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The best of the Adirondack Coast – top things to do in the Adirondacks

by Feb 6, 2020New York

The spectacular Adirondack Coast snugs up to the shore of Lake Champlain in New York. Historians will note that Lake Champlain, the sixth largest body of water in the United States, briefly laid claim to being one of the Great Lakes … for 18 days in 1998 when a bill was signed, but then rescinded. Seems residents all along the shores of New York and Vermont felt the lake was great enough on its own. And indeed, I would agree with them.

Visitors to the Adirondack Coast will experience an extremely picturesque slice of Lake Champlain’s nearly 600 miles of shoreline. Nestled in the shadow of the Adirondack Mountains just to the west, the region boasts visually stunning natural attractions, world-class bass fishing, underwater ship wrecks to explore, historic sites to visit, beaches to relax on, and yes, there’s even a mythical Loch Ness-type creature, Champ, to keep a sharp eye out for.

Just inland, the fertile soil is home to historic and flourishing orchards, farms, and wineries and that means a cornucopia of palate-tantalizing opportunities for any traveler. Be sure to leave some room in your suitcase to bring home some of the delectable treasures you will no doubt discover.

Shady Grove Farm Wellness Center make up some of the best of the Adirondack Coast

There’s something here for history buffs too, as the Adirondack Coast is home to the Battle of Plattsburgh historic site. Military historians believe that this battle during the War of 1812 turned the tide in America’s favor. Military encampments and reenactments of the battle happen annually.

Biking, bird watching, hiking, fishing, scuba diving, paddling or simply relaxing, there is so much to do and see in the Adirondack Coast you could spend months here and not experience it all. But don’t fret. I’ve put together an Adirondack Coast sampler for you.

Experience the best of the Adirondack Coast

Point Au Roche Lodge – You will need a base camp, and there is none better than this wonderful lodge. All points along the Adirondack Coast are easily accessible from here. Read our review “Point Au Roche Lodge review – A perfect Adirondack Coast basecamp” to learn more.

Point Au Roche Lodge Front View In The Adirondack Coast

Point au Roche State Park – The entrance is located directly across the road from the Point Au Roche Lodge. Inside the park you will find 12 miles of trails, many with views of Lake Champlain.  The lake shore and a lovely beach can be reached in less than a mile walk from the lodge.

Ausable Chasm — Open to the public since 1870, it is considered one of the oldest natural attractions in North America. Often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks,” you will be awestruck by the sheer walls of the chasm and the thundering water below as you wander along trails that hug the rock. The more adventurous can partake in tubing, rafting or even a mild via ferrata climbing route. And it is also open in the winter when frozen waterfalls and huge icicles become the star attractions – ice cleat tours are offered for that. Be sure to also plan an hour or so to visit the Underground Railroad Museum nearby. The small museum details the history of the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad as fugitives escaped slavery on their way to Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

Ausable Chasm Trail Scenic Point Adirondacks

Valcour Island — Paddle over to Valcour Island for a picnic, or if you are more adventurous, you can also spend the night there (boat launch near the town of Peru at the Peru State Boat Launch Site on Rt. 9). Ask about renting kayaks at the Point Au Roche Lodge. There are trails that wind around the island with interpretive signs describing the famous naval battle at Valcour in October 1776. Be sure to take time to explore the Valcour Island Lighthouse. Built in 1874, it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public on Sundays during the summer.

Man On A Bench Plattsburg Adirodack Coast

Visit Plattsburgh — The county seat for Clinton County in New York, it is one of the largest towns in the region and the hub of your best of the Adirondack Coast experience. Be sure to take time (a couple of hours will do) to visit the War of 1812 Museum. The museum details the history of the largest invasion in U.S. history when eleven thousand British troops crossed the border from Montreal into New York and the British navy sailed south on Lake Champlain – headed for Plattsburgh. You might also enjoy a visit to the Kent-Delord House Museum. Build in 1797, it is one of the oldest homes in Plattsburgh. For a quick pick-me-up coffee or tea break, tuck into Koffee Kat Espresso Bar in the historic downtown. Take your coffee to go, and wander over to MacDonough Park on the Saranac River.

Shady Grove Farm Wellness Center Yoga Pose

Put a little peace and wellness in your routine — Visit the Shady Grove Farm and Wellness Center. Owned by Francisco and Karen Braun, the couple has been busy turning old agricultural land into a sustainable farming venture. There is a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm, a recreation area for camping along the Salmon River (advanced reservations required), and the opportunity for taking yoga in their studio. You might also enjoy a visit to the Breathe Easy Salt Cave in the town of Peru. The building is non-descript, but inside there is a salt cave constructed using Himalayan salt. While the health benefits of salt caves can be debated, I can attest that reclining quietly in a zero-gravity chair (essentially a fancy deck chair) while wrapped in a blanket for an hour was surprisingly restful and restorative.

Breathe Easy Salt Cave Peru Adirondacks

Visit an orchard or two  — A must-do in the area, and I can think of none better than Rulf’s Orchard to start. Plan to have lunch and be delighted with the sandwiches, apple cider donuts, apple pies and pumpkin bars (oh sooo delicious).

Michael Hodgson Riding John Deere Tractor Rulfs Orchard Adirondacks

Take a cooking class at Carriage House Cooking SchoolI can guarantee that you will be in for a one-of-a-kind dining experience in a delightful location with a most entertaining and caring chef, Curtiss Hemm. Yes, you will be participating in cooking your meal, but oh what a meal it will be.

Carriage House Cooking School Art Of Pi Making Pizza

HITT Tip: Getting to the best of the Adirondack Coast. There are numerous ways to get to the Adirondack Coast by train, airplane, boat and car. I arrived from California by flying to Albany, New York, spending the night, and then catching an Amtrak train to Plattsburgh. But you can also fly into Montreal-Trudeau International Airport and rent a car or make a train connection there, or you can fly into Burlington International Airport and take a ferry across Lake Champlain to Plattsburg. There are too many options to list so I would recommend you refer to the “How to Get Here” page on the official Adirondack Coast tourism website. Getting here is worth the effort.

Heads up! This information on the Best of the Adirondack Coast was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). It is your sole responsibility to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, and any other important details before your adventure.
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Acknowledgements: Story and photos by Michael Hodgson