Although I've lived in Connecticut for over 20 years, I only recently learned about the Thimble Islands. The islands which are comprised of granite rocks and ledges are a result of glaciation centuries ago. Depending on the tides, and what many might consider an island (is a rock an island?) there are between 100 and 365 which serve as a rest stop for migrating seals. The islands are not only beautiful but are fascinating. I had the great opportunity to take a 45 minute chartered tour through the islands this weekend. The ride was most pleasant, if not a bit choppy, and is a perfect little get away for kids and grownups of all ages. If you're looking to fill a day or part of a day, I highly recommend Thimble Island Cruises. Well behaved kids can stop off at Thimbleberry's for a scoop of ice cream afterwards!
Lore has it that Adrian Block first discovered these islands in 1614 and that that Captain Kidd buried his valuable treasures amongst them. Although they are said to be named for the thimbleberry plant which closely resembles the black raspberry, the plant is more common in Northern parts of New England.
The Thimble Islands are included in the National Register of Historic Places. Among the islands are:
Horse Island, which at 17 acres is the largest of all the islands. It is owned by Yale University and used as an ecological laboratory for Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History. Money Island is the next largest with 12 acres and is home to an entire village consisting of 32 houses a library, a church and a post office. Governors Island is just over 7 acres and home to 14 houses. Roger's Island, Bear Island contains a granite quarry which exported high quality stone to the Lincoln Memorial, Grant's Tomb, The Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal and Columbia University. There are also Davis, High, Pot and Outer Islands, the latter is used by Southern Connecticut State University for ecological purposes.
Those islands that are inhabited bear a total of 81 houses: 14 islands have only one home. As mentioned above Governor has 14, and Money has 32. The rest of the islands house between 2 and 6 homes all of which are built in a variety of styles. Some have tennis and basketball courts and one boasts a swimming pool. Some small clusters are connected by footbridges. At one point many homes were used year round but the exposed nature of the houses makes them dangerous during storms. Many local residents still talk about the Hurricane of '38, which killed seven people. The exclusivity of these homes has made them quite expensive, therefore residents are divided between local families who have owned their homes for generations, and more recent residents who tend to be wealthy. The least expensive houses, on Money Island, are appraised at about $600,000. Just 6 of the islands have electricity that is delivered through underwater cables, the other islands rely on generators, solar power, batteries, kerosene or propane.
Notable island residents include Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury Cartoonist) and his wife, Jane Pauley (Broadcast Journalist, former Today Show co-host), William Taft established his Summer White House on Davis Island and actor Frank Converse.
When the weather is warm ferries shuttle back and forth transporting people and goods to and from the islands. Prior to telephones, islanders hung a red flag on the dock to request a ferry visit. Most island residents have their own boats, a couple own sea planes.
For more information on tours and charters, visit Thimble Island Cruises.