Boston where he was arrested and sent for execution.  I'm not sure how Captain Kidd became endowed with magical powers, but the legend states that the townspeople of Milford became aware of Kidd's nearby landing and a posse was assembled to locate his treasure. They tracked his fresh footsteps and dug in the sands until their spades struck the iron lid of a treasure chest. Subsequently, a headless apparition appeared and then dove into the hole.  Blue flames poured out of the hole and then magically all of the workmen's spades vanished and the beach was flattened and smoothed - forevermore disguising the trove.

Hunting for Captain Kidd's last treasure, Milford CT
Hunting for Captain Kidd's last treasure, Milford CT
Naturally, treasure hunting is a popular sport at Silver Sands State Park.

I returned to the mainland and beaches with plenty of time before the causeway was washed over. A word to the wise: the tides in Connecticut raise as much as ten feet in less than a couple hours. When the water crests over the tombolo it rushes over and falls into the bay causing a dangerous undertow. Each year someone is washed to their death believing they can beat the tide back to shore.  When the tombolo is covered with a few inches of water, it will be only one half hour before it is impassable. It is a good idea to go out as the tide is receding and be back three hours before high tide. (See Tide Chart Here)

Silver Sands offers plenty of wide boardwalks and picnic areas. But, the star of this park is Charles Island - a privately owned island, but certainly treated as an everyman's adventure.

DIRECTIONS


Address for your GPS: 395 Meadowside Road, Milford CT
| coordinates:N41.201408,W073.069216 |

From Bridgeport13 Minutes
From New Haven23 Minutes
From Hartford1 Hour
From New London1 hour
From Providence2 Hours
From New York1.5 Hour




LINKS

Tide Charts


An Historical Account of Charles Island

 
Park Map


Ghost Stories


Video Tour 



PHOTOS


CLICK TO ENLARGE IMAGES
Boardwalk to Walnut Beach at Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT
Boardwalk to Walnut Beach at Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT

Remains of a religious retreat, Charles Island, Milford CT
Remains of a religious retreat, Charles Island, Milford CT

Nave of an abandoned chapel on Charles Island, Milford CT
Nave of an abandoned chapel on Charles Island, Milford CT

Ruins on Charles Island, Milford CT
Ruins on Charles Island, Milford CT

Charles Island, Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT
Charles Island, Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT

Great Egret at Charles Island, Milford CT
Great Egret at Charles Island, Milford CT

Avian wildlife (Herons) at Charles Island, Milford CT
Avian wildlife (Herons) at Charles Island, Milford CT

Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT
Silver Sands State Park, Milford CT

Trident's Spear? Silver Sands State Park
Trident's Spear? Silver Sands State Park