Explore America's park logoYou don’t have to travel to the Caribbean or the South Pacific for a laid-back island experience. Burton Island State Park provides a getaway for swimming and sunbathing off the southwestern tip of St. Albans Point in Vermont’s Lake Champlain.


Hiking and biking are the only way to travel the island because there are no cars. The only access is by private boat or by ferry from close-by Kill Kare State Park.



Burton Island — known earlier as Isle of White and Potter’s Island — was used to raise cows, pigs, and sheep and grow beans and peas before being sold to the state of Vermont in 1962. Burton Island State Park opened in 1964. It was initially open only to those who made their way by private boat, but a ferry service started in the 1980s.


Things to do:

Island life focuses on the water. Most visitors come here to swim, splash and paddle.


There are several short hiking trails, but the ambitious can also circumnavigate the island, a three-mile trip. Many visitors bring bikes and enjoy being king of the road on an island with no automobiles.


Those who want to be weekend castaways can choose among 17 tent sites and 26 lean-to sites. The lean-to sites can also accommodate tents. Many of the lean-to sites — named for trees — look out over the lake and have private beaches. The waterfront sites face west and offer spectacular sunsets.


Bathhouses offer hot showers at the end of a hard day of hiking.


And while many campers look forward to cowboy coffee brewed over a campfire, others might want to just stroll down to the Burton Island Bistro where you can order coffee to go with your Vermont cheddar cheese omelet or French toast served with Vermont maple syrup. Hamburgers and sandwiches are available at lunch.


Why you’ll want to come back:

Two more island state parks — Knight Island and Woods Island — are close enough to explore by canoe or kayak.


Flora and fauna:

Red raspberry bushes now grow in sunny areas that were once pastures or cropland. Trembling aspen, bur oak, silver maple, paper birch, eastern hemlock and white cedar shade the island.


[skipwords]The island is home to an assortment of birds, including rose-breasted grosbeaks, great blue herons, bald eagles, ruffed grouse, sandpiper and belted kingfisher. Visitors are likely to spot beaver, otter and a variety of non-poisonous snakes.


The lake harbors largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, bluegill, northern pike and chain pickerel.[/skipwords]


Fact box:

  • Website: Burton Island State Park
  • Park size: 253 acres
  • 2011 visitation: 13,112
  • Funky fact: Bring all the gear, ice and firewood you want. A delivery service will haul your gear from the ferry dock to your campsite for $10.

This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. 


MNN tease photo: Shutterstock