The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont
Including Newport, Island Pond, Lake Willoughby, St. Johnsbury
The Region: The Northeast Kingdom is where Vermonters go to pay homage to the wilderness. Long views of distant mountains, the haunting beauty of Lake Willoughby and the area's dark deep forests frame frontier towns and villages of resilient character and surprising qualities. The Kingdom represents almost one-fifth of the state, and has over 200 lakes and ponds. The Northeast Kingdom was baptized such in 1949 by U.S. Senator George Aiken in remarks praising its beauty.
In addition to it being paradise to hikers, campers, boaters, fishermen and snowmobilers, it is home to Kingdom Trails, supposedly rated as one of the top five mountain biking networks in the world.
There are 123 towns and villages in the Kingdom - below we address those which we believe to be of most interest to visitors.
Newport, Newport Center: It almost seems as if Newport would like to keep Lake Memphremagog all to itself, but it's hard to hide a 30-mile-long lake. Two-thirds of the lake lie across the Canadian border, and a tour boat takes passengers for a scenic cruise of the lake during the warmer months.
July brings the Memphremagog International Aquafest featuring a 32-mile swim race from Newport to Magog, Canada, along with a parade, water ski tournament and other local festivities.
Barton, Burke, East Burke, Westmore: This area is the home of Lake Willoughby, located in the town of Westmore - worth a special trip - and the time to linger and enjoy its beauty. Mounts Hor and Pisgah stand vertical sentinel at either side of the lake, creating an almost eerie scene from either tip of the lake, which is set almost entirely in a state forest. Willoughby is a glacial lake over 300' deep in places, and very much resembles a Norwegian Fjord. Route 5A runs along the lake's eastern shore and is a remarkably beautiful drive. Very little interrupts Willoughby's dramatic beauty. There are public beaches and public boat launching access points at both the north and south ends of the lake. In short, Lake Willoughby is most probably Vermont's most dramatic lake.
Barton is the home of Crystal Lake State Park. Crystal Lake is also a glacial lake, beautifully situated between rugged mountains. The lake is approximately three miles long and about one mile in width. In some places it is known to be more than 100 feet deep. It has a sandy beach approximately a mile long, and seemingly endless picnic tables and charcoal grills.
Lyndonville: The home of Lyndon State College and of the manufacturer of the legendary Bag Balm, a uniquely Vermont product developed as an ointment for cattle and adopted for use by humans! Lyndonville is also distinctive for its five covered bridges and for the Snowflake Festival Winter Carnival held each February.
A few miles north is East Burke and Burke Mountain, a year-round resort area offering everything from Downhill Skiing to Mountain Biking, Golf and Kayaking during the warmer months
St. Johnsbury: The arts and sciences have been carefully nurtured here! The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium hosts a vast collection of natural science exhibits in a building which is itself an architectural delight. But it is the Eye On The Sky Weather Reports broadcast from the museum which bring it to attention many times a day throughout the state and elsewhere.
Keeping an "Eye on the Sky," reflects the enthusiasm of the museum's founder, Franklin Fairbanks, who kept weather records decades before he built the museum in 1891. In the late 1940s the museum took to the airwaves with radio broadcasts of weather reports laced with natural history, folklore and bird calls. Nowadays two meteorologists use state-of-the art technology to bring the reports to a listener base of three million people, but their reports still include local history and folklore as well as reports geared to agriculture, recreation and astronomy.
You'll also want to visit the Catamount Art Center while here. They have brought an array of arts programs to northern Vermont and New Hampshire for more than two decades. The Catamount Arts Center contains an 85-seat theater, gallery and visual arts studios. Live performances of music, dance and theater as well as films are offered at the Center.
Cabot: Home of The Cabot Farmers Co-op Creamery and therefore the showcase for the famous cheddar cheese which bears the Cabot name! Visitors are welcome to the organization's visitors center. Tours are available.
Derby Line: This town straddles the Vermont/Canadian border in a most theatrical way. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House presents live performances on a stage located in Canada to a audience seated in the United States. The opera house is a delightful surprise - an elaborate architectural jewel in the farthest reaches of the Northeast Kingdom. Truly a diamond in the rough!
Peacham: Sweeping views of picturesque farms and villages make Peacham a favorite with professional as well as amateur photographers seeking to capture the state's character in a single snapshot.
Boltonville: If you're intrigued by the name and want to take a dip in Ticklenaked Pond, here's your chance at a small beach on the pond in Boltonville.
Greensboro: This small town is the home of the famed Circus Smirkus, and begins and ends it summer Big Top Tour here in town.
Island Pond: Wilderness would be describe this area virtually without roads or villages, except for the the Town of Island Pond. In days gone by [1800s] it was a major railroad junction between Canada and Maine - and a place of loggers and railroad men. Today is is a place of anglers, hunters, and lovers of the great outdoors. It's logging roads make for interesting exploration!
Why the name Island Pond? The lake is distinguished by a 20-acre island in its center. The town is also the home of Brighton State Park, located just outside the village - and offers camp sites, a snack bar, picnic areas, a bathhouse, rental boats and a nature trail.
Jay, Jay Peak: Jay Peak sits on the Vermont-Canada border, and the view from its summit takes in Lake Champlain, Lake Memphremagog, and Camel's Hump, the tallest peak in the Green Mountains. A tram takes visitors to the top not only during ski season but in summer and foliage season as well. Alpine skiing is spectacular, and the most reliable natural snow in the state makes the area a favorite for cross country skiers. And, there are plenty of trails for hiking and mountain biking during the warmer months.
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