6 Great Labor Day Trips

Kettle Cove, Elizabeth Islands, MA. Photo Tom Richardson

Looking for some great places to take your boat this weekend? We’ve got six family-friendly suggestions!

Camping, swimming and fishing are options at Burton Island, VT.

1) Burton, Knight & Woods Islands, VT

A major attraction for boaters, regardless of the season, in the northern part of Lake Champlain (also known as the Inshore Sea) is the trio of state parks on Knight, Woods and Burton Islands, the last home to a seasonal ranger-staffed campground with a swimming beach, hiking trails, snack bar, canoe and rowboat rentals and a 100-slip marina. Knight and Woods Islands offer a more rustic camping experience, with wilderness sites and no rangers on duty. While all three campgrounds officially close on Labor Day, they continue to draw many daytrippers in the fall. Boaters can launch at several ramps in North and South Hero, as well as in nearby Saint Albans.

2) Swan Island, Richmond, ME

There are several Swan Islands in Maine, but this one is on the Kennebec River, some 20 minutes south of Augusta and 10 miles north of Bath. The island, part of the Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area, features large, forested areas interspersed by open fields and wetlands. Nature trails wind through the island, and mountain biking can be enjoyed on the central road. Several historic homesteads, as well as an old cemetery, serve as points of interest.

Kayaking or canoeing is the best way to reach the island and its state-run campground, on the eastern side. Boaters can camp overnight, but reservations are required. Note that the landing dock on the northwest tip of the island can only be used by powerboaters to pick up or drop off passengers and gear.

3) Kettle Cove, Naushon Island, MA

Boaters in the Buzzards Bay area looking for a great spot to take the family on a fine fall day should check out Kettle Cove, on the north side of Naushon Island in the Elizabeth Islands.

This cove is one of the few spots in the privately owned Elizabeth Islands where the public is allowed to go ashore. The beach that skirts the cove is small, but features white sand and clear water that invites snorkeling and swimming. Small boats can be beached on shore as long as you keep clear of the scattered rocks, but larger vessels will need to be anchored just offshore.

The entrance to Cuttyhunk Harbor.

4) Cuttyhunk, MA

The name alone evokes mystery. This isolated outpost at the end of the Elizabeth Islands chain is within reach of many South Cape boaters launching from points west of Hyannis (distance from Falmouth Harbor is 16 nm). Duck inside the peaceful, protected harbor and call Cuttyhunk Marina, (508) 990-7578, at the town wharf for short-term dockage. For moorings, contact Jenkins Moorings, (508) 996-9294, or Frog Pond Marine, (508) 992-7530. Once ashore you can wander the hilly slopes of town for amazing views of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay, play in the surf at Barges Beach, grab a hot dog at Bart’s Cart or cast a plug for stripers or bluefish in one of the greatest surfcasting venues in the world. If you choose to spend the night, be sure to hail Cuttyhunk Shellfish Farms, (508) 971-1120; which will deliver ocean-fresh oysters and other raw-bar items direct to your boat.

Selden Creek offers serenity and natural beauty.

5) Selden Island, Lyme, CT

Boaters on the Connecticut River owe themselves a visit to 607-acre Selden Neck State Park in Lyme, just opposite the town of Chester.

While there is no official landing site on the island, boaters can anchor just offshore or beach their craft on the banks. Be aware that there are rocks along some parts of the shore that lie hidden at high tide, so approach cautiously. Trails wind through the lushly wooded island, some leading to the 230-foot summit and past an old farmstead and quarry. Lookout points from the trails provide excellent views of the Connecticut River. Some parts of the island are still privately held, so respect the boundary markers.

Selden Creek, which flows between the mainland and the island’s eastern shore, is a great spot for birdwatching, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, although larger boats can navigate the peaceful, reed-lined waterway as well. A fall visit to this waterway can be spectacular!

Historic Sheffield Island Light.

6) Norwalk Islands, CT

Boaters in Connecticut are blessed with an amazing natural resource: the Norwalk Islands. This archipelago of some 25 low-lying islands not only protects the harbor from high seas and inclement weather, they also provide a natural playground for boaters, anglers, birders, beachgoers and clammers.

Cockenoe (pronounced “Kah-kee-nee”) Island is owned by the town of Westport, and public access is allowed. The island features a nifty little cove and beach that’s perfect for kids and is filled with snapper bluefish by late summer. Overnight camping is allowed by the Westport Conservation Department, but for only 4 parties per night.

The Norwalk Recreation & Parks Department manages Shea Island and smaller Grassy Island to the east. Both are stony, scruffy tracts of land. Seasonal camping is allowed on these islands by permit from the Norwalk Recreation & Parks Department. Two solar-powered restrooms are available in season, and there are 16 campsites. The shoreline is strewn with boulders, making it a somewhat difficult place to approach by boat.

Sheffield Island, at the southern end of the chain, can also be visited by boat, although the dock can only be used for pick up and drop-off only. Tours of historic Sheffield Island Light can be arranged, and the island is also home to a National Wildlife Refuge and nesting shorebirds.

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