What began as a small Inn over 100 years ago has evolved to what we now call the Basin Harbor Club—a sprawling resort alongside Lake Champlain that many guests return to year after year. We spent a long weekend in June 2012 at this historic lakeside retreat.
Guests will find 73 cottages sprinkled throughout the property which are perfectly suited for families. Early designers knew what they were doing, as each is perched to give guests beautiful views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from their screened in porch or deck. Cottages are simple, yet tastefully decorated. Ours, Arcadia, had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large living room with a stone fireplace, and a large deck overlooking the lake. There was also a wet bar area with a refrigerator, coffee maker and sink.
Other accommodation choices are Guest Rooms in one of four buildings. Summit and Penfield Place have room layouts and suites that are suitable for families as well. All of the cottages are pet-friendly. However, keep in mind that your dog must be kept on a leash at all times while on property and is not allowed at the pool or waterfront area. There is a separate doggie beach and plenty of shady hiking trails to take Rover out for nice long walks.
Upon our arrival and check-in, we were a little surprised with the lack of information provided about the resort other than a map. Perhaps this is by design. We spent a lot of time together exploring the resort’s 700 acres. We discovered so much and it prompted a few spontaneous games of lawn croquet and disc golf as we headed to the pool for a dip and a family putting challenge on the practice green.
Steeped in rich history, you will find old photos and placards dedicated to past guests and members around the lodge. After breakfast we came upon a group listening to a lecture about the history of the Basin Harbor Club. While we didn’t sign-up for the lecture, we overheard that the Club dates back 126 seasons! It sounded like a very worthwhile activity, but we ended up getting our own history lesson a little later on.
During the afternoon on some days, you can join the EScape Cruise on their 45-foot tour boat. This 1.5 hour trip takes you out on the lake captained by an extremely knowledgeable and affable captain. He shared with us the history of the lake, how it was formed, the battles from the Revolutionary War, and even a quick tour of Otter Creek where we saw ospreys nesting. If you don’t sail or have plans to take out any of the boats available at the waterfront, this was an excellent way to spend some time on the lake!
Plan to do a lot of walking. The resort is spread out. Your cottage could be located right next to the waterfront, yet far from the Main Dinning Room. Conversely, you could be near golf yet far from Kids Camp. If you have young kids, I would advise bringing a stroller. You can certainly drive from place to place; there is always room to park. Or better yet bring bikes or rent them on site. Plus there are great trails all over the property just begging to be explored.
Kids Camp is located at the far end of the Resort near tennis courts. With multiple play structures, a sandbox, a playhouse and riding toys there is certainly plenty to keep them entertained outside. Inside the bright open space there is one main room, with two smaller rooms used for the younger kids with several cribs and age appropriate toys. Activities change daily like Kid Olympics and hayrides so be sure to check the schedule while you are there.
At some point during your visit, be sure to pop into the Harbor Store. Inside you will find lots of retro candy, plus healthy snacks like applesauce and humus. You can stock up whatever you might need for a day at the beach. There are also lots of and old-fashioned toys. Perfect to keep little ones occupied at dinner or back in your cottage in the evening, as there is no TV. The Harbor Store is also where you will find creemees – the perfect afternoon treat on a hot summer day.
The first evening we ate at the Red Mill, the most casual restaurant located at the entrance to the property. Even if you aren’t staying on the property, this is a great place to dine. It has a large playground with a small airstrip so planes can be taking off and landing during your meal! Plenty to keep the kiddos busy while you eat.
During the rest of our stay we ate all of our meals in the Main Dinning Room and the Ranger Room were they were served buffet style. Not only was this excellent for our growing teenage son who can seem to eat enough, but it also offered our children an opportunity try things that they might not otherwise eat. They felt uninhibited to sample a little of this or a little of that. Likewise for a picky eater, it would be almost impossible for them not to be able to find something to eat. (Note: Dinner in the Main Dinning Room is only buffet on Saturday nights).
The L-shaped pool is located adjacent to the putting green and the Ranger Room, where lunch is served. The pool is 3-12 feet deep and stairs provide the only shallow space for non-swimming toddlers, so be sure to bring floatation devices, as they won’t be able to stand. There are some noodles and kick boards available. Older kids will love jumping off the diving board into the deep-end. You will find changing rooms, and that large beach towels are provided. We liked that there was ample shady seating on the grass for families not wanting to be in the sun all day long.
We spent more time at the waterfront on the lake than at the pool. Our kids enjoyed swimming out to the bungee trampoline, taking out the paddleboards, paddleboats and sunfish sailboats. They didn’t have a chance to fish, water-ski or tube. There just wasn’t enough time during our short weekend stay. Located nearby is also the disc-golf course, shuffleboard, and the nature center. There is certainly no shortage of family friendly activities to keep everyone happy.
Although our time was short, just 48 hours at the Basin Harbor Club, we managed to see and do a lot. But there is no pressure for families to do it all. As a matter of fact all over the resort you will find their famous Adirondack chairs painted in blue, red, yellow and green. They beckon you to sit, relax, take in the breathtaking views and just spend time together. Honestly, I can’t think of a better place in Vermont to do that. This is a place that families will want to return to year after year.
Disclosure: While I was invited to The Basin Harbor Club and they paid for most of my expenses, my review reflects the honest opinions of my experience without outside influence.