The Glastonbury-Rocky Hill Ferry, the oldest continually operating ferry in the United States, began its life in 1655 as a raft pushed across the Connecticut River by a ferryman with a pole. Later, before the advent of steam power, the boat was propelled by a horse on a treadmill. These days, a diesel-powered towboat pulls a barge and its cargo of people and vehicles across the water.
The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which crosses the river roughly 25 miles further south, is only the second oldest continually operating ferry in the country, but its route is the prettier of the two.
The ferries, now operated from spring through fall by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, are not just for tourists; they cut miles off a journey by road. Pedestrians can walk onto the ferries and enjoy the trip, but to better explore the towns at either side, it helps to have a car or bicycle. Chester, a tiny jewel of a town, and Glastonbury, a rural-meets-upscale Hartford suburb, are especially worth a look.