Lake Champlain is the largest body of fresh water in the U.S. after the Great Lakes, and at 120 miles in length and an average depth of 400’ and 12 miles across, everything about it is impressive. But more impressive than its size is its unspoiled beauty. In a state already known for conservation and back-to-nature vacations, Lake Champlain is the secret destination for a growing number of New England vacationers.
Here’s my pick of five destinations and attractions in the Lake Champlain region when you visit…
ISLAND HOPING VERMONT STYLE:
The northern half of Lake Champlain contains a wonderful patchwork of Islands. The largest of the Islands are interconnected with each other and the Vermont mainland by Route 2 in the south and Route 78 in the north. Following Route 2 from south to north will take you through the picturesque towns of South Hero, Grand Isle, North Hero, and Alburg just a few miles from the Canadian border.
The Lake Champlain Islands’ terrain is flat to gentle rolling hills, which means bicycling is a popular way to get around on vacation. In most areas you’ll have unobstructed views of Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east, and New York’s Adirondacks to the west.
BURLINGTON – LAKE CHAMPLAIN’S CITY
Though Montpelier is the state capital of Vermont, its largest city is Burlington, which sits on the shore of Lake Champlain, with the stunning backdrop to the east of the Green Mountains.
Activities in Burlington include ECHO, Vermont’s world-class lake aquarium and science center on the waterfront, Lake Champlain Chocolates guided factory tour, where you can see these famous chocolates made right before your eyes, and The Ethan Allen Homestead and Museum. Complete your day with a train ride through the beautiful Champlain Valley on the Green Mountain Railroad. The train meanders through gently rolling green pastures to Shelburne and back.
CRUISES ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN
Two cruise boats operate on Lake Champlain in the summer – “The Spirit of Ethan Allen III” accommodates 500 people and the “Northern Lights” has room for 150 guests. Both these boats leave from the docks in Burlington.
While cruising you’ll listen as tour guides discuss the Lake Champlain region’s rich revolutionary past, the importance of the Native Americans of this area, and interesting facts about the Lake. But center stage on either cruise is the stunning views of the Islands and the surrounding mountains of Vermont and New York.
DIVING FOR WRECKS
If diving for wrecks is your passion then in Lake Champlain you’ve come to the right place. The Lake is considered by many divers to have the best collection of historic shipwrecks in North America.
Eight of these wrecks are preserved for the enjoyment of divers, and under the watchful eye of the Lake Champlain Underwater Historic Preserve. These wrecks offer a unique experience for northeast diving. The types of wrecks vary from a horse ferry to canal boats, with some located close to both the Vermont and New York shorelines of the Lake. Diving experience required ranges from beginner to advance.
For more information on these wrecks visit the Preserve’s site at www.lcmm.org.
LAKE CHAMPLAIN MARITIME MUSEUM
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is located near Vergennes, and is a marvelous way to experience the historical significance of the lake. The museum at Basin Harbor provides opportunities to step back in time as you explore a Revolutionary War gunboat, watch craftsmen use traditional shipbuilding skills, and learn about nautical life in the Champlain Valley during the conflicts of the 18th century.
The Museum is self-guided but has plenty of demonstrations for you to stop and view as you wander around.
STATE PARKS ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN
There are over 50 State Parks in Vermont, and the Lake Champlain area contains twelve of those state parks, and includes: Alburg Dunes, Knight Point, Sandy Bar, Burton Island, Grand Isle, Knight Island, North Hero, and Woods Island in the Lake Champlain Island chain. Other state parks on the Lake’s shore are: Kill Kare, Kingsland Bay, Button Bay, and DAR.
Within these Vermont State Parks are opportunities for hiking, biking, camping, boating, fishing, picnicking, and swimming. The parks are a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the waters of the Lake for a day or longer, and to hike trails in between a swim and reading your novel.