Grand Isle County is made up of several islands in the middle of Lake Champlain as well as a large peninsula at the northern end of the lake. Most people refer to Grand Isle County simply as "the islands." It is not connected by land to any other part of the U.S.. Grand Isle County has a milder climate than the rest of the state because of the presence of the lake.
Grand Isle County can be reached by car using US Route 2 using either the bridge from Rouses Point, NY or the causeway from Colchester, VT. There is also a bridge connecting Grand Isle County to Swanton, VT. Grand Isle County is about 1.5 hours from Montreal, 4 hours from Boston, and 30-45 minutes from Burlington.
Most people will need a car to get around the islands as there is no public transportation. Although the attractions are fairly spread out, the terrain is relatively flat so some people may enjoy cycling. U.S. Route 2 is the only major road, running north to south from South Hero to Alburgh where it crosses a bridge into New York State.
The islands aren't exactly packed with things you can see in the traditional sense (i.e. I came to take a picture of this specific attraction). However, the islands are one of the most beautiful parts of Vermont and gorgeous scenery is the norm. Obviously, the islands are surrounded by Lake Champlain, which is quite scenic on its own. To the east, you can see the Green Mountains rising in the distance. Look southwest and you will see the Adirondacks meeting the shoreline.
Here are some specific things to see:
- Chazy Reef Formation. Possibly the world's oldest coral reef.
- Grand Isle Art Works, 259 US Route 2 Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ .
- Hyde Log Cabin, Route 2, +1 802-828-3051. Considered one of America's oldest log cabins and is home to the society collection. Open Th-Mo, 11AM-5PM.
- St. Anne's Shrine: Isle la Motte +1 802-928-3362. Visit this shrine marking the site of the oldest European settlement in Vermont. There is a visitors center and gift shop.
- Vermont Shakespeare Company, Knight Island State Park.
- The Lake Champlain Monster, Otherwise known as Champ, this prehistoric seamonster supposedly lives in Lake Champlain.
One reason many people come to the islands is to simply do nothing. There aren't any cities, crowds, or traffic. You may just want to relax. If you do feel like doing something, there are many outdoor activities.
- Alburgh Golf Links, 230 Rte 129South Alburgh, VT 05440, ☏ . 18 hole lakeside golf course.
- Biking/Hiking. Bike along the Champlain Bikeway or along a quiet road. Trails can be found around the islands.
- Fishing. Charter a boat or bring your own
- Vermont Flight Academy, 237 East Shore North Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ . Take a seaplane ride of learn how to fly one.
- Wilcox Cove Golf Course, 3 Camp Vermont Court, Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ . 9-hole golf course with attached cottages. Call first to make sure you can play if you aren't staying here.
- Alburg Dunes State Park, 151 Coon Pt Rd, Alburgh, VT 05440, ☏ . Home to one of the longest beaches on Lake Champlain
- Grand Isle State Park, 36 East Shore South Grand Isle, Vermont 05458 (Off US 2), ☏ . This state park is one of the largest in the state in terms of number of campsites.
- Knight Point State Park, 44 Knight Point Rd, North Hero, Vermont 05474, ☏ .
- Burton Island State Park. You will need a boat to explore this uninhabited island. Primitive campsites are also available
- North Hero State Park, 3803 Lakeview Drive North Hero, Vermont 05474.
Grand Isle County certainly isn't a shopper's mecca, however you will be able to find antiques, VT made crafts & art, and specialty foods. Listings for South Hero can be found in its respective article.
- The Back Chamber, 3585 US Rte 2 North Hero, VT 05474, ☏ . Antiques and crafts
- Island Craft Shop, 1457 US Route 2 North Hero, VT 05474, ☏ .
- Lakes End Cheeses, 212 West Shore Road, Alburg, VT 05440, ☏ . Buy some cheese and chocolates at this small dairy farm.
- Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, 10 Island Circle Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ .
- The Green Frog, 7 Ferry Rd, ☏ . A small store that has numerous little toys, mini cars, model kits, puzzles and various items for the lake and beach for all the kids out there. Moccasins, decorative items, small jewelry items, and over a hundred kinds of t-shirts are available for the adults interests. You can also stop in for a refreshing drink, a candy bar or a candy stick.
- Silver By Tish, 11 South St, ☏ . This small, privately-owned store is a favorite jewelry store among many locals. All repairs are done on site, right in front of you, and their friendly service will help you make all the right decisions when finding that perfect piece of jewelry. Notable for having many sterling silver items, they also carry gold items and they even let you design your own jewelry.
The islands are not exactly a dining destination. Some of the bed & breakfasts and inns will have a restaurant in them and there are a few other standalone spots. Most of the options consist of snack bars and general stores that sell sandwiches or maybe pizza. There are some apple orchards in the islands so if you come in the fall, grab a bag of apples and maybe some donuts.
South Hero is home to most of the islands' restaurants. Here is a listing of restaurants in the rest of the county.
- Hero's Welcome, 3537 Route 2, North Hero, ☏ . Choose from a variety of sandwiches at this general store. There are also baked goods and coffee for sale and a small convenience store area with packaged food for sale. The sandwiches are all named after a local landmark or historical figure. Across the street is a patio which overlooks the ironically named "City Bay" and the Green Mountains beyond.
- North Hero House, 3643 U.S. 2, North Hero, VT 05474, ☏ . This fine dining restaurant features views of the lake, a pub, and outdoor seating in the summer.
- Ruthcliffe Lodge & Restaurant, 1002 Quarry Rd., Isle La Motte, ☏ .
- Shore Acres Inn & Restaurant:, 237 Shore Acres Dr, North Hero, VT, ☏ .
- Steamship Pier Bar & Grill:, 3643 Route 2, North Hero, ☏ .
- South End Cafe, 4445 Main St, Isle La Motte, ☏ .
- Zach's Cafe at the Gallery, 259 US 2, Grand Isle, Vermont, ☏ . Grab a sandwich or salad at this art gallery cafe.
- Kim's Snack Bar (Kim's Snack Stand), Route 2 at Route 314. Kim's Snack Shack-best burgers, fries, and clam strips on the north end of the island
- The Blue Paddle, 316 US Route 2, ☏ . This bistro is the perfect place to eat with all your friends and family. The Blue Paddle offers entrees for lunch, dinner and brunch. It has a nice "homey" feel to it, large deck outside, full service bar and a nice "campy" theme that blends well with the atmosphere of South Hero. All food is available for take-out, morning pastries and coffee are available and the bistro is open year-round!
- Pan's South Hero Pizza, 326 Route 2, ☏ . Pan's Pizza is the place to order from when it's a rainy night and there's nothing else to do. Although they don't do delivery, you can call up and order take-out. Very friendly service and great pizza makes this place a very popular eatery for all Vermonters.
- Seb's Snack Bar, Route 2 and South St. A good place to stop after a long day on the water, featuring an old style pickup window and a selection including burgers, fries, red hots , and grilled cheese. It also has an ice cream counter with over 20 different kinds of ice cream flavors, and they make milk shakes too. Outdoor seating available and gift shop attached to building.
- Wally's Place-Bagels & Deli, 3 Ferry Road right next to the Mobil Station and right by Route 2, ☏ . Wally's Place-Bagel & Deli was established only two years ago, but has quickly become a popular destination. They have over a dozen different types of bagels, spreads and breakfast sandwiches, baked goods and they always have fresh Green Mountain Coffee brewing along with other sodas and juices.
The islands are home to East Shore Vineyards in Grand Isle and Snowfarm Vineyard in South Hero. Both have tasting rooms, but East Shore's is actually located in Burlington
- Hall Home Place Cidery, 4445 Main St. Isle la Motte, VT, ☏ . Hall Home Place is part of the Hall family farm which has been on Isle LaMotte since the late 18th century. The tasting room is located in a stone farmhouse built in 1828. It is a simple affair with a single table and a few chairs. This remote farm is really off the beaten path. Hall Home Place produces a variety of ice ciders from the farm's apple orchard that you can taste on-site or purchase a bottle to take home with you.
- Snow Farm Vineyard, 190 West Shore Rd, ☏ . Offers many different types of wines that are made right on their vineyard. With all the able space on their vineyard, they are always open to host weddings and receptions. Also, they host many live concerts in the summer time that occur once to twice a week. They also have a year round tasting area located in Stowe, Vermont, which is on the mainland located minutes away from the Ben and Jerry's Factory. Snow Farm's South Hero tasting room is located near Crescent Bay at the south end of the island. The property contains the highest point on the island and you are free to walk the vineyards. Inside, you can order a tasting, a full pour, or even a full bottle to enjoy at the bar or on the patio. They also offer a selection of meats and cheeses to have with your wine.
You won't find any chain hotels in the islands, just B&Bs and family owned inns.
- Adams Landing Bed & Breakfast, 1 Adams Landing Rd. Ext. Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ .
- Ferry Watch Inn, 121 West Shore Rd Grand Isle, VT 05458, ☏ . Lakeside B&B.
- North Hero House Inn, 3643 US Rural Route 2 North Hero Village, VT, ☏ .
- Ransom Bay Inn (4 Center Bay Rd Alburgh, VT 05440), ☏ .
- Ruthcliffe Lodge, 1002 Quarry Road Isle La Motte, VT 05463, ☏ .
- Shore Acres Inn, 237 Shore Acres Dr North Hero, VT 05474, ☏ .
- The Old Schoolhouse, 172 School Street Isle La Motte, VT 05463. Bicycle hostel and B&B
- Crescent Bay Farm Bed and Breakfast, 153 West Shore Rd, ☏ . Set up in an 1820s style farm house, with three different kinds of rooms to choose from, each with its own theme to match the area that it's near: The Garden Room, The Mountain Room and The Winery Room. The Bed and Breakfast is on a farm that has llamas on site for visitors to see and feed. No smoking or pets. $130/night.
- Heron's Way Bed and Breakfast, 424 Route 2, ☏ . Set in a very nice area of South Hero with its own private beach, internet access and satellite television.
There is almost no crime in the islands, just don't get eaten by Champ.
The Islands are a quick drive or ferry ride from: