If you are sailing on Lake Champlain, you will sail to Burlington Harbor. It just wouldn’t make sense not to.

Burlington HarborBurlington Vermont sits at the widest part of the lake starting at the water’s edge with easy accessibility by boat. It ascends to Church Street, the hub of activity for this charming, refreshingly inclusive New England town which welcomes everyone with some of the finest craft beer and incredible home-grown cheeses on the planet.

So, of course you should go.

We spent two nights in the harbor and through a bit of trial and error and help from the very friendly local sailors who know the lake inside and out, we mapped out everything you need to know about sailing to Burlington Harbor, whether for a quick day trip or an overnight stay enjoying the beautiful sunset over the Adirondack mountains.

Here’s what we think you should know:

Getting Into the Harbor

Burlington HarborThis part is easy! What you will see on your navigation charts is that Burlington Harbor is defined by a breakwall to the West, but you can enter the Harbor from either the North or South. If you enter from the North, you will first see the Burlington Harbor Marina and then after that, the Burlington Community Boat House.  If you enter from the South, you’ll pass by a small lighthouse (more of a light hut). The transient mooring buoys mentioned later in this blog will be apparent just after that.

Mooring Options

Burlington HarborAnchoring is not an option in Burlington Harbor, so you can either use a transient (public) mooring buoy or you can dock your boat. To rent a slip you have two options: The Burlington Harbor Community Boat House (VHF 74) where the cost is $2.25 per linear boat length or you can reach out to the new Burlington Harbor Marina at (802) 540-6869 where the cost is $3.00 per linear boat length. Holiday rates and restrictions do apply.

If you choose to rent one of the mooring buoys for the night from the Burlington Harbor Community Boat House the cost is $1.25 per linear foot but free during the day. A few tips if you go this route:

  • The transient mooring buoys are more of a stake rather than a mooring ball. There are mooring balls in the harbor, but they are all privately rented for the season. You will be selecting from the “post like” mooring buoys just inside the breakwall.
  • The preferred way to use these buoys is to pull up the pendant line with the boat hook and then secure the pendant loop directly around your bow cleat. You will not use a separate line through the loop. The reason for this is that these mooring buoys are very close together, so this approach ensures safety for all boats.
  • Each buoy is clearly marked with a number. Once you are secured, make note of that number so you can share it with The Burlington Community Boat House when you go ashore to pay for your mooring.

If it is during a busy time at the harbor such as July 4, you will need reservations for all options, and you can always make one just to be safe. We did not have reservations and there was plenty of availability when we were there in late June.

The Dinghy Dock

Burlington HarborThe dinghy dock is located at the back end of Dock A, which is where the Ferry comes in, so if you see a Ferry at the dock, just drive right by with it on your port side and you’ll find yourself at the dinghy dock. Easy, once you know where it is!

Pump Out Services

We had never chartered on a lake before, so the concept of needing to pump out the boat’s holding tanks versus just emptying them into the ocean far away from shore was new. The good news is that either the Burlington Harbor Marina or The Burlington Community Boat House, depending on where you are moored/docked, have the facilities and the staff who can show you how this works for the first time.

The Bike Path

If you want to get a bit of exercise, there are bike rental options everywhere and a well-marked bike path that extends along the waterfront for about 7 ½ miles! From bike shops to path-side rental companies to public bikes where you can sign up online and handle the rental yourself, renting a bike is easy in Burlington.

Shelburne WineryWe rented our bikes from The Outdoor Gear Exchange, which not only had great service for bike rental, but it is a terrific spot to purchase both new and used gear of all kinds.

We stayed in Burlington for a couple of days after our sailing trip, which is when we got the most use of our bikes with a ride out to Shelburne (about 10 miles). We stopped at Fiddlehead Brewing and the adjoining Folino’s wood-fired pizza then went directly across the street to the Shelburne Vineyard for a tasting with surprisingly good wine. If you are comfortable on bikes this is a great option. If you are newer to biking and don’t want to be on streets with cars, the path is a great option!

Burlington

Church Street BurlingtonWhat a cool place! Church street and the surrounding blocks have all kinds of coffee shops, breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and of course Ben & Jerry’s.

There is seemingly something for everyone. If you are looking for basic American breakfast options, Henry’s with its authentic 1920’s diner ambiance was great. Hands down, though, our favorite spot the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. Delicious food and best-of-the-best craft beer menu.

Need to do laundry? No problem. There are several laundromats within easy walking distance from the dinghy dock!

The Sunset

If you have chosen your mooring buoy wisely, you will be just inside the breakwall with an unencumbered view of an incredible sunset. There are companies that sail with tourists each evening beyond the harbor, and their full sails against the sunset are beautiful. An even sweeter silhouette are the couples who go out in small boats together to enjoy the romance of the sun setting over the distant mountains.

We are pretty sure by the end of your stay, you will have fallen in love with Burlington Harbor as well.