Few travelers studying a map of Vermont can stare at the archipelago of islands in northern Lake Champlain, right up against the Canadian border, without wondering, "What's there?" Well, not much. And therein lies the appeal.
Connected by bridges, causeways, and roads, these islands are linked primarily by a rich history. With few amenities for tourists -- a handful of accommodations and only slightly more restaurants -- you'll find a stark beauty in these low, open islands against the lake, which is sometimes placid and blue and sometimes a dull, wind-whipped gray flecked with frothy white foam.
The 30-mile main road is relatively straight and quick; the posted speed is typically 50 mph. (If you're going too slowly, locals in pickup trucks will let you know by blowing by or hugging your tail.) When the opportunity arises, veer off on one of the side roads and take it slowly, or pull over at one of the many parks to enjoy the scenery. If you've got a boat or kayak, explore any of several small island parks between the island and the mainland. Camping is available at two parks (Grand Isle and South Hero) along the route described below.
While the area is mostly open and appealing farm country, especially along the northern stretches, the handwriting may be on the wall: Some farmers have sold out to speculators who have begun subdividing the properties into home lots for future sale, and it might not remain a pristine place forever.
Good information about the region is available from the Lake Champlain Islands Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 213, North Hero, VT 05474 (tel. 800/262-5226 or 802/372-8400; www.champlainislands.com).