Along the southern stretches of Lake Champlain is a long, wide plain of rich farmland that stretches south to Orwell before plunging back into mountains. It wouldn’t feel like Vermont but for the white clapboard homes and old red barns, or the adjacent Green Mountains mountains rising up to the east, and the Adirondacks rising in the west across the water. Rest assured, this is Vermont.
Ferrisburgh, at the top of the region, boasts the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, where you can learn about the many shipwrecks through the history of Lake Champlain and admire the fleet of replica vessels. Nearby Rokeby Museum, an 18th Century Farmstead immerses you in a history of the Underground Railroad. In tiny Vergennes, the Vergennes Falls Park dazzles with its roaring falls over rocky ledges.
Middlebury is home to Middlebury College, a top ranked liberal arts college in a bucolic setting that makes you yearn to learn. Middlebury College Museum of Art immerses you in art while the College’s famed Breadloaf School devotes itself to developing literary talent. In town, Main Street is bustling with shops, galleries and eateries, while Otter Creek crashes in a twenty-foot waterfall right in the middle of it all. The Henry Sheldon Museum delves into Vermont History and Town Hall Theater entertains with performing arts.
North of town, the Danforth Pewter Workshop & Flagship Store is a reminder that metal-working artisans are alive and well. In Weybridge, to the northeast, check out the two-lane Pulp Mill Covered Bridge over spectacular falls, and visit the stately Morgan Horse Farm where you can learn all about Vermont’s State Animal. Northwest of Middlebury is the town of Bristol with its attractive downtown and Bristol Falls.
Further south, in the central part of the region, the sculptures at Lemon Fair Sculpture Park in Shoreham invites a casual stroll. In Pittsford, the New England Maple Museum teaches everything you need to know about that delectable syrup. And if you haven’t got your fill yet of covered bridges, there are three here in Pittsford. Brandon is another pretty town, with the Neshobe River falling over itself right through town and boutique shops to browse through.
For history buffs, Mount Independence in Orwell is one of the nation’s most significant Revolutionary War sites. Just north of there, the auto ferry from Larrabee’s Point will carry you across the lake for a side trip to Fort Ticonderoga in New York. Southwest of Orwell, is the Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site.
Rutland, in the southern mountainous part of the region, is home to Vermont’s oldest newspaper, the Rutland Daily Herald, continuously published since 1794. Rutland made its fortune in marble quarrying and the downtown historic district is centered on that. It’s a nice spot with great shops, galleries and restaurants. Stroll around to spot the outdoor murals and sculptures, visit the Chaffee Art Center, and catch a performance at the Paramount Theater.
There are plenty of trails to hike throughout the region, and the terrain especially lends itself to bicycling. For getting out on the water, there’s obviously Lake Champlain, but also Lake Dunmore, Lake Bomoseen and Lake Saint Catherine, as well as smaller lakes and ponds.
This is a Vermont that is a little less traveled – come explore.
Places in the region
Rutland doesn’t appear on the list of top places to visit in Vermont, but there is a bit of a sleeper here. Set along Route 7 between Manchester to the south and Middlebury to the north, it’s an arts and culture center in its own right, with the historic downtown filled with marble sculptures and murals.