Southbury in New Haven County is the only community in the entire United States with this name, and points this fact out in its motto, “Unica Unaque”, which means “The One and Only”. With a population slightly below 20,000, the town has a dispersed, rural feel and lays claim to some staggering natural beauty.
This is undeniable along the dammed sections of the Housatonic River, where two of Connecticut’s five largest lakes can be found.
You could pass your time in Southbury striding along winding lakeside trails, visiting waterfalls, observing birds of prey in the wild and sipping acclaimed ales and wine at craft breweries and wineries.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in and around Southbury:
1. Kettletown State Park
The eastern shore of Lake Zoar on the Housatonic River is the magnificent setting for a 600-acre state park.
This land was once occupied by the Pootatuck Indians, who raised crops like tobacco, beans and apples here, and whose village was lost beneath Lake Zoar when the river was dammed in 1919. The State of Connecticut bought this large swathe of woodland in 1950, and the park is a treasured place to go hiking, camping, picnicking and freshwater fishing.
There’s also a beach at the park, but bathing has been put on hold recently with the recurrence of blue/green algae.
2. Southford Falls State Park
On the Southbury-Oxford line, Eight Mile Brook rushes through rocky scenery on its short route from Lake Quassapaug to the Housatonic River.
More than 120 acres along the course have been preserved as a state park at the site of a early-20th-century factory belonging to the Diamond Match Company.
Within Southford Falls State Park you’ll encounter stirringnatural beauty, as the brook tumbles over a series of basalt ledges.
The brook is also crossed by a historic covered bridge, and the Papermill Pond on its course is stocked with trout for fishing.
3. Southbury Green
The name Southbury Green applies to the long strip of grass peppered with trees on Main Street, and the sizeable shopping center beside it.
Among the tenants at Southbury Green are Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Pier 1 Imports, Yankee Candle, Starbucks, HomeGoods and Massage Envy.
The centre of attention on the green itself is the gazebo, which has a series of concerts in August.
These shows are part of a larger program, bringing some 20 live performances to various public venues around Southbury from late-June to the start of September.
4. Shepaug Eagle Observation Area
Lake Lillinonah, Connecticut’s second largest lake, was created in 1955 with the construction of the Connecticut Light and Power Company’s Shepaug Dam.
One of the welcome consequences of this project is that the dam has become an important nesting and feeding site for eagles and hawks.
One reason for this is that the movement of water below the dam stops ice from forming, which gives these birds of prey easy access to fish.
The dam’s current owner, FirstLight Power Resources invites the public to use its newly renovated observation area, installed with spotting scopes and binoculars.
The platform is open between December and March on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 09:00 to 13:00.
5. Glebe House Museum & Garden
In Woodbury there’s a glorious Georgian house constructed around 1740 and open to the public from May to October.
With five bays on its main facade, the house has a signature gambrel roof, which drops down to the top of the first floor at the rear, so combining gambrel and saltbox characteristics.
Above the main entrance there’s a corniced entablature and a transom window.
One of the most important fixtures inside is the original kitchen fireplace, thought to be among the largest in the state.
Glebe House witnessed a momentous event in 1783 when it was the site of the first Episcopal election in the United States.
By the 1920s the house had fallen into disrepair and was restored under the supervision of Henry Watson Kent, the Secretary of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He commissioned the famed English designer Gertrude Jekyll to lay out the gardens, and this is the last surviving example of her work in the United States.
The house and gardens are open for guided tours Wednesday to Sunday from 13:00 to 16:00.
6. Larkin State Park Trail
At Kettletown Road in Southbury you’ll come to the eastern terminus of this trail more than 10 miles long and crossing four different towns.
The Larkin State Park Trail is on the former roadbed of a western extension of the New York and New England Railroad, in operation between 1881 and 1939. When the line was abandoned the local man Dr. Charles L. Larkin bought ten miles and gifted it to the state as a bridleway.
Come year round to ride, walk or even ski along this path, and you’ll get an idea of the challenges faced by the railroad constructors, passing through swamp and rocky ravines, cut 140 years ago by steam drills.
7. Audubon Center Bent of the River
This expansive, 700-acre preserve is in the hands of the National Audubon Society.
When bequeathing the land, the previous owner, Althea Clark, stated that it had to be kept in a state of “mild wilderness”. At Bent of the River there’s grassland, scrub, forests and wetlands, all coursed by the Pomperaug River.
You’ll also find some historic buildings dotted around the preserve, including a 19th-century barn, which is used by the society for displays about the landscape and its ecology.
As well as walking the trails you can take part in conservation-themed activities throughout the year, like bird walks and safari tours along the river.
