Welcome to Norfolk!
Our small, unspoiled New England town, surrounded by the beautiful northwestern Connecticut hills and forests, offers a wonderful variety of things to do.
There are miles of trails to explore, birds to add to your life list and fish just waiting to be caught. You can hear world-class musicians or see shows of work by area artists, attend free student concerts or get fresh local foods and hand made treasures at the town farmers market. History buffs will enjoy a self-guided tour and our historical society’s museum. And, while you’re here, stay in one of our fine bed and breakfasts, eat at one or more of our lively restaurants or go shopping downtown.
Come to meet people and socialize or enjoy the exquisite quiet in solitude…. Come by yourself or bring your family…. Whatever your pleasure, friendly Norfolk will welcome you.
Grass, trees, hills… wind, water, snow…. You can enjoy an outdoor adventure in Norfolk any time of year. In spring, summer and fall you can hike the Land Trust trails or cycle the back roads in Great Mountain Forest. You can drive up Haystack Mountain or Dennis Hill for a view and a picnic, launch your boat on Wood Creek Pond or cool your toes at the foot of Campbell Falls. Winter is perfect for cross country skiing, ice fishing, skating or snowshoeing. Birders will find many different habitats to explore any time of year. Pack a picnic or order one from downtown.
A comprehensive network of hiking and skiing trails is maintained by the Norfolk Land Trust. More recently the town’s Rails to Trails committee has been upgrading the abandoned railroad bed for cycling and hiking. All trails are open to the public and offer the opportunity for nature study, photography or just unwinding, not to mention a glimpse of Norfolk history.
For example, you’d never know it now but, in the late 19th century, Norfolk’s forested hills were mostly denuded by the local iron industry’s insatiable demand for charcoal. Today, trees cover the hills again and little can be seen of all the past activity, except for traces where the numerous charcoal mounds once stood. One of these spots is visible at the end of the North Swamp Trail behind Botelle Elementary School.
This unique working forest of more than 6,000 acres offers hiking, cycling, skiing or snowshoeing on its roads and trails. The forest is actively managed for forest products and wildlife habitat, and extensively used for research and educational purposes, including public lectures and workshops. Park near the trailhead at 201 Windrow Road and sign in.
In late winter, when the weather cooperates, Great Mountain Forest taps its sugar maples and boils down the sap to produce syrup. Visitors are welcome at the sugar house in season; call ahead if you want to be sure it’s open. Oh, yes, the birding is great! Information and a trail map reside on the forest website.
This 1,300-acre, private ecological research forest is a magnet for bird watchers; its staff welcomes visitors but asks that you contact them before you come. Aton Forest also holds public workshops, nature walks and other events throughout the year on topics related to its fields of study.
State Parks, Boat Launch
In addition to Great Mountain Forest and Aton Forest, Norfolk has three state parks and a state boat launch where you can hike, picnic, boat, fish and enjoy spectacular views.
Park your car and walk the wooded trail in Campbell Falls State Park to the pool at the foot of the falls. In summer, you can drive to the open top of Dennis Hill State Park and picnic in the shady shelter or on the grass; on clear days, you can see into Massachusetts. At Haystack Mountain State Park, you can park near the top, then walk uphill to its iconic lookout tower or enjoy the many trails that crisscross its slopes. And take your canoe or kayak to the state boat launch site on Wood Creek Pond and paddle north to check out Holleran Swamp; you may even spot a pitcher plant or two. If you have a fishing license, Wood Creek Pond is the easiest place to try your luck.
In the winter, there are still plenty of sports to enjoy. For outdoors enthusiasts, Norfolk’s many trails welcome cross-country skiers and snowshoers, and there is skating on Wood Creek Pond and a rink maintained by the town. Indoors, the Norfolk Curling Club is open to visitors during bonspiels and its other events. The club offers classes (see its website for a schedule) and welcomes new members.
Norfolk has long been home to a wealth of visual artists, artisans, writers and musicians—perhaps that’s why the arts flourish so strongly in this small New England town. Music in particular has long been part of the town, supported by the establishment in 1939 of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel trust to fund the use of her property by the Yale Summer Schools of Music and Art.
