If you're like me, you may have caught a case of "spring fever" with our recent warm days illuminating the region with welcomed sunshine and light. Summer might still be a few calendar weeks away, but that just means now is the perfect time to start planning your Lake Champlain Region boating vacation!
We know you want to get your boat out on Lake Champlain as soon as possible. You can go fishing, cruise past fabulous scenery, or experience all aspects of water recreation on this 400+ square mile playground. But where should you launch? The Lake Champlain Region offers some of the best access to get out on this extensive body of water. Here are a few of the lake’s most accessible launches, along with a few other tips for a truly enjoyable day this upcoming summer.
Situated on what as known as the “south lake,” Ticonderoga boasts a beautiful state launch close to historic Fort Ticonderoga and adjacent to the Ticonderoga ferry, which connects Vermont. A hard surfaced launch with float-on, float-off ease of launching, you'll find this launch at the eastern end of Route 74. The parking area accommodates up to fifty-two cars and trailers.
This is a great access point for those who want to try their hand at bass fishing. Note: this launch site is the starting point for several tournaments throughout the season. Check with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to learn when these tournaments are scheduled in order to avoid congestion.
Those interested in scenic cruising will find awesome historical views surrounding Fort Ticonderoga to the south of the launch. Bring your camera for some from-the-water shots of the historic fort itself as well as Mount Defiance standing tall to the west and Mount Independence across the lake in Vermont.
Pro tip: Best Western Plus Ticonderoga Inn & Suites is geared for guests towing their boats on trailers and has individual boat parking areas with plug-ins for livewells.
Just north of the Lake Champlain Bridge, the village of Port Henry spreads along the western shoreline and picturesquely blankets the hillsides facing the lake. The state boat launch is in a protected bay adjacent to the Port Henry Marina and is flanked by a breakwater, providing calm waters in all weather. It is also not far from Van Slooten Harbour Marina, which is about 0.5 miles to the south. Both marinas provide extensive boater services and fuel. The state launch has plenty of room for parking, with space for over forty boats and trailers.
If you're on a legendary monster quest, be aware that Port Henry is known as the home of Champ. You will want to pack your camera and the binoculars. Numerous sightings have occurred near Port Henry, particularly in the area known as Bulwagga Bay, south of the village. Near the launch you can grab a bite to eat or snacks and beverages to take on board from Boyea’s Lakeside, a popular take-out restaurant and ice cream stop. Boyea's is located mere steps from the launch across the D&H railroad tracks (watch for trains when crossing!).
From the Port Henry launch you can easily cruise south, heading toward the Lake Champlain Bridge. Once past the bridge, the DEC Campground at Crown Point has a short term use dock (note that this can be quite shallow depending upon lake levels). From there, you can explore the Lake Champlain Bridge Heritage Area, where you can walk the bridge to enjoy a spectacular view, visit the Champlain Memorial Lighthouse, and stop by both the Chimney Point and the Crown Point State Historic Sites; a total of 500 acres of indoor and outdoor fun and educational opportunities.
Farther north, the lake widens considerably, but before entering what is known as the “broad lake,” the community of Westport provides yet another great launch and lake access point. You'll find the launch on Route 22 as you leave the center of the hamlet. It’s a hard surface launch with parking for 35 vehicles and trailers.
This is a great access point if your goal is to explore more of the Adirondack Coast and perhaps partake from an on-the-water restaurant. The Galley Restaurant is located at the full-service Westport Marina. This restaurant offers an extensive menu of delicious lunch and dinner options, cocktails, beer on tap, and frequent live entertainment. Be sure to visit Ship’s Store, located next door, for many unique decorative and gift items as well as an extensive array of supplies for boaters. The Westport Yacht Club, only a little farther south, is another pull-up-on-the-water restaurant serving dinner and drinks with both indoor and outdoor seating. The menu features numerous locally produced products.
For another option, you may want to cruise north through what is known as “the narrows” and head for the town of Essex.
The entire hamlet of Essex is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a quaint, historic shipbuilding port and is absolutely charming from both land and water. Essex is also where the Lake Champlain Transportation Ferry connects to Charlotte, Vermont. Directly adjacent to the ferry dock is the Old Dock Restaurant and Marina, a very popular on-the-water spot for great food, refreshing beverages, and fabulous scenery.
Serious lake trout fishermen looking for quick access to "laker territory" will want to head to the deep waters of Willsboro.
The boat launch, located off County Route 27 on Willsboro Bay, has a huge lot with parking for up to 100 vehicles and trailers. This long, narrow, protected bay is very popular with sailors and fishermen. Once you make your way north out of the bay and around Willsboro Point, you will have access to the broader lake and deeper water that the lake trout love. A little farther south, find the mouth of the Boquet River and Noblewood Park. This park provides a great picnic location, a swim beach, and also a place to stretch your legs on some great hiking trails. If looking for short-term docking and supplies, you will find both at two local marinas: Willsboro Bay Marina and Indian Bay Marina.
Don’t hesitate to bring the boat. You'll be glad you did!