A Day in the Lake Champlain Islands is a Day Well Spent
Sprawling beaches, wave-kissed shores, and nuggets of nurtured wilderness, the island allure promises serenity for its diverse sojourners. Island life: the inspiration behind honeymooners’ bucket lists and pop culture trivia. It’s what branded the Beach Boys, and repaired Jason Segel’s broken heart in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Islands are an obtainable paradise. But what travelers often ignore, is just how close in proximity they are to these waterfront gems. New Englanders don’t need a passport to obtain their dream summer island vacation. Instead, all they have to do is travel to Vermont.
Twenty-eight miles long, a generous four miles wide, the Lake Champlain Islands are a speck on a 120-mile long and 12-mile wide lake. Small and saturated with charm, there are three bridge-linked islands and one peninsula that compose this blissful region. Four hours from Boston, two and a half from Montreal, and only a quick 15 minute ferry ride over from Plattsburgh, NY, the Lake Champlain Islands are the ideal setting for your next weekend departure from the maddening crowd.
I recently spent the day visiting the Lake Champlain Islands. I have been reminiscing ever since.
Wally’s Place Kneads No Introduction
My days typically revolve around one thing: food. So it only made sense that I make my first stop breakfast at Wally’s Place.
Established in 2008, Wally’s Place–named after beloved South Hero resident, Walter Niebling– is the brainchild of engineer turned bagel artist and Walter’s grandson, Matt Bartle.
Filling a niche left relatively unfulfilled in South Hero, Wally’s Place adheres to its “no wallyness” motto: delivering a local, fresh, and diverse breakfast and lunch menu.
For gluten fiends and breakfast-loving gluten foes (there are gluten-free options), Wally’s Place gets you partnered with a piquant bagel, sandwich, wrap and/or freshly brewed coffee you’ll be mourning the loss the rest of the day.
Although it’s easy to grab and go, especially with its convenience Route 2 South Hero location (the same Route you take when getting off the ferry), Wally’s Place has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, encouraging you to sit down, relax and enjoy every bite.
Get to Know Your Farmer at Allenholm Farm and Hackett’s Orchard
Besides its more obvious glistening waters and painted Green Mountain backdrop, South Hero houses its fair share of farms. Vermont is rooted in a rich agricultural history after all; so it only makes sense that whether a tourist or Vermonter, you play homage to this historic livelihood.
Allenholm Farm–home to the famous “Willie the Kissing Donkey”–is one of the few places you can indulge in mouth-watering treats and fresh produce, play amongst friendly farm critters and get hit on by one vivacious donkey.
I encourage any visitor making their way over to Allenholm Farm to tour the petting paddock. Feed goats, pet miniature horses, waddle alongside chickens and treat Rosie the sheep to a peppermint. And no trip to the petting paddock would be complete without meeting Willie. Place a peppermint between your lips, and Willie will give you a nice smooch.
Check out the Allenholm Farm store, where Vermont-made products like honey, maple syrup and cheese are interspersed between the stunning work of local artisans. But before you leave the store, be sure to grab a maple creemee. Word on the street is that Allenholm Farm’s maple creemees are Bernie Sanders’ favorite!
Although apple season isn’t in full swing just yet, Hackett’s Orchard was open, pumping out fresh apple crisp, and ready to give me a tour of the orchards.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Hackett’s Orchard has had plenty of visitors crunching on their savory, mouth-watering apples. With 47 apple varieties and 500 new trees planted this year alone, Hackett’s Orchard is all about choices.
And for those honeycrisp fans, Hackett’s Orchard has been hard at work harvesting these rather difficult breed of apples, making up a majority of the freshly planted trees.
On and off season, Hacketts Orchard helps cure your apple quench. In July, there were plenty frozen apple crisp and cider to be had–not to mention a variety of other treats like honey, donuts and maple syrup.
Who Needs Napa Valley When You Have Snow Farm Vineyard?
From apples to grapes, Snow Farm Vineyard has you celebrating a much different kind of farmer from behind my favorite kind of glass. Its vineyard hosts a variety of whites, reds, dessert and seasonal wines to try. Commit and go with a whole glass, or explore the menu with a tasting, Snow Farm Vineyard’s award-winning creations delight any taste palate. My personal favorite: Snow White .
A stunning location that would give anyone wedding envy, Snow Farm Vineyard is more than your run-of-the-mill vineyard but hosts unique events like its summer concert series. Sit outside, sip and take in the mesmerizing backdrop of this tastefully curated, wine-loving must see.
Go Nuts Over Vermont Nut Free Chocolates
Heartbreak, sweet tooth, cravings, boredom: what can’t chocolate cure? Well, nut allergies–but that is why Vermont Nut Free Chocolate came into fruition. The result of two loving parents working tirelessly to find safe yet savory treats for their son with a peanut allergy, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates started in home kitchen and now delivers to 500 retail stores across the US and Canada.
Although nut free, the popularity of this brand is not limited to the allergenic. Vermont Nut Free Chocolates prides itself in its quality chocolatiering. You eat Vermont Nut Free Chocolates not out of necessity, but because its creations are among the most divine.
With their factory and storefront located in Grand Isle, Island travelers can pick up a few decadent desserts as well as take a peek into the day-to-day operations through the factory viewing windows. From chocolate covered pretzels to sweet animal-shaped chocolates, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates is the one place where people with peanut allergies, or a twenty-something, peanut butter loving blogger, can feel like a kid in a candy store.
North Hero House Legendary Backdrop Is a Must See
Named after Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen, North Hero and its 800-plus inhabitants witness lakefront history. At the North Hero House, established in 1891, visitors can stay or dine in rooms punctuated in fine wood craftsmanship and antique charm. Fine accommodations and a gourmet dining have pampered guests–including a few celebrities–for over a century.
But perhaps the most enticing aspect of this historic inn is its location. Look out your window or walk across the street to watch the sunset over Lake Champlain. And during the summer months, not only can you go kayaking or take a boat tour with Captain Holly, but can grab a drink at the Steamship Pier Bar & Grill.
Isle La Motte’s Saint Anne’s Shrine and Hall Home Place Provide Tranquility
Taking a bridge over to the last segment of the Lake Champlain Islands, Isle La Motte, travelers can continue to explore history at Saint Anne’s Shrine. Peaceful and spiritual, Saint Anne’s Shrine has been developed and maintained for over 100 years by the Society of Saint Edmund in Vermont. Whether taking a religious pilgrimage or enticed by its serene beauty, Saint Anne’s Shrine puts restless minds at ease.
Not too far from these enlightening, spiritual grounds, is Hall Home Place. Established in 2009 in an effort to keep the farm in the family, Hall Home Place provides a variety of tart, sweet and refreshing iced and hard cider.
Delicately fermenting and bottling with their small family production line, Hall Home Place is the epitome of all things we love and admire about Vermont: its relentless spirit to creating unique and fresh products. (You can even check out how they ferment and bottle their beverages here)
While offering your more standard ciders like the Sweet Six, Pure Cortland and South End Blend, Hall Home Place does offer a few unique and limited production flavors like its jalapeno cider.
Make a day out of tasting its cider menu and stopping by the cafe for some good eats, Hall Home Place is yet another tranquil location to relax on Isle La Motte.
Lake Champlain Island life maybe different than your Caribbean honeymoon, but how you feel after spending the day exploring these revitalizing territories is much the same Feel refreshed, witness beauty, celebrate history, meet your farmer–travel domestically and experience the inherent allure of the Lake Champlain Islands.