Westport was born from its lovely natural advantages, and this tradition continues as the concept and experience of "leisure" has changed through the centuries. If you like staying in historic lodges, dining on the water, and exploring nature from the beach to the mountaintops, Westport beckons.
I do love Westport. Let me count some of the ways.
Home of The Chair
To give an idea of the character of this charming town, remember that the Adirondack chair, which became a popular symbol of relaxation during the Roaring Twenties, was based on the earlier Westport Chair of 1900. Thomas Lee was a Westport resident with a large circle of convivial friends, or so the story goes. One summer he challenged everyone to come up with the most comfortable possible chair, with the competition taking place on his lawn overlooking Lake Champlain.
The winner was a chair constructed of wide, smooth, hemlock boards. This was manufactured under a patent by Harry Bunnell until 1930. It is theorized that the eventual lack of suitable lumber led to the slatted back and seat of today's Adirondack Chair, which appeared sometime in the 1920s.
A modern builder of such chairs, Dave Allen Jr. from Bridport, Vermont, attributes the extraordinary comfort of the design to "these seemingly arbitrary angles" that form the distinctive silhouette. He calls it "a feeling of fluidness while sitting on wood." Whichever chair you choose, from a variety of materials, it all hearkens back to that long ago summer of 1900.
In any case, your seat is in good hands.
Westport is centered along the Adirondack Coast, making it a fine base camp for all kinds of exploration. Their terrain is perfect for the kind of relaxed ramble I like best. In spring there's the lure of wildflowers, one of my favorite reasons to hike. In fall there are stunning leaf displays with a lake and mountain backdrop.
RIght on the shore is a river catwalk for all kinds of views at Lee Park Nature Trail, a favorite spot for a picnic lunch. This is a great spot for little beginner hikers or those who need to take it slow. Westport is near Split Rock Wild Forest, with trails that are two to six miles long, many of them loops or connectors. You can assemble a whole day of exploring.
Coon Mountain is known for early wildflowers, a great view without a lot of exertion, and a pristine location in the Coon Mountain Preserve. These 318 acres are called "a naturalist's paradise and a viewer's dream" from the New York Department of Conservation, which has seen a lot of lovely nature and doesn't always get this excited. It has an impressive variety of different habitats, sheer cliffs, and pockets of those feathery hemlocks which are so much a part of this area.
And once a part of its special chairs.
Find out more favorites with my blog, Best spring hiking picks!
My birdwatching is strictly for the photography, but there are so many opportunities this area has become known as an attraction for serious birders. The honk of the returning Canada geese are the signal for an explosion of returning migratory birds. I love catching geese in their huddles or a bird on the wing.
I can bring my friends, too. I'm not the golfer some of my friends are, but I'm happy to accompany them to one of the Adirondack's finest championship courses at the Westport Country Club. Then everyone eases into evening with the craft brews at Ledge Hill Brewing Co (I have to be gluten free, but I can still enjoy the atmosphere!), before heading for one of my favorite places to dine, the lakeshore tables at The Galley, the restaurant at the Westport Marina. I listen to the call of the seagulls and the creak of sailboat rigging, which is a summer treat that adds spice to any meal.
I still get their key lime pie. I just don't eat the crust.
If one of those getaway ambitions is to enjoy the beauty of nature, Westport has so many wonderful ways.
The inviting drama
Another unique charm of Westport is the Depot Theatre, which is in the lovingly maintained train station from 1876 that once opened Westport to those who didn't have their own yachts. (Yachts are still welcome, and so are train travelers. Amtrak runs a daily train.) Here I gather friends to enjoy professional productions of audience favorites, often voted upon by the audience and local art fans. The coming season, 2018, will be their 40th Anniversary Season, with a tribute to a legendary country singer, a fast-paced whodunit, and a sassy musical celebration of a jazz great.
There's a new art shop downtown, the Ledge Hill Studio Down Town.
I haven't been there yet, but it looks like the perfect excuse for a girl's outing. And I don't need more than one.
This week in related ADK stories: