Exploring Vermont | Northern Vermont

Northern Vermont has everything –– big everything. There’s Burlington, the state’s biggest city, there’s Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest mountain, and there’s the bulk of Lake Champlain, more than 10 miles across at its widest stretch. The state’s biggest names in business are here: IBM, Fletcher Allen Hospital, Burton Snowboards and Ben & Jerry’s.
And that’s just the on western side of the state. To the east, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties) is home to some of the biggest, undeveloped wilderness areas. In St. Johnsbury you can even gaze at the wide, wide universe from the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium.
Because of its border with Quebec to the north, the region even offers an international flavor –– Quebec City and Montreal are each only a couple of hours’ drive from almost any location in northern Vermont.
Whether you’re headed to a concert in Burlington, a day on the slopes in Stowe, or a camping trip in the Northeast Kingdom, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in northern Vermont.
St. Johnsbury
St. Johnsbury, or St. J, is considered the “gateway to the Northeast Kingdom.” The most bustling town in the area, St. J is surrounded by a wilderness of hills, forests, lakes and rivers.
St. J also is home to one of the most popular museums in the region –– the Fairbanks Museum and Planetareum –– which is the first and only public planetarium in Vermont. The museum features exhibits of natural history and science and is open year-round
Getting there: St. Johnsbury is located on Interstate 91, about an hour north of White River Junction. and an hour south of Newport, at the intersection of Route 2 and Route 5.
It doesn’t get much prettier than a city on a lake, so Newport, situated next to Lake Memphremagog, more than fits the bill.
Begin at the waterfront. With the lake stretching out before you, ringed with mountains that link Vermont and Quebec, you could get a snack in the Café at the Gateway, part of Newport’s waterfront revitalization effort. If you decide to go out on the international lake, be prepared for some good fishing (salmon, trout and bass).
Getting there: Newport is about 15 minutes from the Canadian border via Derby Line border posts, or 20 minutes via the North Troy point of entry. It is about a 45-minute drive south to St. Johnsbury on Interstate 91, and you can arrive in Burlington in just under two hours as well.
If Vermont had a big city, Burlington would be ––and is –– it. Though pretty huge by Vermont standards, Burlington is still downright small compared to other “big cities.”
Though it may lack people and skyscrapers, Burlington offers many services and opportunities found in cities of far greater size and venues like Higher Ground consistently bring big-time music acts to town.
Three sizable colleges in the area (UVM, St. Michael’s College, Champlain College) give the area a vibrant, young feel to the area. The Lake Champlain waterfront is a great place to take a stroll and feed the birds, while the city’s beaches (North Beach and Oakledge) are great places to go for a dip.
For shopping and food, downtown Burlington is the place to go. If you’re feeling like a burrito or a quesadilla, try New World Tortilla. You can also get a great big sandwich at the Red Onion sandwich shop. For a coffee, try Uncommon Grounds or Muddy Waters. (There is also a Starbucks on Church Street.)
Getting there: Burlington is easily accessed from exits 13-15 on Interstate 89 in addition to being located at the intersection of Route 7 and Route 2.