Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom often comes in as an also-ran compared to other destinations like Burlington, Manchester or the Green Mountains for best place to visit — but it’s hard to imagine why. Occupying the northeastern section of the state and consisting of Orleans, Caledonia and Essex counties, the sparsely populated area covers 2,027 square miles. The remoteness and rural environment make it a favorite escape for many urbanites in New England. The area is home to numerous adventure opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts including fantastic fishing, hiking, mountain biking and world-class beer. In our opinion, the NEK sits at the top of Vermont’s tourism industry, and at less than six hours from New York City and three hours from Portland and Boston, it’s an ideal weekend getaway.
|Where to Stay
There are many places to rest your head in the NEK, from your local B&B to lavish airbnb retreats. The Village Inn of East Burke offers comfortable accommodations in the charming town of Burke. If you are looking for something more rustic, Lake Willoughby State Forest offers primitive camping sites on the shore of gorgeous Lake Willoughby. The area comes with a few camping restrictions, but this map will help you make sense of it all. If camping isn’t quite your thing, The Inn at Mountain View Farm in East Burke offers quaint accommodations within a stone’s throw of world-class mountain biking. Little Gnesta is a whimsical B&B in the beautiful town of Newport on the border of Canada and sits on Lake Memphremagog — the perfect couple’s getaway. For a truly Vermont experience, try this classically styled vacation rental and curl up with a good book.
|Where to Eat
Vermont is known for its delicious farm-to-table restaurants such as Hen of the Wood in Burlington and Waterbury. Just because the NEK is far from the city doesn’t mean that it’s far from delicious eats. Parker Pie Company in West Glover offers what they claim to be the best pizza in Vermont. Drive down dirt roads, through fields of veggies and cows, let your phone think that you are in Canada and bask in the delicious tap list and pizza. As an added bonus, they also have horseshoe pits out back. If you are looking for local groceries, look no further than Newport Natural Foods and Deli. They have a great selection of local products, fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure not to leave without picking up the Vermonter sandwich, a delicious combination of whole roasted turkey, Cabot cheddar, apple and honey mustard. For the perfect lunch combo while mountain biking at the Kingdom Trails, stop in The Northeast Kingdom Country Store for a delicious sandwich, then head to Chappy’s Ice Cream to top it off. Insider tip: if you plan on riding more than two miles after lunch, skip the ice cream. For the discerning beer enthusiast, Greensboro Bend is home to one of the world’s best breweries: Hill Farmstead. Don’t be afraid to sample styles that you wouldn’t normally enjoy. Shaun Hill is a master at crafting delicate brews that anyone can enjoy. Be sure to pick up some growlers to bring home and share amongst friends.
|What to Do
The NEK is filled with opportunities for outdoor adventure. If you are into getting dirty on two wheels (read: mountain biking), the Kingdom Trails in East Burke offer some of the best riding east of the Mississippi. For trail riding, Burnham Down, Tap & Die, Kitchel and Sidewinder are trails that are not to be missed. If gravity fed is more your thing, Burke Mountain Resort has a host of technical eye-watering descents for mountain biking in the summer, and alpine sports in the winter. If you prefer to spend your day gaining altitude and bagging peaks, Mount Pisgah offers breathtaking views of the picturesque Vermont countryside and Lake Willoughby below. Be sure not to miss out on the ample fly fishing opportunities that the NEK has to offer as well. Brown and rainbow trout abound in lakes and streams. Island Pond offers excellent fishing and has a rundown of fishing in the area. The VT Department of Fish and Wildlife is also a wealth of information. If you are looking to cool off after a long day of outdoor activities, Adam’s Hole on Joes Brook is an easy detour off of Highway 91.
Venturing out of the Northeast Kingdom requires a car and a bit of a drive, but the destinations are worth it. Montpelier offers great dining options as well as the Vermont History Museum and the Vermont State House, which features the only edible garden of any US state house. For a day of shopping and more beer than you could possibly consume, head west to Burlington. Hit up Church Street for a great collection of local shops and restaurants. Be sure to imbibe at Zero Gravity‘s new brewery on Pine Street after checking out the Barge Canal Market and surrounding artist hubs. In winter, Stowe Mountain Resort and Sugarbush are both worthy destinations for snowboarders. If you’re a two-planker, Mad River Glen offers challenging skier-only terrain, and Jay Peak is a local favorite.