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A Tank Away

Island Pond, Vt., is gritty, rambunctious

Jon Dicesare and his daughter, Lulu, 2, at Brighton State Park.DIRK VAN SUSTEREN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Dirk Van Susteren
The 1904 railway station.DIRK VAN SUSTEREN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Dirk Van Susteren

Arailroad hub a century ago, Island Pond was, and remains, rustic and rambunctious. The village of 1,000, which is part of the town of Brighton, shares its name with a bordering 600-acre lake that envelops a big island. And the village itself is an island of commerce in Vermont’s fabled three-county Northeast Kingdom. In the winter, Island Pond touts itself as the “Snowmobiling Capital of Vermont,” as it attracts enthusiasts to its trails and downtown watering holes. This time of year, though, families come to hike, boat, trout fish, look for osprey and other birds, photograph moose, and introduce their children to the simple pleasures of camping and the outdoors.




For those who like camping in peaceful surroundings, Brighton State Park (802-723-4360, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/brighton.htm, $16-$20) is your best bet. The park, located on undeveloped Spectacle Lake, just 3 miles from the village, off Route 105 East, has sites (but no hookups) for tents and small campers, plus rustic lean-tos and cabins. The park includes a child-friendly sandy beach with bathhouse on Island Pond. If you have an RV, a good option is Lakeside Camping (802-723-6649, www.lakeside camping
.com. Per-day rates: $38-$45, and $35 for tents, with special weekly and monthly rates), off Route 105 East, fewer than 2 miles from the village. The campground, with full hookups and Wi-Fi, on the Island Pond lakeshore, has 200 sites, a general store, playground, and video arcade. If camping isn’t your thing, there are two hotels in the center of the village: The Lakefront Inn and Motel (127 Cross St., 802-723-6507, www.thelake
frontinn.com; $74-$225 for a family suite) right on the lake, or the Clyde River Hotel (138 Cross St., 802-723-6509, www.clyderiv
erhotelandrestaurant.com; $65-
$95 with kitchenettes). The Lakefront, which is especially popular with families, has a garage for bicycle storage and a floating dock system where registered guests can tie up their boats. The Clyde River Hotel, built in the mid-19th century, was originally a grist mill that was powered by the Clyde River, which still flows in a narrow channel beneath it.

“Friday Night Live” is a weekly music and barbecue event on the Island Pond waterfront.DIRK VAN SUSTEREN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Dirk Van Susteren


The village is relaxed and not fussy and so, largely, are its restaurants. On the lake is Pond’s Edge Pub (69 Cross St., 802-723-4590, veggie burgers $6.99, beef with sauteed onions, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese $8.29) offering a variety of appetizers and entrees but especially burgers with a pile of fries and coleslaw. For lighter fare consider Common Sense and the Yellow Deli (28 Cross St., 802-723-4453, www.yellowdeli.com/home-ip, sandwiches $4.50-$7). The restaurant is run by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a religious group that moved to Island Pond in the 1970s and has opened a couple of other businesses in the village, including a bakery and an apparel shop. The restaurant’s fruit salad, with a topping of blueberry sauce, walnuts, coconut, and yogurt, at $4.91, makes for a good midafternoon treat. Common Sense is closed on Saturdays, to honor the Sabbath.


Levi Pombar of Northfield, Vt., fishes for smallmouth bass on the Clyde River.DIRK VAN SUSTEREN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Dirk Van Susteren


In the village, it can be fun poking around, checking out the shops, or maybe picnicking on the waterfront. Outdoor enthusiasts can stock up on clothing or equipment at Clyde River Outfitters (802-723-6500) or Simon the Tanner (802-723-4452, www
.simonthetanner.com/main), both at the corner of Main and Cross streets. The village’s railroad past is evident: The 1904 railway station sits on Main Street and is the home of a bank and, upstairs, the Island Pond Historical Society museum. The museum has no regular hours, but posts the names of society members to call to arrange a visit. Visitors may also want to climb Bluff Mountain (trailhead on Mountain Street) for views of the village and pond or try canoeing or kayaking on Island Pond or the Clyde River. Kayak rentals are available through Brighton Motor Sports (108 Cross St., 802-723-9702, www
.brightonmotorsports.biz, $30-
$50 per day). Birders and wildlife photographers should visit the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (802-962-5240, www.fws.gov/r5soc/con
tact/index.html), about 10 miles east of the village on Route 105. The refuge has trails and wildlife exhibits in a visitors center.



The best opportunity for noisy local fun may be “Friday Night Live,” held weekly on the waterfront. The event, sponsored by the Island Pond Chamber of Commerce, features live music — country, rock, bluegrass, and sometimes gospel — and food, mostly barbecued or fried. There’s always the tranquil option of roasting marshmallows over the campfire or canoeing in moonlight. But if you are in need of more of a culture fix, consider driving 50 minutes to the Haskell Opera House (93 Caswell Ave, Derby Line, 802-873-3022. www.haskellopera
.com) for musical performances or stage productions. Or journey 45 minutes to the Catamount Arts Center (115 Eastern Ave., St. Johnsbury, 802-748-2600, www.catamountarts.org) for movies, music, theatrical performances, or art exhibits. It’s a shlep, but traveling back roads and highways is another good way to experience the beauty of the Northeast Kingdom.

Dirk Van Susteren, a Calais, Vt., freelance reporter and editor, can be reached at dirkpatrick@