Concerts by a variety of famous rock, pop, blues and jazz artists are presented year round in a restored vintage theater. The building also houses an award-winning bistro.
This organization of professional visual artists from Norfolk and the surrounding area holds an annual arts weekend in August, studio tours in June. Its members represent a wide variety of media including painting, sculpture, photography and decorative arts.
More than 30 concerts are held during nine weeks in summer, featuring performances by world class artists, who also teach and mentor students at the Yale Summer School of Music. Other events include free student concerts and lectures. Most concerts are held in the historic Music Shed; the box office is in Battell House, 20 Litchfield Road.
Norfolk’s jewel box of a library is a real community treasure. It hosts monthly shows of area artists, plus frequent concerts, lectures, film showings and other kinds of events for adults and children.
Events are held in the Battell Stoeckel Arts Gallery on the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Estate during the art school session in May and June. The building also houses studios for music and art students during the summer, as well as the Norfolk Artists & Friends annual exhibition.
Magnificent stained glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Maitland Armstrong, Franz Mayer & Co. and other artists adorn all three Norfolk churches. See them during services or by special arrangement. The Church of the Transfiguration is seasonal. The Church of the Immaculate Conception has services all year round. Church of Christ Congregational and its adjoining Battell Chapel are also open all year. The library, the Manor House Inn and a number of private residences also have lovely stained glass.
Look for much more art displayed in stores and restaurants, including the Artisans Guild and Infinity Bistro (downtown), and Turi’s (on Route 44 diagonally across from the library).
Incorporated in 1758, Norfolk still preserves traces of its colonial past, the rise of industry and the railroad, the Victorian era and the Gilded Age. If your special interest is history, a visit to the Norfolk Historical Society Museum is a must. In addition to its permanent displays and special exhibitions, which offer a look back at our days of industrial vitality, the museum has books on Norfolk’s history and a walking tour map of historic houses. The museum also offers several special guided tours, such as walks along the Blackberry River to unearth the remnants of our industrial past—you are welcome to join them.
Notable buildings of various periods cluster around the village green, among them the Historical Society museum (1840), the Joseph Jones House (1776), the Norfolk Library (1888), the former Pettibone Tavern (1794) and the Congregational Church (1813). Elsewhere in town, thanks to the wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers who made Norfolk a thriving summer colony, are more than 50 buildings and houses designed by noted architect Alfredo Taylor in the early 20th century, including the Royal Arcanum with its lively pub. Taylor’s work in Norfolk has been designated a thematic group on the National Register of Historic Places. Other notable architects whose work is represented in Norfolk include Ehrick Rossiter, George Keller and Stanford White, whose fountain at the apex of the village green includes bronze-work by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Although only a few historic buildings are open to the public today, a walk or drive around town will reveal many interesting houses in all Norfolk’s neighborhoods. The Historical Society’s free tour guide is available at several places in town.
The railroad came to Norfolk in 1871. It was important to local industry and farming, and to vacationers attracted by the town’s pure air and water. Much of the original right of way has become trails, one of which winds through Stoney Lonesome, a rocky gorge that in 1882 was the scene of an epic derailment. The railroad station, still on Station Place in downtown Norfolk, is now home to offices and a cozy cafe.
Freedom Trail Site
Center Cemetery, which dates from 1757, contains the grave of former slave and Norfolk resident, James Mars. It is a stop on both the Connecticut Freedom Trail and the African-American Heritage Trail.
Weekend in Norfolk is Norfolk’s annual town-wide summer festival that brings everyone together during the first weekend in August for three very special days. Everyone has fun, visitors and residents alike. And the just-inaugurated WINter Weekend, a two-day, midwinter version, is held every February.
Norfolk’s lively Saturday farmers market, located at Town Hall, has both summer and winter seasons, as well as special Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday markets. It features a wide variety of local produce, artisan wares and special activities that include live music.
Norfolk Now, Norfolk’s own monthly newspaper, established in 2003, posts news items, articles and photographs from its current and previous issues on the Internet. Free paper copies usually are available around town.
You can preview the town by using the 126-page Norfolk Natural Resource Inventory. It contains research and information on everything from geography and geology to wildlife and historic resources, complete with maps, charts, photographs and lists of birds and plants. You may download a free, low-resolution version from this website.