It’s Labor Day. Summer is coming to an unofficial end. But I’m afraid that I’m not quite ready to let it slip away quite so soon. Especially not when I return in my mind to the complimentary golden summer vacation we enjoyed at the Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont.
If you’re going to dream about summer, you might as go all the way. Basin Harbor offers family-friendly summer vacations of a variety that are difficult to find anymore. Unplugged, unscheduled, outdoors, full of bare feet, wet bathing suits, and bicycles.
So what is it that makes Basin Harbor Club such a special place for a family vacation?
Lake Champlain is your front yard
From the moment this resort was founded 125 years ago by the same family that owns it today, its focus has been the water. Almost every building faces the lake and the Adirondack Mountains on the far side, and while you are there it fills your senses utterly.
Basin Harbor offers just about every type of water activity that you can imagine. The beach area is full of small craft for kids to play with in the harbor, from paddleboards to rowboats. (Although be warned: There is no lifeguard on duty.) A large floating trampoline is an easy swim from the beach area and there’s a diving board and dock as well.
Other opportunities for water play include kayak rentals and guided tours. Matt and I spent two hours one morning paddling across the lake and back with a guide who helped us improve our technique. Sailing lessons and rentals, water skiing, fishing trips, guided canoe tours – if it can be done on the water, you’ll likely find it here. There’s also a very nice pool, although my children spent no time there at all because they were so enamored of the lake.
Basin Harbor Club also offers the chance for guests to learn about the story of the lake, from its days as a preshistoric ocean to the stories of Revolutionary War battles that took place there. Daily narrated tours on the resort’s boat EScape share that story, as does the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
The dining options at Basin Harbor are varied and fresh
Basin Harbor offers a variety of dining options, from the formal dining room in the resort’s historic main lodge to the more casual Red Mill Restaurant. The focus throughout is on offering local products whenever possible.
The enormous breakfast buffet is a special treat that’s not to be missed, with choices ranging from made-to-order omelets to the resort’s own housemade granola served with locally-produced yogurt.
Several nights a week you have the option to dine lakeside as the resort hosts special dinners on the lawn. These buffet meals are relaxed and delicious, with children running from table to beach. The night ends with a beach bonfire and marshmallows for toasting.
Basin Harbor has fun and flexible activities for kids
The kids camps at Basin Harbor take place daily in the morning and then again in the evening (so parents have an chance for date night dinners should they choose). Kids are broken up into four groups according to age, from 3 to 17 years. Each group has its own age-appropriate activities from crafts to boating to playground time.
The nice thing about the camps is that you don’t have to sign up for the daytime ones in advance. I loved that we didn’t have to have our days mapped out but could plan them based on the weather and our inclinations.
Kids can play in other ways as well, by signing up for various activities. Teddy and I spent one afternoon hanging out at the resort’s nature center making a dragonfly out of found materials. Other activities for kids include chances to fish, a beach party with hula hoops and dancing, natural history walks, and many more.
Another highlight of the week for kids is Harborfest, when the resort sets up some simple games, a bouncy house, and has treats like cotton candy, face painting, and balloon animals. My boys thought it was absolute magic to have this fun suddenly appear on the lawn.
Basin Harbor offers kids the luxury of freedom
When we grownups think “luxury accommodation” we’re more likely to concern ourselves with thread counts and designer furnishings. But for kids, one of the greatest luxuries a hotel or resort can offer is space and independence. Basin Harbor provides both in spades.
Children are safe here, and they know it. In fact, they revel in it, riding their bikes around the property, signing themselves in and out of the activities, sampling more creemees than they’ve ever gotten away from in their lives at the small harbor store, playing hide and seek in the woods.
Even dinner in the formal dining room offers a chance for adult-free time – the older kids who participate in the evening kids camp eat here together. Tommy loved that he could order a large steak and a decaf espresso with no one telling him no.
My kids rode their bikes in the dark and took a dip in the moonlit lake. They made new friends and happily piled their plates high at the buffet. They danced the limbo lakeside and played Capture the Flag. Their joy was utter and absolute
The Basin Harbor Club may not offer luxury in the traditional sense of the word. The rooms, while comfortable, aren’t fancy. You won’t have a personal cabana or room service. But the luxury you’ll find is even more precious: relaxed, joyous time together as a family in a pristine natural setting.
- Basin Harbor is both at a remove and conveniently located for offsite fun. While we didn’t leave the resort (or use our car) during the three days we stayed there, it’s not far to the museums and attractions of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city. The area adjacent to the resort is relatively flat and makes for some fantastic biking on country roads – there’s an easy five-mile loop offering mountain views and you can also ride to nearby Button Bay State Park, which has interpretive trails, a playground, and its own beach.
- Basin Harbor Club offers a wide variety of different accommodation types from 73 cottages to hotel rooms.
- Although the atmosphere at Basin Harbor Club is very relaxed, they do have one rule, which is to dress for dinner in the main dining room. Men are expected to wear a jacket and encouraged to wear ties. I found this tradition to be completely charming, especially seeing groups of spiffed-up children with their parents and grandparents.
- An option when staying at Basin Harbor Club is to pay for a full meal plan. If you do so, you can enjoy any of the resort’s dining opportunities without paying extra. This is especially fun for kids, who love the chance to bike over to the Red Mill and have lunch without any adults in attendance.
- Daily activities at the resort vary. Many of them require sign up, and some of them cost an extra fee.
- One of the most magical things about Basin Harbor Club is that there are no TVs in the rooms. My kids didn’t even notice.
- If you don’t want to wait until next summer to visit Basin Harbor, the resort offers special deals during September and October as it readies itself to close for the winter. You may not want to swim in the fall, but there’s still plenty to do from foliage hikes to apple picking.
- To see more photos of Basin Harbor, follow me on Instagram or check out my album on Facebook.
Many thanks to the Basin Harbor Club for hosting my family and generously covering all of the expenses related to our stay. You can always count on me to tell you when I’ve gotten something for free, and to share my honest opinions about it.