Best Things to Do in Lake Champlain (NY & VT): Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Lake Champlain (NY & VT)
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Are you planning to visit Lake Champlain in the near future? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Lake Champlain. These scenic sights, and attractions are must-sees on a Northeast Road Trip.

Welcome to the enchanting world of Lake Champlain—where the waters are as clear as the sky, and the mountains stand tall like ancient guardians of nature. Situated between New York and Vermont, this mesmerizing lake is a sanctuary for adventurers, photographers, and nature lovers. There are endless things to do in Lake Champlain, from hiking and kayaking to exploring historic sites and indulging in delicious local cuisine.

Imagine waking up to the golden sunrise reflecting off the lake, as you sip your morning coffee from the porch of a cozy lakeside cabin. Picture yourself kayaking through the tranquil waters, with the Adirondack Mountains to your west and the Green Mountains to your east. Feel the thrill of discovering hidden gems, from awe-inspiring cliffs to historic forts that whisper tales of yesteryears.

Whether you’re a weekend wanderer or a seasoned traveler, Lake Champlain has something for everyone. And the best part? You can explore it all in just a weekend or take your sweet time soaking in the natural beauty and local culture.

So, let’s dive into the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Lake Champlain in NY and VT. Trust me, by the end of this journey, you’ll be inspired by the lake’s irresistible charm. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Lake Champlain.

The top places to visit in Lake Champlain (NY & VT) right now
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Best Places to Visit in Lake Champlain

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Lake Champlain? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this tranquil vacation spot in the northeast. So keep reading to discover all these unique Lake Champlain places to visit.

Are you looking to go boating, fishing, and swimming in pristine waters during the summer months? Or would you prefer to enjoy hiking and exploring the vibrant foliage along its shores in the fall? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Lake Champlain can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Lake Champlain that you should know about.

1. His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point (NY)

Ah, the allure of history and the thrill of exploration—both come alive at His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point. This isn’t just a pit stop; it’s a journey back in time. As you walk through the stone archways and explore the remnants of this 18th-century fort, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a different era.

The fort offers more than just a history lesson, though. Perched on the edge of the lake, it provides some of the most breathtaking views of Lake Champlain you’ll ever see. Imagine standing atop the fort’s walls, the wind gently tousling your hair as you gaze out at the shimmering waters and the distant mountains. It’s a sight for sore eyes and a balm for city-weary souls.

But wait, there’s more! The fort is strategically located near the Lake Champlain Bridge, offering you the perfect opportunity to hop over to Vermont if you’re in the mood for a multi-state adventure. So, whether you’re a history aficionado or just someone looking for cool destinations in Lake Champlain, His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point should be at the top of your list.

His Majesty's Fort at Crown Point is one of the best things to do in Lake Champlain (NY & VT).
Experience history’s allure and adventure at His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point—a journey back in time awaits.

2. Road 9N (NY)

Ready to hit the road? Buckle up, because one of the best places to go in Lake Champlain is actually a journey, not a destination. We’re talking about the scenic drive on Road 9N, a stretch of asphalt that promises an unforgettable experience.

While you cruise along this picturesque route, you’ll find yourself sandwiched between the majestic Adirondack Mountains on one side and the serene waters of Lake Champlain on the other. The road is a visual feast, offering panoramic views that will make you want to pull over every few minutes just to capture the moment.

Road 9N is dotted with quaint little towns that are worth exploring. Each town has its own distinctive charm, from artisanal shops to local eateries serving mouth-watering delicacies. It’s a Lake Champlain attraction that combines natural beauty with cultural richness, making it a must-visit for anyone touring the area.

Wondering what makes this drive truly special? It’s the ever-changing scenery. Depending on the season, you’ll be treated to a kaleidoscope of colors—from the lush greens of summer to the fiery hues of autumn. So, if you’re compiling a list of unique things to do in Lake Champlain, don’t forget to include this scenic drive. It’s a road trip you won’t want to miss!

Cruise between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain on Route 9N for breathtaking views that beckon photo stops.
Cruise between the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain on Route 9N for breathtaking views that beckon photo stops.

3. Ausable Chasm (NY)

Picture this: you’re standing at the edge of a jaw-dropping gorge, the roar of waterfalls filling the air, and the mist lightly spraying your face. Welcome to Ausable Chasm, a natural wonder that’s a must-see in Lake Champlain. This isn’t just a place; it’s an experience that will awaken your sense of adventure.

