This summer, you don’t need to head to the coast to camp on an island. Located 30 miles north of Burlington, midway between Grand Isle and St. Albans, Burton Island State Park sits like a jewel in Lake Champlain’s Inland Sea. Protected to the west by the Champlain Islands and with views east to the Green Mountains, the 253-acre island was owned and farmed by the Burton family, from the mainland through the early 1900s and then leased it to other farmers. Old stone fences still dot the fields and woods. In 1962, the State of Vermont bought the land and originally planned to connect it to the mainland by a causeway then decided it would be better off as a park accessible only by boat. To get to Burton, it’s a ten-minute ferry ride from neighboring Kill Kare State Park, just outside of St. Albans. The ferry runs daily every one and a half hours from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and costs $4 per person. A full schedule is available at www.vtstateparks.com. For a secluded getaway with not a car in sight, look no further.
Lean-tos and campsites
After arriving by boat, you can check in just after leaving the dock and have your gear delivered by truck to the site (for a $20 fee), or throw it in a cart and haul it yourself. The park’s 26 lean-to shelters and 17 campsites have views of the lake and the Green Mountains. Vermont residents can rent campsites for $18 per night and lean-tos for $25 per night (reservations can be made at www.vtstateparks.com). Be sure to reserve one of a handful of lean-tos directly on the lake, making a sunrise swim a great way to start your day. Forget the cooler at home? There is a small store near the marina for grill-ables, beer, wine, ice cubes, snacks and more. The store also offers a small bistro with sandwiches and breakfast items.
The short network of trails around the island is a great way to explore. The Southern Tip, Eagle Bay Trail, West Shore Trail and North Shore Trails are all well marked and lead to rocky bays and secluded beaches. The Island Farm Nature Trail loop is a good opportunity for naturalists young and old to learn about with the local flora and fauna including beavers, bald eagles and raccoons. For cyclists looking for a longer, more scenic ride, take the ferry back across to Kill Kare State Park and head to St. Albans to jump on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, a gentle crushed gravel bike path that links St. Albans with Sheldon Springs, Enosburg Falls and Richmond, where it ends 26.4 miles later at the Canadian border. The trail is mostly crushed limestone for the majority of the trail with asphalt at town road crossings.
Burton Island’s 100-slip and 15-mooring marina makes the park a starting point and midways station for those traveling the lake by boat. The park rents tandem and single person kayaks, rowboats, canoes and stand up paddleboards. The marina also has day-use picnic areas and docks, which also serve as good spots for fishing for pumpkin seeds, perch and rock bass. For a longer trip or an overnight, take a boat to neighboring Knight Island or Woods Island. Woods island features just five tent sites, while Knight Island has nine lean-tos and one tent platform. The setting is a little more rustic but you’ll be away from the crowds since there’s no ferry service.
A nature center has daily events and learning activities for kids and adults. Ride the ferry back to shore for day trips into downtown St. Albans or longer excursions south to Burlington.