Sorry for the last minute reply - I don't check the forums much.
I live in central CT, about 20 mins from Essex. Essex is a great little town. Pretty small "downtown", but a couple of restaurants (I like the Black Seal, many prefer the Griswold Inn), nice riverfront harbor, small shops, and very scenic. The CT River museum is great. The Steam train and boat tour is fun. No rail trail that I'm aware of, but many very scenic and rural roads in the area.
You can have a great time riding around the area. South to Old Saybrook and the shore, or you can go East from Saybrook into Old Lyme (my commute brings me this way). Just north of Essex you have Deep River and Chester, both with small "downtown" areas. I love Chester, there's a good pub/restaurant called the Pattaconk. Also other restaurants and some small shops. West out of downtown Essex will bring you to Ivoryton, so named because of the ivory based industries centered there many years ago. Many small, lightly traveled roads in all directions. Well, not directly east unless you want to swim first...
I plan to put in a bunch of miles Sunday afternoon, maybe going through Essex. Maybe I'll see you on the road.