As you navigate the trails that wind through the chasm, you’ll encounter a series of awe-inspiring sights. From the towering Rainbow Falls to the mysterious Inner Sanctum, each turn reveals a new spectacle. It’s a hiker’s paradise and a photographer’s dream, offering endless opportunities for exploration and creativity.

But the adventure doesn’t stop at hiking. Ausable Chasm offers a range of coolest activities in Lake Champlain, from tubing down the river to rappelling down cliffs. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a nature lover, this place has something for everyone.

Here’s the cherry on top: the chasm is open year-round, offering a different experience with each season. In the summer, the lush greenery and vibrant wildflowers come to life, while the winter transforms the chasm into a frozen wonderland. So, when you’re considering where to visit in Lake Champlain, Ausable Chasm should be high on your list. It’s not just a destination; it’s an adventure waiting to happen.

Ausable Chasm is an essential experience that ignites adventure.
Ausable Chasm is an essential Lake Champlain experience that ignites adventure.

4. Valcour Island (NY)

Ah, the call of the wild and the lure of adventure! Valcour Island beckons you to explore its hidden treasures. Accessible only by kayak or boat, this island is one of the unique places in Lake Champlain that offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

What awaits you is a world of natural beauty and historical significance. The island is home to hiking trails that meander through lush forests, leading you to vantage points with panoramic views of Lake Champlain. It’s a paradise for those who love to be one with nature.

But that’s not all. The island also houses a museum and a lighthouse, adding a touch of history to your adventure. You’ll find exhibits that delve into the island’s past, from its role in the American Revolution to its natural ecology. It’s a fascinating blend of education and exploration, making it one of the Lake Champlain places to visit that offers a well-rounded experience.

The island is a sanctuary for various bird species, offering ample opportunities to spot some feathered friends. So, when you’re thinking about Lake Champlain things to do, make sure Valcour Island is on your list. It’s an experience that combines the greatest of both worlds—nature and history.

Explore Valcour Island's rich history and natural wonders with a museum and lighthouse.
Explore Valcour Island’s rich history and natural wonders with a museum and lighthouse.

5. Sand Bar State Park (VT)

Get ready to be swept off your feet by Sand Bar State Park, a haven of outdoor delights that’s high on the list of the best things to do in Lake Champlain. This isn’t just another park; it’s an experience that caters to all kinds of adventurers.

Stepping onto the sandy shores, you’ll immediately feel the serenity that this park offers. The lake stretches out before you, its waters shimmering under the sun like a sea of diamonds. Whether you’re into kayaking, picnicking, or simply soaking up the sun, Sand Bar State Park has got you covered.

But the real magic happens when the sun starts to set. The sky transforms into a canvas of oranges, pinks, and purples, casting a warm glow over the lake. It’s a sight so mesmerizing, you’ll want to capture it in your heart forever.

Are you a fan of bird-watching? You’re in luck. The park is home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for ornithologists and casual bird-watchers alike. It’s a destination that promises a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

Prepare for an outdoor paradise at Sand Bar State Park—a top Lake Champlain attraction that caters to every adventurer.
Prepare for an outdoor paradise at Sand Bar State Park—a top Lake Champlain attraction that caters to every adventurer.

6. Lake Champlain Causeway (VT)

Ready for a ride that will take your breath away? Strap on your helmet and pedal your way onto the Lake Champlain Causeway, a cyclist’s dream. This isn’t just a bike trail; it’s a journey through some of the most stunning landscapes you’ll ever see.

As you cycle along the causeway, you’ll find yourself surrounded by panoramic views of Lake Champlain. The water sparkles like a jewel, and the mountains in the distance seem to touch the sky. It’s a surreal experience that will make you feel like you’re gliding on water.

But the causeway offers more than just a scenic ride. Along the way, you’ll find spots perfect for a quick dip or a leisurely picnic. It’s a versatile destination that caters to more than just cyclists. Whether you’re into photography, bird-watching, or simply soaking in the views, the causeway has something for everyone.

And here’s the kicker: the causeway is accessible year-round, although the experience varies with the seasons. In the summer, the trail is bustling with activity, while the winter offers a peaceful, snow-covered landscape. It’s a ride you won’t want to miss. Is this among the top things to do on Lake Champlain? You bet!

Experience breathtaking scenery on the Lake Champlain Causeway—a cyclist's dream ride.
Experience breathtaking scenery on the Lake Champlain Causeway—a cyclist’s dream ride.

