Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse
Built in 1857
With the completion of the Champlain Canal which connected the Hudson River and Lake Champlain. Burlington became the third largest port for lumber shipping coming mainly from Canada. With the increased shipping trade, came the need for a breakwater to protect mariners from the constant weather changes and storms. A 1,000 foot breakwater was completed in 1854, and gradually was extended as the waterfront continued to grow. By the late 1800’s, it had grown to nearly 4200 feet long. Wooden lighthouses were first placed on both ends of the breakwater in 1857, and in 1890 a lighthouse was also placed in the middle of the breakwater.
|Over the years, the wooden structures could not survive the constant elements of strong winds, ice, and even fires. In 1870, the northern lighthouse burned to the ground, and in 1876 a fierce storm knocked over the southern light. In 1875, a keeper’s dwelling was built on the breakwater, but being so close to the waterfront, the keepers simply stayed ashore and would row out to the lighthouse. The keeper’s house remained unoccupied for nearly ten years before it was auctioned off and moved ashore.||
Burlington South Light (early)
There are also shipwrecks near both ends of the breakwater. On December 9, 1876 during a fierce storm, the 80-foot schooner, the General Butler, crashed into the breakwater. The ship’s captain was able to get his passengers and crew to safety on the breakwater. A local fisherman, James Wakefield and his son, saw the incident and were able to rescue everyone using a rowboat to bring them ashore. The wreck of the General Butler is now a State of Vermont Underwater Historic Preserve. There are marker buoys at the both ends of the shipwreck, which is located on the near the southern portion of the breakwater.
Near the north end of the Burlington Breakwater, the Burlington Bay Horse Ferry, believed to be the only known surviving example of a turntable “team-boat”, sank during a fierce storm. Its wreck is frequently explored by divers.
Both north and middle wooden lights were rebuilt using steel in 1925, and the south light was replaced with steel in 1950. After years of using only ugly skeletal towers, funding was raised primarily with the help of Senator Patrick Leahy, and the north and south towers were rebuilt to their original structures from old photos along with additional reconstruction of the breakwater. Both lighthouses were rebuilt to withstand the weather elements that destroyed the earlier versions while keeping the original structural pleasing designs intact. In 2003, both the north and south lights were reactivated.
Places to Visit Nearby:
|Burlington is Vermont’s largest city that offers plenty of activities, events, specialty shops, restaurants, artists galleries, museums, and places to hike and bike around the area. The Church Street Marketplace is Burlington’s hub of activity with entertainment, festivals, historical architecture, and plenty of places to shop or eat in the area.|
Burlington’s Waterfront Park provides opportunities to see the Burlington Breakwater lighthouses from the shore, walk along the boardwalk, or take boats out around the harbor and Lake Champlain. The waterfront also has access to the Waterfront Bike Path, and a festival site, which is host to a number of major events throughout the year.
Explore the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum to learn about Lake Champlain's history through hands-on exhibits, shipwreck discoveries, and viewing full scale replicas of the ships that navigated these waters. They also offer shipwreck tours, like the General Butler, and exhibit artifacts from the wreckage of many ships as well. This is a one stop for visitors who want to learn most everything regarding marine life of the area and Lake Champlain's maritime history.
|Burlington's Waterfront Bike Path is a nearly 8-mile recreational route that runs along the shoreline of Lake Champlain. North Beach is located at the end of Institute Road off of North Avenue right off the Burlington Bike Path for picnicking and swimming.|
Explore 70 species of animals and lots of exhibits at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center.
Learn about Vermont’s hero at the Ethan Allan Museum.
The Firehouse Center for the Visual Arts features five floors of contemporary art.
If you are interested in attending various events in the performing arts, check out the Flynn Center in Burlington. It is one of the largest Historic Performing Arts Centers in all of New England.
For one of Vermont’s great specialty foods attractions, visit the Dakin Farm for free samples and exhibits.
The Island Line Trail brochure leads cyclists from Burlington, Vermont to the Champlain Islands along the old Rutland Railroad
For the best chocolates take a factory tour and taste gourmet chocolates from Lake Champlain Chocolates.
The Horsford Gardens and Nursery display beautiful floral gardens, some heirloom plants dating back to the 1800’s.
If you’re interested in crossing Lake Champlain at four different points to access the New York side, as well as the Vermont side of Lake Champlain from NY, take one of the Lake Champlain ferries below:
- Grand Isle, VT to Plattsburg, NY
- Burlington, VT to Port Kent NY
- Charlotte, VT to Essex, NY
- Chimney Point, VT to Port Henry, NY
|Lake Champlain is comprised of many tiny and larger islands making this area a boater’s paradise. There are many islands that are private and some you can stop over and visit of have a picnic. If you don’t have your own boat, one boat the Spirit Of Ethan Allen III is a 424-passenger ship that goes past Juniper Island lighthouse and the Burlington Breakwater lighthouses on their Scenic Narrated Cruises, which take you around Burlington’s Lake Champlain islands. These cruises are offered 4 times a day during the summer season.|
From the city attractions of Burlington as you head northward you are greeted with very rural communities of locals who love the simpler life. This rural area provides plenty of picturesque views of farmlands, forests, and wetlands. You'll also find Lake Champlain's largest islands with plenty of smaller ones in between for those that enjoy camping, boating, fishing and hiking. There are many biking and hiking trails groomed for locals and visitors alike to enjoy this quiet scenery. These trails are also used in the winter by cross country skiers and snowmobilers.
- Either of the breakwater lighthouses can best be seen by boat, although you can also view these lighthouses from the shoreline without much difficulty.
- To view the Burlington Breakwater Northern Lighthouse, follow the signs to get to the waterfront, or to Waterfront Park, you’ll see the lighthouse at the waterfront.
- To view the Burlington Breakwater Southern Light, from the waterfront facing the water follow the railroad tracks on the left along the shore.
- Or, follow along Battery Street, turn onto Maple St then left onto Valley lane which will bring you to the treatment facility where the lighthouse is located at the end of the southern tip of the breakwater.
Local Boat Tours and Ferries For Visitors
Boat cruises and ferries mentioned below may offer many types of cruises. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, some will pass by specific lighthouses as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, fishing tours and other types of excursions. Weather is also a major factor in New England, especially on sailing excursions. Contact info is provided to help you plan your special trips ahead of time and to answer questions before you arrive at any of New England’s destinations. Enjoy!
Spirit of Ethan Allan III
Provide all kinds of dinner and event cruises. Lighthouses can be viewed on the Scenic Narrated Cruise.
348 Flynn Ave., Burlington, VT 05401
PHONE: 802-862-8300 • FAX: 802-860-2261
Lighthouses: Juniper Island Light, Burlington North Breakwater Light, Burlington South Breakwater Light
Lake Champlain Ferries
Ferry from Burlington to Port Kent NY passes by the Burlington North Breakwater lighthouse.
King Street Dock, Burlington, Vermont 05401
Phone (802) 864-9804
Lighthouses: Burlington North Breakwater Light
The Whistling Man Schooner
Sails around Burlington Harbor, or private charter for up to a full day sail.
1 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401
Telephone: (802) 598-6504
Lighthouses: Burlington North Breakwater Light
My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses in these 3 states, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special trips.