Top 5 Reasons to stay at Basin Harbor Resort

As a native Vermonter, it always gives me the greatest of pleasure getting to experience hotels in a place that I know so well. Of all the resorts in the state, I think Basin Harbor offers something unique and transporting, that you do not find anywhere else. It is not for everyone–if you don’t like complete quiet save for the birds, sipping coffee as you watch the sailboats, twilight golf rounds or croquet on the lawn, Basin Harbor might not be your speed. But if you crave a wholesome escape, this is the place to go.

 

**Author’s note: Our most recent stay was in Sept 2020, so there were COVID-19 safety precautions. However, as the resort is very spread out and open air, the stay was very similar to our stay previously pre-COVID. The only big differences had to do with dining options being more limited.

 

Here are my top five reasons why you should plan a trip here next year: 

 

1. You will travel back in time

The simple joys of life by the lake have transcended time–quite a lot of time since 1886. Basin Harbor has hosted generations of guests and the entire resort still embodies that simple charm of a bygone era. Relax on the lawns in an adirondack chair, just like over a century of guests have done before you or sip champagne in the main lodge in front of a roaring fire. Basin Harbor has a level of rustic, unfussy elegance that does not go out of style. 

Basin Harbor’s iconic adirondack chairs

 

2. You can finally slow down

Here you feel off the grid, in a glorious way, where your main concerns are when to swim in the lake, what book to read on your back porch or if you want to play golf or swim in the pool that day. Take your golf cart to  dinner at The Red Mill or at Ardelia’s and sit by the fire after for some s’mores. Let the kids run to beach or play on the playground–all is close by and so safe. There’s no need for big decisions or stress here. Just happy hours to enjoy connecting with your loved ones and yourself. It’s no wonder that families tend to return to Basin Harbor year after year. 

 

3. You can fully immerse in Vermont nature

Guided kayak adventures, hikes in the breathtaking forested hills or narrated daily history tours aboard the EScape, there are so many ways to fully connect with Vermont’s unspoiled nature. Very few places in the world allow you to wake up the waves of the lake lapping on shore and the bird songs and chipmunks rising with the sun. The entire resort is created to honor this nature and it’s up to you how much you want to dive in.


 

4. Stay in a fully renovated lakeside cottage

As much as I enjoy being out in nature and disconnecting, I do crave a few comforts when it comes to my room. Choose one of the 74 cottages, each one a little different, to find the size, location and style to suit you. There are 45 guestrooms as well, typically with lower price points, but I do recommend the cottages if you are able as it’s a very special experience that you don’t find many other places. 

Of my two stays at Basin Harbor, I opted for the renovated 2 bedroom cottages, Hearthstone on the South side and Sunset on the North side. Both had lovely sitting rooms and a little kitchenette area, along with spacious and well appointed bedrooms. 

Outside of size, location is probably the key factor in determining which cottage is for you. Sunset was the furthest North and the furthest away from much of the resort, but it did give us a lot of quiet and solitude (and with a golf cart, you can access everything easily). However, Hearthstone had the convenience factor as it was walking distance to breakfast, the pool and firepit. Consult their handy map to take a look at cottages and locations. 

 

5. Choose  your own local adventure

Though I can very easily see how you would never have to leave the expansive 700 acres property, there are quite a few experiences worth a short drive. Take a wagon ride to see all the animals at Shelburne Farms or grab an ice cream cone in the quaint Vergennes. Admire the waterfall as you lunch at American Flatbread in Middlebury or have an open air dinner at Starry Night Café, one of my favorite restaurants in Vermont. If you travel in Fall, you can take advantage of all the autumnal offerings like pumpkin picking, apple orchards and the most colorful foliage (see all my fall recs for this area in this post here).

Maple Creemees from the Basin Harbor general store!

 

Important Note: Basin Harbor is a seasonal resort, open from May to October. They are currently closed for the season but it is recommended to book ahead as there are many repeat families. Summer is high season but I’ve stayed in both early May and late September and found them both to be lovely. You have the resort more to yourself and you can enjoy the fresh spring air or the cozy fall vibes on either end of the season. You can book your stay here

Fall in Vermont: A Trip Guide

Though Vermont glitters under a white blanket in the winter and blooms shocking green in the spring and summer, the most famous season of all is definitely FALL. September and October bring in a fiery transformation that streaks across this state’s many trees. 

Fall in Vermont

But it’s not just pretty. The harvest season also means a lot of activity. Farms, orchards, wineries, breweries, hay rides and more are all underway. And yes, as I visited during the 2020 pandemic, there was less open than usual, but Vermont has always been about the outdoors, so many of my favorite activities are still happening in some capacity.

 

I was in need of a little fall country fun and was delighted to spend a week exploring the autumn bounty in the Northwestern area of Vermont. This region has glittering lake views, sweeping hillsides and picture perfect farms, scattered along it’s breathtaking roads. Adventuring with my 2 year old daughter, we had the most memorable week frolicking throughout the countryside and embracing everything FALL. 

 

When to go?

Last week in Sept – First 2 weeks in October

Peak fall in Vermont usually occurs at the end of September and early October. You might catch some golden leaves in mid September as well. Don’t wait too long in October though! By Halloween, there’s usually been some frost and the leaves lose their vibrancy or most have indeed, fallen. 

 

Where to Visit?

Vermont in the fall

I grew up in Woodstock, which is Eastern central Vermont. The fall in Woodstock is stunning and there is an adorable town to go along with it. But I think the most scenic countryside is along route 7 in Northwestern Vermont. Here you have quiet roads, farm stands and majestic mountains, all set on the backdrop of Lake Champlain, just a couple miles West. It has a full fall experience, all within 20 minutes. 