7. Oakledge Park (VT)

Step into a world of natural beauty and whimsical charm at Oakledge Park, a gem among the best places to go in Lake Champlain. This park is more than just a green space; it’s a sanctuary for the soul.

Wandering through the park, you’ll come across the Circle of Stones, a mystical installation that invites contemplation. It’s a spot that beckons you to pause, breathe, and soak in the serenity of your surroundings. The park also features a treehouse that offers a bird’s-eye view of the lake, making it a hit among both kids and adults.

But Oakledge Park isn’t just for daydreamers. If you’re into water sports, you’ll be thrilled to know that the park offers a variety of options. From paddleboarding to kayaking, these are some of the fun activities in Lake Champlain.

And let’s not forget the sunsets. As the day winds down, the sky erupts in a blaze of colors, casting a magical glow over the lake. It’s a sight so captivating, it deserves a spot on your Instagram feed. So, if you’re crafting a list of the coolest things to do in Lake Champlain, make sure exploring Oakledge Park is on it. This park is not just a destination; it’s an experience that will leave you enchanted.

Discover natural beauty and charm at Oakledge Park—one of Lake Champlain's finest destinations, a sanctuary for the soul.
Discover natural beauty and charm at Oakledge Park—one of Lake Champlain’s finest destinations, a sanctuary for the soul.

8. Shelburne Vineyard (VT)

Welcome to Shelburne Vineyard, a sip of heaven right here in Vermont and a delightful entry on anyone’s list of Lake Champlain places to visit. Forget what you thought you knew about vineyards; this place redefines the experience.

The moment you step into the tasting room, you’re greeted by the rich aroma of fermenting grapes. The staff here are not just knowledgeable; they’re passionate about what they do. They’ll guide you through a tasting journey that’s as educational as it is enjoyable. You’ll learn about the vineyard’s sustainable practices and the exceptional grape varieties that thrive in Vermont’s climate.

But the vineyard offers more than just wine. The property is a visual feast, with its lush vineyards and stunning views of Lake Champlain. It’s a photographer’s dream and a romantic’s paradise. Truly, this is one of the best places in Lake Champlain where you can enjoy both natural beauty and crafted elegance. And not far away, you can go apple picking at Shelburne Orchards. What more could you want on a Burlington VT day trip!

If you’re a foodie, you’re in for a treat. The vineyard often hosts food and wine pairing events, featuring local Vermont cheeses and other delicacies. So, when you’re planning what to do in Lake Champlain, make sure to carve out some time for Shelburne Vineyard. It’s an experience that will delight all your senses.

Savor a slice of heaven at Shelburne Vineyard, redefining the Vermont vineyard experience.
Savor a slice of heaven at Shelburne Vineyard, redefining the Vermont vineyard experience.

9. ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain (VT)

Get ready for an immersive journey into the world of aquatic life at the ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. This isn’t your typical aquarium; it’s a hub of interactive exhibits and educational programs that make a visit to the center among the unique things to do in Lake Champlain.

From the vibrant fish tanks to the hands-on displays, there’s something here to captivate visitors of all ages. You’ll find yourself lost in a world of aquatic marvels, from the tiniest plankton to the most majestic lake sturgeon.

The ECHO Center is more than just an aquarium. It’s also a science center that delves into the ecology, history, and culture of the Lake Champlain Basin. You’ll leave not just entertained but also enlightened, making this one of the Lake Champlain attractions that offers a well-rounded experience.

You’ll be thrilled to know that the center offers a range of educational programs for kids. It’s a destination that promises both fun and learning, a rare combination that’s hard to beat.

Explore aquatic wonders at ECHO Leahy Center—a unique Lake Champlain experience.
Explore aquatic wonders at ECHO Leahy Center—a unique Lake Champlain experience.

10. Champlain Islands (VT)

Imagine a string of emerald gems floating on the waters of Lake Champlain, and you’ve got the Champlain Islands. This archipelago is not just a sight to behold; it’s a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Navigating through the islands by kayak or boat is an experience that will leave you spellbound. The waterways meander through lush landscapes, offering glimpses of wildlife and historical landmarks. It’s a paradise for those who love to explore, whether by paddle or sail.

Each island has its own exceptional charm, from quaint villages to sprawling vineyards. You’ll find local artisans, farm-to-table restaurants, and even a few hidden beaches. It’s a diverse destination that caters to a wide range of interests, making it one of the unique places in Lake Champlain.

