Burlington

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Boating in Burlington, VT

The setting sun puts on a show for boaters and diners at Burlington’s Community Boathouse. Photos/New England Boating/Tom Richardson

Satellite map of Burlington

SEPARATING THE WEST COAST OF VERMONT AND THE EAST COAST OF NEW YORK, LAKE CHAMPLAIN IS SCENIC, DEEP—400′ IN PLACES—AND CAPACIOUS, A 500-SQUARE-MILE PLAYGROUND FOR WATER LOVERS OF ALL STRIPES. ROUGHLY 120 MILES LONG AND 14 MILES AT ITS WIDEST, AMERICA’S “SIXTH GREAT LAKE” IS A FRESHWATER JEWEL RINGED BY CRAGGY LEDGES, ROLLING FIELDS AND SANDY BEACHES, OFFERING MYRIAD CALM BAYS AND COVES IN WHICH TO SWIM, FISH AND JUST ENJOY THE BEAUTY OF WESTERN VERMONT.

BURLINGTON IS FOR BOATERS

Ferries and recreational boats share the well-protected harbor

The epicenter of Champlain boating is Burlington, the state’s largest city, with some 40,000 residents and home to the University of Vermont. The bustling and beautiful waterfront is a national model for lakeside renewal, offering a fine stopover for visiting boaters and a secure homeport for local mariners.

The harbor is protected by a half-mile breakwall built between 1854 and 1890. Boats can enter through either the north or south cuts, marked by a set of replica lighthouses built in 2004. There is good depth inside the harbor right up to the breakwall, but don’t venture too close to the mainland shore, as it shallows up quickly.

HUB OF THE HARBOR

Street perfomers add to Burlington’s downtown ambience.

At the heart of the harbor is the city’s Community Boathouse, which oversees moorings on a first-come, first-served basis. The moorings are free until 5:00 p.m., with overnight stays costing $1 per foot. A popular on-site restaurant, the Splash Café, offers harborside seating and a prime spot for sipping margaritas or mojitos as the sun goes down.

You can also anchor inside the harbor, along the southern end of the breakwater, where depth ranges from 19′ to 30′. Note that there is no launch service in the harbor, so you’ll need to use your own dinghy or skiff to access the boathouse’s dinghy dock.

Transient slips are also available at the boathouse, although it’s recommended that you make a reservation 2 to 3 weeks in advance, especially during the busy summer months. Overnight dockage runs $2 per foot, and includes 30 or 50 amp service and water.

If you only want to tie up for a few hours while you grab a bite to eat or explore the area, there are 6 short-term slips at the boathouse. The first hour is free, after which the charge is $5 per hour. Payment for all transient services can be made in the boathouse office.

RAMP IT UP

View of the Coast Guard station and public ramp at the
northeast corner of the harbor.

A second marina can be found at nearby Perkins Pier, just south of the Community Boathouse, although the slips and moorings here are reserved for seasonal boaters only. Seasonal, daily and overnight passes can be purchased at the Perkins Pier gate.

Another well-maintained boat launch is found north of the boathouse off Lake Street, but daily passes must be purchased at Perkins Pier. You can launch a pretty good-sized boat here, although the narrow streets leading to the ramp can present a tight fit. The facility is also home to the local dragonboat fleet, which trains and races on the lake throughout summer. Give them a wide berth and watch your wake if you encounter them on the water.

Adjacent to the ramp is Coast Guard Station Burlington, the only freshwater-based station in New England and testament to the fact that Lake Champlain can see some significant seas (6-footers are common during fierce storms). Indeed, mariners in small boats should keep a wary eye to the west, especially in summer. The mountains are notorious for making their own weather, and sudden thunderstorms can roar across the lake, turning the once-peaceful seas into a maelstrom.

FUN, LIVELY ATMOSPHERE

Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center.

Back on land, Burlington’s list of shoreside attractions includes the manicured park on the waterfront that invites Frisbee throwers, bikers, picnickers, sunset watchers and book readers, and serves as a site for summer festivals featuring music, food and craft brews. Nearby, the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center, adjacent to the boathouse, explores the lake’s ecosystem, culture and geologic history.

If you’re looking for some exercise, a perfect way to explore the waterfront and stretch your sea legs is the 7 ½-mile bike path that meanders past ice cream stands, swimming spots, parks and eateries.

Enjoy something refreshing at Creemees.

And speaking of eating, you’ll find an abundance of restaurants just a short walk uphill from the waterfront, along the pedestrian-friendly, brick-and-cobblestone Church Street Marketplace. There are more than 160 shops in the bustling city center, along with dozens of restaurants and cafes whose outdoor seating is reminiscent of European boulevards. Adding to the general hubbub are street performers ranging from fiddlers to magicians. A highlight is the Saturday farmer’s market, with food carts serving everything from Asian and Indian cuisine to barbecue.

For those who want to take in the city’s vibrant night scene, Burlington lures international stars and regional acts to venues across the city, from the Flynn Center to clubs such as Nectars and Ri Ra’s Irish Pub. But the biggest show of the year is always the Fourth of July celebration on the harbor. Hundreds of boats gather inside the breakwater, forming a fleet of every craft imaginable, all hands on deck sharing festivities with the thousands on shore as fireworks erupt directly overhead.

It’s a bang-up affair, entirely in keeping with a lake that played a key role in gaining American independence.

Lake Champlain is considered a navigable waterway of the United States. As such, it is patrolled by the Coast Guard and follows the same nav-marker system used in ocean waters. Boaters heading north should keep green buoys to starboard, red to port. You can download charts of the lake atwww.NauticalCharts.NOAA.gov.

Another valuable resource is the “Cruising Guide to Lake Champlain,” which details the lake’s marked channels, boating facilities and its shoals, reefs and rocks. Order it for $27 via Amazon.

Dockage & Moorings:

  • Burlington Community Boathouse

    (802) 865-7247; City-managed boating facility on the harbor. Offers transient slips and moorings, as well as rentals of kayaks and powerboats.

  • Perkins Pier Marina (802) 865-7247; City-run marina and launch ramp. Fuel is available next to Perkins Pier at the ferry dock.
  • Bay Harbor Marina (802) 862-4072; Gas, service, repairs, dockage, boat rentals on nearby Mallets Bay.
  • Shelbourne Shipyard (802) 985-3326; Fuel, service, repair, dockage in nearby Shelbourne.

Harbormaster:

  • (802) 864- 0123

Anchorage:

  • Boaters can anchor in the southern part of the harbor, outside the mooring field, space permitting.

Launch Ramps:

  • Perkins Pier & Community Boating Center (802) 865-7247: Daily pass $10 per day; $12 overnight (maximum 3 nights). Boaters can also launch in the northern part of the harbor, but passes must be purchased at the Perkins Pier gate in advance.

Boat & Kayak Rental:

  • Both the Burlington Community Boathouse and Perkins Pier Marina rent kayaks and powerboats. See above for more info.

Dive Shops:

Where to Eat:

  • Splash! (802) 658-2244: Outdoor restaurant and bar overlooking the harbor at the Community Boathouse.
  • Breakwater Cafe & Grill (802) 658-6276: Lively spot located at the King Street ferry dock and Perkins Pier marina.
  • Vermont Pub & Brewery (802) 865-0500: Fresh-brewed beers and ales, as well as tasty food.
  • Farmhouse Tap & Grill (802) 859-0888: Farm-to-table “gastro pub” serving award-winning burgers, comfort entrées and rare beers from Vermont’s backyard.
  • American Flatbread (802) 496-8856: All-natural flatbread pizzas, breads and more prepared in a wood-fired oven.
  • Leunig’s Bistro & Cafe (802) 863-3759: One of the oldest, continually operating restaurants in downtown Burlington. French bistro-style lunch, weekend brunch and dinner.

Cool Shops:

  • Apple Mountain (800) 639-5052: Unique Vermont products made by area artisans.
  • Old Gold (802) 864-7786: Vintage clothing and costume shop, as well as new apparel, costumes and accessories.
  • Bennington Potters (800) 205-8033: Handmade stoneware and unique pottery gifts, made on-site.
  • Frog Hollow (802) 863-6458: Unique collection of traditional and contemporary Vermont arts and crafts.

Things to See & Do:

  • Echo Lake Aquarium & Science Center (802) 864-1848: Fascinating exhibits on lake ecology and science, steps from the harbor.
  • Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (802) 863-5966: Venue for a variety of performing artists and shows from musicals to off-Broadway plays.
  • Champlain Maritime Museum (802) 475-2022: Located in Vergennes, some 8 miles south of Burlington, the museum offers educational exhibits, lectures, and a replica 1776 gunboat and 1862 Champlain schooner at its lakeside dock on Basin Harbor.

Where to Stay:

  • Willard Street Inn B&B (800) 577-8712;:Luxury accommodations in downtown Burlington, within walking distance of the University of Vermont, Champlain College and the waterfront.
  • Made in Vermont (802) 399-2788: “Urban chic” bed-and-breakfast in downtown Burlington.

General Information:

NEBO TV: Episode Lake Champlain/Burlington:

Photo Gallery

Burlington’s waterfront is family-friendly.

The Burlington breakwater is marked by lighthouses at either end.

Lake trout can be caught close to Burlington.

Sailboats outside the breakwall.

Paddleboarding is popular in Burlington.

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts hosts live theatre and musical acts through the summer.

Boaters should watch out for the local dragonboat racers.

A replica lighthouse marks the northern entrance to the manmade harbor.

Vermont, US
8:42 pm, September 26, 2021
12°C
clear sky
Wind: 6 mph
Pressure: 1010 mb
Visibility: 10 km
Sunrise: 6:43 am
Sunset: 6:41 pm

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BEWITCHED BY BURLINGTON

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