STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PAINTINGS BY PETER HUNTOON
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Looking for a peaceful and relaxing summer island getaway? Look no further than the Champlain Islands, where enchanting small towns and breathtaking state parks offer a wide range of options for outdoor recreation, sightseeing, and dining.
Time to start your summer island sojourn with a brisk and beautiful stroll through the nature walk at Grand Isle State Park on South Hero Island. The lakeshore beaches at the park provide ample opportunities for swimming and catch-and-release fishing, and the helpful State Park staff are happy to answer any questions you may have about the park and its history. Extensive camping facilities accommodate both tents and RVs for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts looking to reconnect with nature. Cabins are also available for rental as well.
After a refreshing open-air outing, recharge your batteries and treat yourself to some of the flavorful offerings at Blue Paddle Bistro. Located on South Hero Island, Blue Paddle Bistro artfully fuses elements of Asian, Italian, American, and Latin cuisine together with a diverse menu that appeals to a wide range of tastes and palates. With an inviting atmosphere and stellar service, there’s no better place to enjoy a satisfying and memorable meal in South Hero.
After dinner, check-in at Fearn Lodge at the northeastern edge of South Hero Island. This rustic and restful bed and breakfast features a gorgeous open deck overlooking Lake Champlain and 400 feet of private shoreline. Drop your bags, unwind, and enjoy a favorite beverage outside in the cool, summer breeze.
Rise and greet the day with a tasty breakfast at Wally’s Place in South Hero. Partnering with Burlington-based coffee company Earthback Coffee Roasters, they offer small-batch, locally-roasted coffee with bold and strong flavor. Bagel and sandwich enthusiasts will marvel at the dazzling array of tantalizing breakfast options. Highlights include signature bagel varieties such as “Cranberry Sunflower” and “Rosemary Olive Oil”, and a diverse range of tempting and delicious sandwiches. Longing for a hearty breakfast entrée that combines international flavors with local food traditions? Try their “Euro” sandwich, complete with maple ham, egg, swiss cheese, and French-style grain mustard. For discerning herbivores, the “Veggie Mania” vegetable wrap mixes peppers, onions, tomato, and spinach together with hummus to create a scrumptious healthy fusion that is both vegan-friendly and filling.
After an energizing breakfast, it’s time to get out and make the most of the summer sun! Hero’s Welcome - a century-old Vermont general store - also conveniently offers kayak and bike rentals at reasonable rates, as well as children’s bikes, tandem bikes, canoes, and paddleboards. As part of the extensive Lake Champlain Bikeways trail network, the Champlain Islands offer a wide range of scenic and captivating road-biking opportunities for cyclists of all levels.
Exploring the waters of Lake Champlain by kayak and canoe provides majestic and spellbinding panoramic vistas of the islands and coastline. Boating enthusiasts interested in a more leisurely approach to marine sightseeing can rent pontoon boats from the Marina at Apple Island Resort in South Hero, a premier campground and resort on the Southeastern side of the island. Comfortable and charming cottages and houses and rustic cabins are available for booking at Apple Island Resort, as well as reasonable rates daily, overnight, and seasonal boat docking to both campground guests and the general public for vacationers who bring boats of their own.
As the sun peaks in the Champlain summer sky, why not take a spirited day trip? Head north to the Alburgh Peninsula, where one of Lake Champlain’s most beautiful beaches awaits at the Alburgh Dunes State Park. For avid golfers, the Alburgh Golf Links country club features 18 holes of challenging (yet approachable) play. The course terrain features naturally formed elements such as rocky outcroppings and high-perched hillocks, which reflect the unique geology and topology of the Champlain region. Fancy some after-golf refreshments? Stop by the 19th Hole Bar & Grill for a bite or beverage, and unwind on the deck in the warm, summer sun.
Need a fun and engaging place to take the kids? Look no further than Allenholm Farm, a delightfully rustic seventh-generation family farm on South Hero Island that is fun for the whole family. Allenholm Farm’s petting paddock features adorable animals such as miniature horses and chickens, as well as a playground and picnic area. In the summertime, fresh local raspberries, blueberries, and cherries are available at the Allenholm farm stand. Be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth with a Maple Creemee, a decadent and delectable Vermont treat made with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup.
