Fancy a laid-back island getaway without leaving New England? Burton Island State Park is located in Vermont's inland sea, the far northern reaches of Lake Champlain. The 253-acre island isn't far from the bustling city of St. Albans, but it can only be reached by boat. Burton Island embraces visitors like old friends. You can find total solitude at private, backcountry campsites, or experience the comings and goings of a lively marina with lots of amenities.
There are no cars on the island, so it's the perfect destination for free-range kids (and adults). Bikes are a fabulous way to get around the island, and a boat, whether it's one you steer, sail, or paddle, is pretty much mandatory. If you don't have a boat of your own, you can rent canoes, kayaks, and SUPs on the island.
Here's how it works: You check in at the contact station at Kamp Kill Kare State Park, park your car, and take a quick dip before hopping on the Island Runner Ferry. The ferry is run by Vermont State Parks and runs back and forth from Burton Island every 1.5 hours throughout the summer. It’s also a quick jaunt to Burton Island in a canoe (even quicker in a motor boat). In fact, you can practically swim over.
You can certainly enjoy all the charms of Burton Island for an afternoon, but the best way to experience its magic is a fully immersive camping experience. There are three cabins, 26 lean-tos, 14 campground tent sites, and four primitive backcountry sites. Many of the lean-tos are on the waterfront with amazing views of the lake, islands, and mountains. Tent sites are usually available at the last minute, but the cabins and lean-tos book up fast—as early as 11 months in advance. The backcountry sites can be reached by boat, or you can walk out to them from the marina.
The marina is also a great place to dock for the night. There are 100 slips for overnight use, each with electricity and a marine holding-tank pumpout facility. Most boat slips also come with an onshore fire pit. Free Wi-Fi is available at the marina, as are restrooms with hot showers and firewood.
The Burton Island Bistro serves up a fabulous breakfast and lunch, which you can enjoy on the shore with your camping neighbors. It opens at 8:30 a.m. and serves fresh, hot coffee to go with the wind in your hair and the smile on your face. They’ve also got a great beer and wine selection, the perfect accompaniment to a Burton Island sunset.
Bringing your dog? Burton Island has an off-leash dog beach, and all the trails are dog-friendly too. For sunrise, checkout the Southern Tip Trail. For sunset, the North Shore Trail. The Island Farm Nature Trail meanders along the bay, through abandoned farm fields, and past lots of relics from the days when agriculture was all Burton Island was known for.
Swimming here is mandatory, as is relaxing on the shore with your favorite book (or your favorite person). So, to sum it up, you've got car-free camping, miles of hiking trails, a bustling marina, sandy beach, incredible sunsets, local coffee, and local beer. It's the island vacation you've been dreaming of! Leave your worries back at the car, and get ready to enjoy everything you love about summers in Vermont.