 

Where to Stay?

Basin Harbor 

Breakfast in our cottage at Basin Harbor

There’s no doubt that Basin Harbor is where to stay if you want to experience the best of Vermont. Quiet renovated cottages perched next to the dazzling Lake Champlain, a historic lodge that serves everything from waffles to sushi and an assortment of adirondack chairs thoughtfully placed with views. The peacefulness that Basin Harbor brings allows guests to breathe in the autumn air and fully immerse in Vermont’s natural splendor.

Basin Harbor’s iconic adirondack chairs

Don’t even bother with your car, use a golf cart to get around this massive resort, from the general store to the pool to the Red Mill restaurant. If you have had your fill of all that lake gazing and cozy fires, there’s actually a lot available for the adventure seekers too. 

Get around by golf cart at Basin Harbor

 

What to do?

Cruise the Lake at Basin Harbor

Boat cruise on Lake Champlain

Many leaf peepers take in the foliage by car or on foot, but I daresay that viewing it from a boat might be the most picturesque. Lake Champlain, Vermont’s largest and in my opinion, most gorgeous lake, is hugged by rolling hills, making it an autumn lovers dream. Basin Harbor offers daily cruising aboard it’s EScape, a 47’ modified lobster boat that can seat up to 48 people (modified capacity during COVID-19). The tour will include the centuries old history of the Basin Harbor and Lake Champlain, as well as highlight more scenic spots along the lake.

Daily narrated cruises on the EScape from Basin Harbor

 

Craving something with a little more speed? Rent a boat to do some tubing or waterskiing, or take out a motor boat with just your family if you prefer to have a more socially distant experience. The calm water and reflection of those leaves will definitely ensure that you have stunning photos!

The eagle’s nest

 

Apple Picking at Happy Valley Orchard

A quintessential fall experience, apple picking is one of those things that is just fun (and easy) for all ages. Great photos, lovely outdoor orchards and using a lot of tasty bites along the way. My toddler loved learning how to twist and pull off the apples on the low branches all by herself.

Apple picking at Happy Valley Orchard

We were told by a local about Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury (about 35 minutes south of Basin Harbor) and it was perfect.  This cute family orchard has well maintained trees, which were simply full of apples. If you don’t feel like picking, the market has bags to carry out, including the beloved Honeycrisp, and other local specialties. It’d be a tragedy if you didn’t snag a bag of cider donuts to share (or not!). 

 

Pick a Pumpkin: Lester Farm Market

I daresay there’s a place in the country that has prettier pumpkins than Vermont. These beauties are for sale along the side of the road, at local farms and markets everywhere during this time of year. However, I have to give credit to Lester Farm Market.

Lester Farm Market is A+

Their thoughtful display is out of an foliage postcard. Wagons piled high, pumpkin “spiders,” and a pumpkin adorned house big enough to enter;  their market offers so much more than just picking out a pumpkin!  The photo opportunities alone are worth the price of these orange icons. 

 

Eat Well

Pizza and beer are a winning combo, any time of the year. The local favorite, Folino’s Pizza, is a laidback stop for some great slices, and next door, sample a refreshing beer from Fiddlehead Brewery. 

Lunch with a lake view from Mizuchi Sushi at Basin Harbor

If you want some more unique flavors for this area, Mizuchi Sushi is a new offering from Basin Harbor. These exciting rolls and other Japanese dishes from New York Times rated veteran chef Fumitaka Takeshita are absolutely delicious, on their own but I think they are greatly enhanced by enjoying them with a view of the lake. 

 

Hang out at The Historic Marble Works District, Middlebury

The collegiate Middlebury is a charming town, centered around a breathtaking waterfall. Though the town feels very historic, it is also very lively. A particularly fun and innovative spot is the Marble Works District.

Marble Works District, Middlebury, VT

Here you will find a park with picnic benches, art installations, gardens and a prime waterfall view. Bring a meal or some wine, or just stop by to enjoy the fall sunshine. Even better, there are cute shops to browse and the Vermont staple, American Flatbread, which serves outstanding pizza, salads and drinks either outside by a firepit, inside in non-pandemic times or to go!

 

Immerse in Nature on a Hike

Crunching on the crispy leaves as you walk along the Vermont trails is truly spectacular. Get in nature and leave your phones behind. Breathe in the rich air, hear the rustling of birds and let yourself be a part of the Vermont landscape.

A scenic “hike” (walk) with a toddler

 

Learn about local farming at Shelburne Farms

One of the most exquisite farms in all of the state, Shelburne Farms not only provides a beautiful way to experience farm life, including a wagon ride, but they also serve lunch, make their own cheeses (which you can purchase) and even have an inn. During the pandemic, much is closed, save for their hiking trails but if you plan to go at other times, don’t miss their friendly cows, baby chicks and excellent cheeses from their market!

Shelburne Farms wagon ride up to the barns

 

Some of my favorite moments of our week in this beautiful area of Vermont were spontaneous. We pulled over on the side of the road to take a photo of a cow near a fence or drove along old winding roads to be surprised by a stunning valley of red leaves or wandering the quaint town of Vergennes to find a delightful shop with toys and home goods (Malabar). There’s as much or as little to do as you want. And all the while, it was easy to be present in this gorgeously fleeting season, relishing every moment of its beauty while it lasts.

Two happy girls in Vermont’s Fall