For those who love history, the islands are steeped in it. From Native American heritage to maritime lore, there’s a story behind every bend and cove. It’s a destination that promises a rich tapestry of experiences, from the serene to the exhilarating.

Discover the Champlain Islands—an emerald archipelago on Lake Champlain, a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
Discover the Champlain Islands—an emerald archipelago on Lake Champlain, a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

11. Mount Philo State Park (VT)

Mount Philo State Park beckons you with its siren call of panoramic vistas and invigorating hikes. It’s not just a mountain; it’s a vantage point that offers some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever see. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Lake Champlain, this is your spot.

The trails here are a hiker’s dream, winding through dense forests and opening up to reveal sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a casual stroller, the park has something for everyone.

The summit is a haven for birdwatchers and photographers, offering a distinctive perspective of the lake and its surrounding beauty. It’s a place where you can truly connect with nature.

For a more leisurely experience, the park also offers camping facilities. Imagine waking up to a sunrise over the lake, the air crisp and the world quiet. It’s the kind of moment that makes you realize just how special this place is. So, if you’re crafting your list of where to go in Lake Champlain, make sure Mount Philo State Park is on it. It’s an experience that transcends the ordinary, elevating your trip into something truly memorable.

Mount Philo State Park: Where invigorating hikes lead to breathtaking vistas, a must-visit spot.
Mount Philo State Park: Where invigorating hikes lead to breathtaking vistas, a must-visit spot.

12. Island Line Rail Trail (VT)

Island Line Rail Trail is more than just a path; it’s a journey through the heart of Vermont’s natural beauty.

Pedal your way along this 14-mile stretch, and you’ll encounter a variety of landscapes that encapsulate the essence of Vermont. From the bustling waterfront of Burlington to the serene shores of Colchester, this trail offers a smorgasbord of visual delights.

The trail is also open to walkers, joggers, and even inline skaters. So, whatever your preferred mode of transport, the Island Line Rail Trail accommodates.

Now let’s talk about the ‘Cut,’ a 200-foot gap in the trail that’s now spanned by a bike ferry. Yes, a bike ferry! It’s a one-of-a-kind feature that adds an element of adventure to your ride.

As you pedal towards the sunset, you’ll realize this isn’t just a trail; it’s an experience, a ride—or walk, or jog—that you won’t soon forget.

Bike through Vermont's beauty on the 14-mile Island Line Rail Trail, from Burlington's waterfront to Colchester's serene shores.
Bike through Vermont’s beauty on the 14-mile Island Line Rail Trail, from Burlington’s waterfront to Colchester’s serene shores.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Lake Champlain

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Lake Champlain? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Lake Champlain:

What’s the best time to visit Lake Champlain?

The best time to visit Lake Champlain is during the summer and early fall, typically from June to September. This period offers pleasant weather for outdoor activities like boating, swimming, and hiking, as well as opportunities to enjoy the lake’s beauty and nearby attractions.

Is Lake Champlain family-friendly?

Yes, Lake Champlain is family-friendly. It offers a wide range of activities suitable for families, including swimming, fishing, camping, and exploring its scenic shores. There are also family-oriented attractions in the surrounding areas, making it a great destination for a family vacation.

Can you swim at Lake Champlain?

Yes, you can swim in Lake Champlain. The lake, which borders Vermont, New York, and the province of Quebec in Canada, is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. There are several public beaches and state parks along the lake that offer designated swimming areas. Some of the popular swimming spots include:

  1. North Beach in Burlington, Vermont: This is one of the most popular beaches on Lake Champlain, with lifeguards, picnic areas, a campground, and other amenities.
  2. Sand Bar State Park in Milton, Vermont: This park offers a long sandy beach, making it a favorite spot for families.
  3. Leddy Park in Burlington, Vermont: Another popular spot in Burlington, this park has a sandy beach and is great for swimming.
  4. Ausable Point State Park in Peru, New York: Located on the New York side of the lake, this park has a sandy beach and is popular for swimming, picnicking, and camping.
  5. Plattsburgh City Beach in Plattsburgh, New York: One of the largest freshwater beaches in the U.S., it offers a sandy shoreline and beautiful views of the Adirondack Mountains.

How do you enjoy Lake Champlain?

