Burlington might be Vermont’s biggest city, but its remote islands are what really make this New England town stand out. Located just north of Burlington, the Lake Champlain Islands stretch between Burlington and the Canadian border, stretching from Vermont’s Green Mountains to the Adirondacks of New York. With around 200 miles of shoreline, plenty of historic sites, vineyards, and orchards, the islands make for a peaceful escape while visiting Burlington.
Comprised of several islands, these tiny floating bodies of land are linked up by the Lake Champlain Byway. The scenic byway runs north to south for 134 miles, with Route 2 passing right through the Lake Champlain Islands. Hop in your car and hit the road for history, wine, nature, and a cozy, tucked away feeling that’s hard to find anywhere else.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye, There’s History Up Here
The islands are rich in historic relics left over from Vermont’s past. Your first stop might be St. Anne’s Shrine. It was on this spot that French soldiers and Jesuits first came ashore in 1665. Their landing on the islands made for the first European settlement in Vermont. Located on Isle Le Motte, St. Anne’s Shrine was not just the site of a very historic landing, but it also welcomed the state’s first Catholic mass in 1666.
In addition to St. Anne’s Shrine, the Lake Champlain Islands also house the Hyde Log Cabin. Another historic relic, the cabin was built in 1783 by Jedidiah Hyde Jr. Hyde, and his descendants would keep the log cabin in the family for 150 years. The Hyde Log Cabin is Vermont’s oldest log cabin and one of the oldest log cabins in the entire country. Forget Lincoln logs—it’s all about Vermont’s version.
Thanks to Lake Champlain’s 6.8 trillion gallons of water, the islands are a perfect place for growing grapes. For a taste of history along with your wine, check out Snow Farm Vineyard and Winery. It’s Vermont’s first vineyard and one of the island’s most notable. Located on South Hero Island, Snow Farm specializes in nontraditional botanical hybrid grapes, which can withstand the local climate. Go on a self-guided tour of the vineyard—samples are included! If you’re around in the summer, swing by for a picnic and a free concert.
If you’re interested in a coastal vineyard, check out East Shore Vineyard. This one has an 11-acre estate just 100 feet from the shore of Lake Champlain. Talk about mixing water with wine! Don’t forget to pick up a bottle of the islands’ finest at any of the local wine shops in Burlington.
If you’re more into the great outdoors than you are into wine, head over to the 226-acre Grand Isle State Park. Located on South Hero Island with 4,150 feet of Lake Champlain shoreline, the park is the most visited campground in the state park system.
Want to get in the water? There are natural beauties in there, too! The oldest reef in the world sits just off the Lake Champlain Islands’ most northern island, Isle La Motte. At its height, Chazy Reef stretched for approximately 1,000 miles. When you’re done exploring Chazy Reef, indulge your inner archaeologist with some fossils at nearby Goodsell Ridge Fossil Preserve and Fisk Quarry Preserve.
The islands in Burlington’s Lake Champlain are almost as cool as Burlington itself! Have you visited any of them? Let us know in the comments!