The gritty city of New London has an edge of reality that is lacking in most of the Connecticut  coast. The predominantly blue-collar city once had a seedy reputation, with an active drug trade on its waterfront promenade, Bank Street. In the past decade, however, the city has cleaned up its act and gained new confidence through resurgence in the artistic community led by several new galleries and coffee shops that have opened downtown. While Bank Street has an unmistakably urban feel, that is mitigated somewhat by the many historic captain’s houses and heavy stone warehouses that pay due to the town’s rich maritime history.
New London was actually one of the first cities founded in Connecticut, settled by a party led by John Winthrop Jr.—son of the founder of Boston —in 1646. Perhaps it was a bit of an Oedipal rivalry that led Winthrop to one-up his dad by taking on the name of England’s capital city. After a promising beginning, however, New London suffered a devastating setback during the Revolutionary War, when the infamous traitor Benedict Arnold attacked the city, burning it to the ground. The city regained its footing in the next century as a whaling port, behind only New Bedford  and Nantucket  in prominence—and opened up the Antarctic seal fishery as well.
Across the Thames River, the smaller town of Groton draws its identity from the presence of its submarine base, the birthplace of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force, which still employs 6,500 sailors in charge of 18 nuclear submarines.