8. George C. Waldo State Park
Right on the east bank of Lake Lillinonah, this 150-acre park in an undeveloped, hilly landscape is open all year and free to visit.
A trail about three quarters of a mile long wends its way through wetlands and woodland mixing coniferous and deciduous trees, dropping some 50 metres along the way.
Visit for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and fishing.
Mountain bikers love George C. Waldo State Park for 4.5 miles of freshly plotted singletrack on five interconnected trail, all flanked by log and rock features.
9. Southbury Farmers’ Market
Southbury has a small but popular and animated Farmers’ Market.
This crops up under the flagpole in front of the Town Hall every Thursday afternoon between mid-June and mid-October.
The benefit of shopping at a producer-only market, is supporting the local economy and small businesses, but also getting high-quality produce, eggs, baked goods, natural cosmetics, flowers, olive oil and jams and jellies from the people who made or grew it.
There’s also a choice of food to be enjoyed on the spot, be it organic ice pops or wood-fired pizza.
10. Quassy Amusement Park & Water Park
There’s a fully fledged amusement park less than 15 minutes from Southbury and dating back more than a century.
Quassy (on the shore of Lake Quassapaug) started out in 1908 as a trolley park on the line from Waterbury to Woodbury, and is one of just a small few of these attractions left in the United States.
The park is much more than just a historical relic though, and in 2011 opened the Wooden Warrior, which continues to rival America’s best wooden roller coasters according to Amusement Today.
There are more than 38 amusements at Quassy, a large chunk of which are aimed at smaller members of the clan.
Splash Away Bay, the water park here, has slides for all-comers, and the outlandish Saturation Station, with a 300-gallon tilting bucket that dumps water onto the crowds below.
11. Settlers Park
A place in the middle of Southbury to get out and be active, Setters Park has all you need for a wide variety of activities.
In almost 70 acres there are fields for soccer, baseball, softball and lacrosse, as well as the kind of playground kids can run wild in.
For gentler recreation the park has a walking trail tracing those sport facilities, as well as Southbury’s community gardens, a gazebo, restrooms and a picnic areas.
Anglers with licenses can cast their lines from the banks of the Pomperaug River, which borders the park.
12. Black Hog Brewing Co.
You won’t have to travel far for an expertly crafted beer in Southbury, as Black Hog Brewing Co. is a matter of minutes away in Oxford.
The brewery sticks to a hardcore of just seven year-round beers.
Among these are four hoppy and zesty IPAs (Ginga Ninja, BHB, Hog Water and Piglet Double), as well as Nitro Coffee Milk Stout, Granola Brown Ale and Hog Lager Pilsner.
These are joined by a whole host of seasonal and specialty brews, so there’s always something new to try.
Black Hog opens its doors from Wednesday to Sunday, and has an events calendar chock full of painting sessions, art exhibitions, trivia nights and live comedy.
There’s almost always a food truck parked up outside, especially on weekends.
13. Walker Road Vineyards
Based out of a beautiful 150-year-old barn, Walker Road Vineyards specializes in wines from a blend of grapes.
The tasting room is open on weekends between May and December, and unveiled a new deck in August 2019. Weather permitting, you can also take a bottle of Walker Road wine up the hill for a picnic surrounded by vines.
In the European tradition, Walker Road’s wines tend to be made from a blend of red or white grapes grown on this land, like Cabernet Franc, Saint-Croix, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Traminette.
The dry red Marquette is the only single varietal wine in Walker Roads’ range.
During the week you can pick up Walker Road’s wines at liquor stores around Southbury, Woodbury and Middlebury.
14. Pomperaug Golf Club
In a verdant backdrop, Pomperaug Golf Club is a daily fee course open to the public.
A nine-hole par 35, the track is drawn up to test your accuracy with its ample sand traps and water hazards.
It was designed by Ted Manning and opened in 1971, with a slope rating of 115 and a maximum length of 2,750 yards from the longest tees.
Rates are reasonable here, and 18 holes will set you back $35 on weekdays and $40 on weekends, with a special all-you-can-play twilight rate of $15 in the 90 minutes before sunset.
15. Southbury Public Library
The town’s local library is a point of pride and very much at the core of the community.
The new facility opened in 2006 at a cost of $6m.
At the time it was the first public building constructed in the town for three decades.
Over 3,000 square metres and two floors, Southbury Library holds 90,000 books, as well as meeting rooms, an extensive DVD library, audiobooks, computers for public use, a coffee bar, a cosy fireplace and outdoor patio.
Children, teens and adults are served by a whole raft of programs, from classes to storytimes, talks by guest speakers, movie screenings (Wednesdays for grownups), talks and book clubs.
And if you’re in need just an hour or two of peace to get some work done there’s free Wi-Fi.