I’m just back from a trip to the islands…of Vermont. While the Green Mountain State may foster thoughts of skiing, snow and perhaps maple syrup, Vermont is a blast during the non-summer months. And yes, there are islands in the state, the foremost of which are North and South Hero, located just a few miles north of Burlington in the middle of Lake Champlain. It may not be the Caribbean, but these bucolic islands are absolutely lovely, and just as much of an escape.
I ventured north to attend a wedding on South Hero, and the bride and groom chose an innovative option, booking the entire Eagle Camp, a family campground open during the summer. Aside from the staggering views of the lake, which also provided a perfect spot for bonfires, the camp was a hit with us wedding-goers, with a mix of cozy cabins and tents and plenty of room to spread out and play croquet, bocce ball, and shuffleboard (W. Shore Rd.; +1 802 372 4242).
If you prefer to wait until the fall, be sure to visit during South Hero’s Applefest, which is the largest apple festival in the state, and will take place October 10-11 this year. I visited years ago and still swoon when I think of the many varieties of apple goodies — cobbler, cider, candied, pie — that I sampled while there. A friend and I spent a good part of the afternoon walking through an orchard, pulling apples off the trees, awash in sensory overload. It was hedonism at its best.
If you’re in town visiting the funky city of Burlington, getting to the islands is a breeze along the Island Line trail. This 12-mile bike path, suitable for mountain bikes, connects the downtown Waterfront Bike Path and the Colchester Causeway trail (see map), taking you from the waterfront docks in Burlington (where the very cool Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center is found)
along an elevated bike path. You’ll pass through the Colchester Bog, a property owned by the University of Vermont and is a habitat for many bird species; then the Porter Natural Area, a 56-acre area of conservation land. Eventually, you’ll reach a 3-mile-long marble causeway built by the Rutland Railroad in 1899, which offers sweeping views of the lake, the Adirondacks, New York, and of course, South Hero island itself.
Unfortunately, that’s as far as you can go 11 months out of the year, as there’s a 200-foot section missing in the causeway — known locally as “the Cut” — which allows for larger boats to pass through. But in the month of August, a group called Local Motion
operates a bike ferry
to take you across “the Cut” for only $5 on weekends, and they’re working on building a bike bridge to make the bike path a continuous route. If you’re not visiting in August, all is not lost, as they’re now offering charter ferry service for $120 for up to 18 passengers.
Photo: Janelle Nanos. Map: Bikekinetix