Lake Champlain by Ferry

Vermont is bordered on the top half of its western edge by Lake Champlain. There is a bridge at the top of the state, a bridge midway down, and for the 85 mile stretch in between the only way to get from here to New York is by boat. Specifically, by ferry.

The ferries have provided a well-traveled major traffic artery since 1826, with a fleet of ten ships (the oldest of which was first launched in 1913) connecting the states at three separate points: Grand Isle, VT to Plattsburgh, NY, Charlotte, VT to Essex, NY, and Burlington, VT to Port Kent, NY.

Additionally, there is a fourth ferry operating independently of the others (which are all operated by the same company), connecting Shoreham, VT with Ticonderoga, NY. This particular ferry is a cable-driven ferry operating at a ferry site first established in 1759, making it the oldest ferry crossing in America.

A favorite motorcycle ride of mine involves riding to one bridge, crossing over, riding to the other bridge, crossing back into VT, then riding home. Another involves ferries instead of bridges. There’s just something nice about riding my scoot onto a boat, sitting on a bench (or, if on the flat-topped 1947 M/V Valcour, sitting on the deck), and enjoying the ride.

It doesn’t hurt that motorcycle boarding fees are much smaller. For example, a one-way ticket on the 50-minute long Burlington to Port Kent route is $10 for a motorcycle, while a car and driver plus 3 passengers will pay $54 for a one-way ticket.

The most heavily-trafficked route, the Grand Isle to Plattsburgh route, is open year-round, 24 hours a day. If I’m visiting family for the holidays and am crossing over at 4am on Christmas Day, there is a boat for me.

Sunsets from the deck of a ferry are quite lovely, should you land on the boat at the right time. On a windy day early after the spring thaw the ferry can pitch and rock, and if you’re on a bike you will certainly get a little wet. So, you know, take the cage. Once you dock, there are some great rural roads to ride along, Rural Vermont on one side (with the exception of Burlington) and the Adirondack Park on the other side, and a beautiful lake cruise in between.