BRIDGEPORT - People looking to get away from the bustle of Bridgeport have a new place to visit -- or rather, an old place that's now much easier to reach.

The city celebrated the official reopening of Pleasure Beach under sunny skies on Saturday. Access to the picturesque peninsula was cut off in 1996 when a fire destroyed the bridge that connected it to the mainland.

The city is now offering free water taxi service to Pleasure Island. The rides depart from the Bridgeport Ferry dock, and parking on the mainland side is also free.

The new water taxis carried waves of people to Pleasure Island throughout its inaugural day. By noon, the beaches were full. Among the bathers was Mayor Bill Finch, who had pledged to restore access to the 71-acre peninsula years ago.

The mayor says that the $8 million cost of restoring the beach was paid for half by the city and half by federal funds.

Pleasure Beach will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.