Wine enthusiasts are sure to enjoy an afternoon at Snow Farm Vineyards on South Hero Island, where they can sample the unique flavors of locally-produced cold-climate wines. Make sure to try their dry, spicy, and fruity Marquette Red, or sample their off-dry Vidal Blanc White with hints of pineapple, pear, and citrus. The vineyard also offers tastings of their award-winning Ice Wine, a lusciously sweet dessert wine with a subtle tartness that enhances its ambrosial texture and smooth finish. The wine is harvested after the first hard frost of the season, in which the grapes are frozen on the vine, creating a taste that is unique to cold climate regions.
An enjoyable day of explorative recreation deserves to be celebrated with an exquisitely-prepared dinner at Shore Acres Inn & Restaurant on North Hero Island. With talented chefs and exceptional lakeside and mountain views visible from every table, this recently-renovated culinary oasis is an ideal location for a relaxed and restorative evening meal. After dinner, enjoy a moonlit stroll on the shores of North Hero, where reflections of stellar light scintillate on the placid surface of Lake Champlain. Looking for romantic and secluded lodging? Check-in at Shore Acres for the night and enjoy a comfortable and tranquil respite in an unforgettable setting.
Start your day off right with a fresh-made wrap or sandwich at Hero’s Welcome in North Hero. In addition to the previously-mentioned bike and kayak rentals, this charming general store features a full-service deli, as well as numerous delightful niche and novelty products such as Vermont maple syrup, wooden maps of Lake Champlain, local tourist guidebooks, organic soaps, and more.
After breakfast, it’s time to make the most of your last day and take full advantage of the outdoor activities and sightseeing opportunities that the Champlain islands have to offer. Head to Knight Point State Park in North Hero for a brisk morning walk around the park through a looping and leisurely trail for casual nature viewing.
Full-fledged equine enthusiasts and horse lovers of all ages will certainly enjoy a trip to Breakaway Farm in Grand Isle, a local family-owned horse farm that offers scenic trail rides, horse rentals, private riding lessons, and group riding lessons. Trails trace a spellbinding path through wooded and open areas on the north end of South Hero Island, offering a memorable equine experience for riders of all levels. The horses are well-trained and the staff is very knowledgeable, but be sure to book lessons and trail riding excursions in advance!
Creatively-minded travelers can explore the Champlain Islands art scene at GreenTARA Space, a vibrant community arts center and café built in a renovated church that takes its name from the Tibetan Goddess of Enlightened Activity. The gallery features affordable rental studio space for local artists, art exhibits, and compelling artistic workshops. After a revitalizing cup of coffee, enjoy a stroll through the open and verdant fields around the gallery, and take some time to savor a moment of calm and stillness.
Looking for a memorable souvenir from your time on the Champlain Islands? Stop by Grand Isle Art Works to peruse a diverse assortment of quality hand-crafted works made by Vermont-based artists and craftspeople. The art is showcased in an old country farmhouse built in 1797. Artistic offerings available at Grand Isle Art Works range from acrylic paintings and prints to handmade wooden bowls and locally-made textile art.
What better way to conclude your stay in the Champlain Islands than a captivating and illuminating historical expedition to Isle La Motte?
Saint Anne’s Shrine is a famous Vermont historical landmark that dates back to the mid-1600s. At the center of the shrine, the statue of Saint Anne rests on a gracefully-crafted handmade stone monument. Benches and “Reflection Areas” are scattered around the property, providing the perfect setting for tranquil contemplation. The property also features an open-air chapel and a beach.
The Chazy Fossil Reef Natural Landmark at the Goodsell Ridge Preserve and Fisk Quarry Preserve on Isla La Motte pro- vides fascinating views of ancient prehistoric fossils preserved in limestone from the Ordovician Period (450-480 million years ago). As you walk through the various limestone deposits and look at the different layers of fossils preserved in sedimentary rock, you can witness the development, adaptation and “faunal succession” of the different species of that time period through the different levels of rock.
Before leaving, stop at White’s Beach for a last look out on the Adirondack mountain coastline from the west side of South Hero Island. As you stand in shady comfort underneath the trees lining the shore, time will seem to stand as still as the peaceful waters of Lake Champlain itself.