Norwalk Islands Shea Island Sheffield Island Hart Island

You don’t have to visit the Caribbean to experience an Island vacation. You can stay right here in the United States and pay a visit to either Westport or Norwalk Connecticut and explore the Norwalk Islands. There are about 20 to 25 Islands that make up the Norwalk Islands, they stretch for 6 miles long, though most are only about a mile off the coast from Norwalk or southwest Westport. They were formed during the end of the ice age, when the glaciers disappeared leaving sand, silt, and rocks behind. Native Americans once used these Islands as a summer camp.

Private individuals own about a half a dozen of these Islands, the rest are owned either by the City governments of Norwalk or Westport, or are part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife preserve.

The Islands are used for a number of recreational activities. Camping, boating, kayaking swimming, birdwatching, berry picking, and Oyster hunting are some of the activities that both locals and tourists enjoy. There are also boat trips around the Island in the fall to see the change of colors and in the winter to see the harbor seals.

While all the islands are worth at least a brief visit, a few really are must see destinations.

Chimon Island is the largest of the Norwalk Islands, It is 59 acres and part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Preserve. Although boaters can use the three acre beach year round the rest of the Island is closed from April 1st to August 15th each year during bird nesting season. There is no camping allowed on this Island.

Sheffield Island is the second largest Island covering 51 acres. It is the last Island going south in the chain and is only 1500 yards from the City of Norwalk’s coast. There are summer tours to the lighthouse on the Island, and visitors are restricted for much of the year to the area around the lighthouse so as not to disturb the various nesting birds. On Thursdays there are clam bakes and sunset cruises. The fall foliage tour, and the winter tour to view the seals are centered around this Island. In the 1960s this Island was the home of a hippie commune and visitors today can still find traces of those inhabitants.

Shea Island, originally called Ram Island because the early settlers would separate the Rams from the ewes each spring and drive them across the sandbar onto this Island, is named for Daniel Shea a congressional medal of honor recipient who died in Vietnam. The Island sports 16 campsites, though its rocky shore makes it difficult for boaters. This Island was once used for a baptismal spot for the Mormons.

Many of the smaller Islands have interesting names like Grassy, Goose, Little Tavern, Peach, and Sprite. However, the most interesting history of these Islands goes to Hart Island. A visitor once described it as an island where all of human misery went. Among, the various inhabitants of this island over the years were: confederate soldiers, as there was a Prisoner of War Camp on the Island during the Civil War. Yellow fever victims were sent here from New York during the yellow fever epidemic of 1869. The Island has also housed a Woman’ charity hospital, a Tuberculosis hospital and an Insane asylum.

The Norwalk Islands certainly has something for everyone. A bit of history, a lot of nature, and all kinds of recreational activities for the people who love the out of doors. One or all of these Islands are worth the visit if you are considering visiting the Norwalk or Westport area.