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5 things to do on South Hero Island

Surrounded by Lake Champlain, Vermont’s South Hero Island is a nice place to visit during the summer. The Local Motion ferry covers a 200-foot gap in the Island Line Trail for cyclists headed to or from Burlington. Photo by Karen Pike Photography

Vermont celebrates its heroes in a big way. South Hero Island and North Hero Island in Lake Champlain take their names from 2 of the state’s Revolutionary War heroes: brothers Ethan and Ira Allen.

South Hero is primarily agricultural—apples, grapes, and berries grow there, and the town of South Hero is at the island’s southern end. In the warmer months, the island attracts day-trippers from Burlington and Montreal to its orchards, quirky museums, bicycle trails, and miles of lakeshore drives.

Here are 5 ideas for a summer getaway that might make you a hero to your loved ones.

1. Experience “Apple Island”

South Hero isn’t known as “Apple Island” for nothing. Driving down South Street, you’ll see the gnarly branches of trees lining the road leading to Allenholm Farm. It began in 1870 and has Vermont’s oldest continuously operating commercial apple orchard.

Bicyclists touring the Champlain Islands during the warmer months stop at The Hive food truck for a quick snack or a hearty meal. Autumn’s cooler temperatures herald apple-picking season, and families flock to Allenholm to gather their fruit while enjoying fresh-pressed cider and doughnuts. The farm's store sells baked goods, maple products, local honey, and maple creemees (soft-serve ice cream) year-round.

Jug of apple cider beside 2 Gala apples and 3 cider doughnuts

Get a taste of “Apple Island” with cider doughnuts and other apple goodies at Hackett’s Orchard. Photo by Sandra Foyt / Alamy Stock Photo

Just down the road, Hackett’s Orchard offers 47 varieties of apples, along with apple products such as cider doughnuts, slushies, and apple crisp. During the harvest seasons, you can pick your own—check the website for dates and hours. The farm shop, which is open year-round with seasonally variable hours, offers berries, pears, and cherries in season and a wide selection of Vermont-made products, such as maple syrup, salsas, and barbecue sauces.

You may also like: 6 places in Northern New England that allow you to reconnect with nature

2. Learn about the past

At the Arnold Zlotoff Tool Museum, you can learn about the craftsmanship that went into creating tools before the era of mass production. Zlotoff, a New York City industrial arts teacher, found it fascinating to learn how things were built in the past. Beginning with a chest filled with bridge builders’ tools, he expanded his collection over the years to encompass nearly 3,000 items.

Although Zlotoff died in 1992, his sons maintained the collection and now share it—and their father’s enthusiasm—with others. Examine the tools of carpenters, wheelwrights, slate roofers, and coopers, all housed in a lovingly restored 19th-century barn on the grounds of the Apple Island Resort.

A yellow 1971 Detomasa Pantera

This 1971 Detomasa Pantera is displayed at the Z Motorsports Car Museum. Admission is free. Photo by Ted Ingraham

Also at the resort, the Z Motorsports Car Museum features a rotating display of vintage and collectible cars from the 1960s through the present. Each vehicle represents a technology or design update unique for its time. The collection includes a 1956 Ford Continental, a 1967 Austin Mini Cooper, and a fiberglass-bodied 1974 Lotus Europa.

Both museums are free and open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend in late May to Columbus Day weekend in early October.

You may also like: Vermont Route 100: The quintessential New England road trip

3. Sate your hunger

The entrance to Viva Marketplace

Shop for souvenirs at the Viva Marketplace in South Hero (pictured), then walk a few steps to refuel at Seb’s Snack Bar. Photo by Heidi Tappan

Seb’s Snack Bar is a summertime tradition on the islands for a hearty clam strip roll, a heaping pile of fries, or a smooth maple–black raspberry creemee. Grab a seat at one of the picnic tables to enjoy this community gathering place.

Since opening in 2005, the Blue Paddle Bistro has consistently won coveted Seven Daysies awards for best chef, best brunch, and best restaurant from Seven Days, a local Vermont newspaper. The menu runs from a low-key but scrumptious burger to a more high-brow lobster risotto and showcases seasonal foods, some items changing daily. There’s often live music; check for upcoming performances and dining hours.

For a quick breakfast or lunch, check out Wally’s Place Bagels & Deli for sandwiches, available either on a bagel or bread, both house-made, as well as various salads and bagels with house-made plain or flavored cream cheese (mmm, bacon horseradish). Wally’s is also a Seven Daysies award-winner for best bagel shop. Open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Mondays.

Bundles of green onions, lettuce, and green beans for sale

Grab fresh ingredients or prepared foods on Wednesdays at the Champlain Islands Farmers’ Market. Photo by Amanda Gervais

On Wednesdays from late May until mid-September, see what local producers offer at the South Hero location of the Champlain Islands Farmers’ Market. From eggs to seasonal veggies and fruit to islands-raised meats, buying locally is the best way to be sure your ingredients are fresh.

Looking for a meal on the run? Lola’s Latin Kitchen, known for its flavorful empanadas, is one of several prepared-food vendors that appear regularly. Artisans sell handmade woolen items, pottery, jewelry, and herbal mixes.

You may also like: 8 destination-worthy vegan and vegetarian dining spots in Northern New England

4. Sample island drinks

A man on a tractor in a vineyard

Snow Farm Vineyard and Winery grows cold-weather grape varieties for its wines. Courtesy Snow Farm Vineyard

On the Lake Champlain shore, take in the calming waves and cool breezes while sipping crisp wine at Snow Farm Vineyard and Winery. This family-run business has been going strong since planting its first vines in 1997.

The local climate resembles that of Burgundy, France, so Snow Farm offers wines made from cool-weather grapes such as seyval blanc, vidal blanc, and riesling for whites and Léon Millot and baco noir for reds. New for 2023, an on-site distillery is serving up grappa, with gin to follow. During the warmer months, catch one of the free open-air vineyard concerts—Snow Farm announces performers online. Closed Mondays–Thursdays.

Brunnette woman pouring a draft beer into a tall glass

Co-owner Danielle Orr pours a draft at the old location of the Two Heroes nanobrewery. Photo by Oliver Parini

At the intersection of US 2 and State Route 314, sample beer at the Two Heroes nanobrewery tasting room. Play cornhole in the outdoor beer garden or just relax in the shade with a pint of a Vermont-style hoppy IPA or a crisp lager.

The brewery plans to soon move to a larger location in a newly built monitor barn on US 2 in South Hero—the floors are finished and the concrete bar has been poured—so follow the progress online. Closed Mondays–Wednesdays.

5. Visit on 2 wheels

Cyclists  waiting with their bikes for the ferry to arrive

Cyclists wait to board the Local Motion bike ferry, which bridges the gap in a Lake Champlain bike path that was once a railroad track. Photo by Karen Pike Photography

South Hero was made for bicycling. Whether on the undulating West Shore Road, with the cooling breezes off Lake Champlain and views of the whimsical birdhouse forest, or on the wide shoulders of US 2 leading pedalers through the town’s restaurants and shops, riders of all abilities can find a route that’s right for them.

Locals and visitors alike enjoy taking the Local Motion Lake Champlain bike ferry from Burlington. The ferry traverses the 200-foot cut in the Colchester Causeway, a former railroad track. It’s free, but donations are always welcome to ensure the continuation of this service. It runs on weekends starting in late May; check the summer schedule online. Parking is available in Burlington or at Airport Park in Colchester.

You may also like: Best rail trails for biking in Northern New England

Where to stay

  • If you extend your visit beyond a day, consider the Snow Farm Inn, an 1820s farmhouse a half-mile from the vineyard. Rates start at $199 (2-night minimum) and include continental breakfast.
Guests checking in at a hotel concierge desk

Hotel Vermont is a lodging option in Burlington, 20 miles from South Hero. Photo by Dylan Griffin

  • Burlington, Vermont, is about 20 miles away. Hotel Vermont is in the heart of downtown, close to attractions and fine dining. Rates start at $339.
  • The Hilton Garden Inn is steps away from Burlington’s pedestrian-friendly Church Street Marketplace. Rates start at $303.
  • A chic B&B housed in a Victorian home, Made INN Vermont is close to downtown Burlington attractions and restaurants. Rates start at $289.

Pamela Hunt, a freelance writer in Burlington, Vermont, writes regularly for AAA publications.

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