We drive the roads for business; we drive the roads for fun; and we bike them, run them, and walk them because we love our countryside. There’s a reason that The Northeast Kingdom was one of the very first geotourism areas in the whole world specially designated by National Geographic. Vermont as a whole is one of the top ten vacation destinations selected by a special jury established by National Geographic. And up here in Orleans County, deep in the heart of The Kingdom, you will see a countryside that is very much the way Vermont was 30 years ago. Working farms, meandering streams, rolling country side, grand vistas, and some of the cleanest, most beautiful lakes in North America.
So, here’s one of our favorite drives, starting from the State Office Building at 100 Main Street, in Down Town Newport. Head east on Routes 5 and 105 up East Main Street, straight through the light at Cumberland Farms and up into Derby. Take a left at the first light by Community National Bank on to Shattuck Hill Road. Head northwest a ways and you will find yourself at the top of Shattuck Hill, looking out over a broad stretch of Lake Memphremagog, with the islands in sight, Jay Peak, Bear Mountain and Owl’s Head (in Canada) as your skyline. The view is sooooo beautiful, you might just want to stop right here, have a picnic, and call it a day.
Or, you can head on down Shattuck Hill. At the bottom, take a right up Darling Hill Road and at the Y, bear left on to North Derby Road. When you get to the T (at Eagle Point Road) you have another choice. Some will want to head left (west) up Eagle Point Road to the former estate of Michael Dunn which is in the process of being turned into a federal/state park straddling both sides of the border, right on the lake. Or you can take a Right at the T and head into Beebe. At the T, don’t go left unless you want to go into Canada. Take a right for about 2 miles and then take a left up a steep hill and into Derby Line. When you get to the T at Main Street, take a left and when you get just past the Border Station and Irving Oil Mini Mart, bear right on Caswell Avenue. There you will find the Haskell Library. Famous for its line in the reading room that separates the US and the Canadian side of the border. And, if it’s open, you will want to visit the Haskell Opera House with its stage in Canada, a wonderfully restored curtain, and the “house” in the US. It’s the home of QNEK Productions. So get their schedule and plan to return for some wonderful shows.
Heading up Caswell Avenue you will run along the border out to Holland. Staying on the paved road, with a jig and a jag here and there you will wander through the tiny town of Holland and down to the Beach at Lake Seymour in Morgan. This water is without doubt some of the cleanest in North America. This glacially carved, spring fed lake is the single best kept secret in The Kingdom. For those who like to swim, we hope you brought your suit and towel. You will want to jump in.
From Morgan, there’s a wonderful trip out to Island Pond on Route 111 and then 114, down to Burke, over into Sutton and back down to Route 5 and 5A, but we’re not going there today. We’ll take you the short cut to the next big destination on our trip. From the Lake Seymour beach, go right, (west) on Route 111 until you get to the general store, take a left on what will soon become a dirt road that will take you past Echo Lake where you will then take a right out into East Charleston.
At the T, head West on Route 105 until you get to Route 5A. Take a left on 5A and head down into Westmore and Lake Willoughby. Don’t stop at the north end just yet. Head south under the cliffs of Mount Pisgah all the way to the South end of the lake, where you can truly appreciate the grandeur of this majestic body of water. There are a couple of beaches in this area. One is right by the road, with the traditional rules (bathing suits required). A discrete walk through the woods and you’ll find yourself at another beach where the traditional rules do not apply.
Heading back north on Route 5A you will come across a couple of trail heads that lead up to the top of Mount Pisgah. We prefer the trail that comes in from the north. It’s about a 45 minute hike and the view at the top of the cliffs is stunning.
If you are not in the mood for swimming and hiking, just keep driving, back north on Route 105 until you get to Route 58. Heading West on Route 58 you will come to the quirky general store called the Evansville Trading Post. A great place to stop. Or you can keep going west and then take a right into the village of Brownington.. There you will find the Old Stone House Museaum, which now houses the Orleans County Historical Society and is itself filled with the rich history of our area. Spend an hour, spend a couple of days, you will still hate to leave. But, if you are willing to walk about 150 yards up a road across from the Old Stone House, you will come to the top of Prospect Hill with an observation tower that will allow you to see just about all of the territory you have just driven, deep into Canada along Lake Memphremagog and south through the Willoughby Gap into the lands where the rivers flow south. On the right day, with the right setting sun, we guaranty you will swear to yourself that there is no more quietly beautiful place on earth. None.
We like to end our day heading back up the Hinman Settler Road. Depending on our mood, sometimes we will go straight until the road ends and follow Route 105 West up the Main Street of the Village of Derby Center. We always like to see what’s new at Country Thyme (Our last visit, it was the colorful hand made socks that got our attention). It’s just to the east on Route 111 that starts by the Derby Village Store. But then we like to stop by the Cow Palace. It is a unique dining experience, we guaranty (there’s that word again). Elk in the field behind the restaurant. An Antler Arch to greet you going in. An 8 foot Alaskan Polar Bear (shot by Frank LaChance in 1967) will greet you once you step through the door. And, if you make this trip, you will probably want to try an Elk Steak or an elk burger. Now tell us, where else in the East can you do that.
The other option is to turn left half way along the Hinman Settler Road, head back down into Newport for a great dinner at any one of a number of fine restaurants like The EastSide, Lago Trattoria, Le Belvedere, Baan Thai, Haberneros, or some fine Pizza at Hoagies.