Where there’s a wind, there’s a way, and it’s almost always blowing in Champlain Islands. That, combined with lots of beach access, makes the area ideal for windsurfing. At Sandbar State Park, you can catch a southeast breeze, or a northwest one, and go the distance. White’s Beach on South Hero is also a favorite launch spot. Serious surfers head out between Stave and Providence islands to the broad lake, where they can ride the big waves all the way to New York. Depending on the wind direction, the Grand Isle Lake House can be a sweet spot, too.
Looking for non-motorized vessels? A single kayak is $15 for two hours, a canoe, $17, at Hero's Welcome General Store. Need boat shoes, sunscreen, snacks? They’ve got it all, including a sophisticated website that lets you buy unique Vermont souvenirs all year round.
North Hero Marina rents canoes and kayaks for $30 a day — $20 for a half. A pontoon boat and a 15-foot fishing boat go for $275 and $100, respectively.
It’s Isle La Motte’s Shelburne Farms, but a lot more chill — a gallery, concert venue and teahouse. Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt were both guests. You can always stop in and look at the art in the 19th-century horse-and-carriage barn, but on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5, they serve tea and dessert to live acoustic music.
You can’t bring them home, but the fossilized corals that make up the Chazy Reef on Isle la Motte are definitely worth a visit. Paleontologists believe the reef was formed almost half a billion years ago, when Lake Champlain was part of the shallow Iapetus Ocean, where Zimbabwe is today. A well-marked path leads through the field to outcroppings swirled with signs of life — swirled skeletal remains of cephalopods and stromotoporoids. “Discovery Areas” are numbered and identified. The one-room museum sheds light — when it’s open.
Jedediah Hyde Jr. built this one-and-a-half story cabin in 1783. The Vermont Historical Society moved it to its current home on Route 2 in 1945. It’s allegedly the oldest authentic log cabin in the United States. It houses period furnishings and historical items of interest.
Vermont’s first commercial grape vineyard has been “aging” nicely for 13 years. The winery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for tours and tastings, but it’s best experienced in concert with live music outdoors on Thursday evenings. Weather permitting, Snow Farm brings in popular local acts such as Sandra Wright, Jenni Johnson and the Phil Abair Band to complement the sunset. The music starts at 6:30 p.m. Come earlier with a picnic, but plan to buy wine — it helps fund the fun. The area’s spectacular Island Ice Cream is also available.
This waterfront retreat was built in 1903; the Briggs family of Burlington ran it as a hotel. They sold it to the Sisters of Mercy in the 1950s, and the nuns opened a summer camp for girls on the property. They donated it to the Preservation Trust of Vermont in 1997, and today the historic house hosts weddings and corporate functions — and a Vermont Mozart Festival concert.
If one side of 7-mile Isle La Motte — the Goodsell Fossil Preserve — is evidence of evolution, the other is faith-based: St. Anne’s Shrine attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. Fifty-seven years after Samuel de Champlain “discovered” it, in 1609, Fort St. Anne became Vermont’s first settlement. The first Mass was celebrated at the site of the shrine — now a rustic, open-air chapel in a spectacular natural setting. Don’t miss the roomful of discarded crutches. Summertime services are conducted Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. and Sunday mornings at 9 and 10:30 a.m.
(Published in 7 Nights 2004-5)
There are two clocks on the wall behind the polished black granite bar at Chow! Bella. The one marked "St. Albans" is 17 minutes ahead of the one marked "Burlington."
"It's our boss' idea of a joke," the bartender explains. "She says that since we opened this place, Burlington is behind the times."
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