Lake Champlain, with its expansive waters and scenic surroundings, offers a plethora of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone looking for relaxation, Lake Champlain has something for everyone. Here’s how you can make the most of your visit:

  1. Boating and Sailing: Rent a boat or take a sailing lesson. The lake is vast and offers plenty of space for watercraft of all sizes.
  2. Swimming: As mentioned earlier, there are several beaches around the lake, such as North Beach in Burlington and Plattsburgh City Beach.
  3. Fishing: Lake Champlain is home to various fish species, making it a popular spot for anglers. You can fish for bass, salmon, trout, and more.
  4. Kayaking and Canoeing: Paddle along the lake’s calm waters or explore its many inlets and bays.
  5. Biking: The Island Line Trail is a scenic bike path that runs along the lake, offering stunning views and a pleasant ride.
  6. Hiking: There are numerous trails around the lake, offering hikes of varying difficulty levels and beautiful vistas.
  7. Camping: Several state parks and campgrounds are located around the lake, providing a chance to sleep under the stars and wake up to serene lake views.
  8. Historical Exploration: Visit Fort Ticonderoga or the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to learn about the lake’s rich history.
  9. Island Hopping: Lake Champlain has several islands, such as Grand Isle and North Hero, which you can explore.
  10. Scenic Drives: Drive around the lake, especially during the fall, to witness the stunning foliage.
  11. Wildlife Watching: The lake and its surroundings are home to various bird species, making it a great spot for birdwatching.
  12. Relaxation: Simply relax by the lake, have a picnic, read a book, or watch the sunset.

How do I get around Lake Champlain?

To get around Lake Champlain, you can use a variety of transportation options. These include car rentals, cycling on the scenic roads, taking ferries to cross the lake, or exploring nearby towns by foot. Boating and kayaking are popular for on-the-water exploration, and public transportation options may be available in some areas.

Several cormorants perched near Lake Champlain.
Several cormorants perched near Lake Champlain.

Are there any must-see landmarks in Lake Champlain?

Lake Champlain boasts several must-see landmarks. Among them are the historic Fort Ticonderoga, the scenic Shelburne Farms, and the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Additionally, the lake itself with its picturesque islands, such as the Champlain Islands, offers breathtaking natural beauty that is a must-see for visitors.

What is Lake Champlain famous for?

Lake Champlain is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and rich history. It’s a hotspot for outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and hiking. The lake is also famous for its historical significance, including its role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Is it worth visiting Lake Champlain?

Absolutely, visiting Lake Champlain is a rewarding experience. With its breathtaking landscapes, outdoor activities, and historical sites, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or a history buff, the lake offers a diverse range of experiences that make it a must-visit destination.

What is Lake Champlain best known for?

Lake Champlain is best known for several things:

  1. Natural Beauty: Spanning the border between Vermont and New York, with a portion extending into Quebec, Canada, Lake Champlain is renowned for its scenic beauty, with the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east.
  2. Recreational Activities: The lake is a hub for outdoor activities, including boating, fishing, swimming, kayaking, and sailing.
  3. Historical Significance: Lake Champlain has been the site of several significant military engagements, especially during the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point are two notable historical sites on the lake.
  4. Champ, the Lake Monster: Folklore and local legends speak of a lake monster named “Champ” or “Champy,” often described as North America’s version of the Loch Ness Monster. While its existence is debated, stories of Champ have been a part of local culture for centuries.
  5. Island Communities: Lake Champlain contains several islands, some of which are inhabited and offer unique communities and attractions, such as Grand Isle and North Hero.
  6. Biodiversity: The lake is home to a diverse range of fish species and is a popular spot for birdwatching, especially during migration seasons.
  7. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum: Located in Vergennes, Vermont, this museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the maritime history of Lake Champlain.
  8. Island Line Trail: A popular biking and walking trail that offers stunning views of the lake and its surroundings.
  9. Agriculture: The region around Lake Champlain is known for its agriculture, including dairy farms, apple orchards, and vineyards.
  10. Bridges and Ferries: The Lake Champlain Bridge connects New York and Vermont, offering panoramic views. Additionally, several ferry routes operate on the lake, providing scenic transit between the states.

Concluding Thoughts on Exploring Lake Champlain

And there you have it, folks! A curated list of the best places to go in Lake Champlain that promises an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or someone who just wants to relax by the water, Lake Champlain has something for you. It’s not just a destination; it’s a canvas where you can paint your own adventure. So, pack your bags, grab your loved ones, and set off for a journey that will leave you spellbound. Trust me, once you’ve tasted the magic of Lake Champlain, you’ll be planning your next trip before you even leave.

The top things to do in Lake Champlain (NY & VT) for all types of travelers
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