Visit A Breathtaking Castle At This East Coast State Park

If you're an adventurer passionate about pursuing the past, there's a good chance visiting castles around the world tops your itinerary, especially when you're headed to destinations like Europe. The continent is rich in history and well-adorned with thousands of castles that continue to stand as testaments to bygone eras. But let's say it's medieval-inspired castles you're after, and you don't quite have the time to board a plane and make your way across the ocean. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that, right in the heart of Connecticut, there's an opportunity for a breathtaking castle visit rivaling European architecture at Gillette Castle State Park.

Located on River Road in East Haddam, Gillette Castle's place within a protected U.S. state park means visitors won't have to purchase an international flight to enjoy admiring the impressive architecture. Instead, they can simply follow I-95 South and connect up with route 82E, following park signs to the final destination. Resembling a medieval fortress, Gillette Castle promises to be a thrilling, if not unexpected find.

Famed director, playwright, and actor William Hooker Gillette was inspired to build the castle as a personal residence back in 1914. It wouldn't be completed until 1919, with modifications continually happening until 1926. Today, Gillette Castle boasts 14,000 square feet of living space and 24 rooms across its meticulously designed interior. A community of enthusiasts and dedicated volunteers, known asĀ Friends of Gillette Castle State Park, estimates the final cost of construction was over $1 million.

Get the most out of a guided castle tour

Gillette Castle enjoys a scenic location on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. For visitors, this means you can count on great views as well as an immersive historical experience with every visit. The castle sits on a pristine 184-acre estate and was purchased from the Gillette family by the state of Connecticut in 1943. It was officially opened as a museum and state park for the public to enjoy the following year.

Today, a highlight of a visit to Gillette Castle State Park is booking a tour to set your sights on the unique interior of this impressive structure. While the castle grounds and surrounding nature trails are open year-round, you'll need to book tickets before you arrive to ensure you can take a stroll through time within the walls of Gillette Castle. While the exterior speaks to a more traditional medieval castle design, the interior aesthetic was extremely innovative for its time.

The beauty of Gillette Castle truly lies in the details of its design. Light fixtures around the castle are meticulously crafted while red mortar tiles bring bold hues to the walls. Visitors are treated to an up-close look at hand-carved southern white oak woodwork throughout and central heating linked through cast-iron radiators. More unique design elements include dining room tables and chairs on tracks, built-in couches, and hideaway liquor cabinets to name a few of many fun-to-discover features.

Activities to enjoy near Gillette Castle

Once you've had the opportunity to enjoy wandering through the castle's inspiring towers, bedrooms, library, art gallery, and gigantic living room, you'll find there's even more to enjoy outdoors. Connecticut is a beautiful state that has been credited with housing some of the best hiking in the country. When you make your way to Gillette Castle State Park, you can put that reputation to the test on the many scenic pathways that crisscross the castle grounds.

Taking time to explore these routes will have you encountering wooden trestles, stone bridges, and tunnels that run through the hillsides making up the Seven Sisters. The trails in this area are prime places to find unique geological formations and even locate crystals as you roam. The park sits close to the Honey Hill fault giving the terrain a unique visually layered effect. It's home to Hebron rock formations that host a variety of eye-catching minerals ranging from calcite to quartz.

The lush grounds surrounding Gillette Castle are picture-perfect for a picnic enjoyed with family and friends during a visit. The park also puts visitors within easy reach of the Connecticut River making it a great place for birding. If you want to extend your stay, there are basic riverside campsites available at Gillette Castle State Park that you can book for one night at a time between May and September.