Getting your kids out on the water can open up a new world of exploration and fun. A great way to get started is to try out canoeing, kayaking, row boating or paddle boating on one of the many small lakes and ponds in Vermont State Parks.
Many state parks have boat rentals, including paddles and PFD's, so you don't even need your own boat.
Butterfly nets, fishing poles, buckets and a favorite toy, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two are great accompaniments to keep your kids happy and engaged while in a boat.
Below we list some recommendations of great places to get your family started:
Brighton State Park: Spectacle Pond in the Brighton campground is a sweet, beautiful pond to try. You might see loons or may wish to stop for a break at Indian Point, under a forest of pine trees. No power boats allowed. Boat rentals are available.
Elmore State Park: You will find power boats on Lake Elmore, but it is a relatively small lake with a fantastic beach, boat rentals and even a snack bar. This park also offers great hiking and an expansive picnic area.
Ricker Pond State Park: Located within Ricker Pond campground, this too is a very small peaceful pond with loons and friendly ducks. This park also has a cottage and cabins, perfect for a first family camping trip with many of the comforts of home. There is also access to many recreational opportunities within the Groton State Forest.
Waterbury Center State Park: This lake is a bit larger, but the lake near the day use area is off limit to power boats and a really beautiful place to paddle and hang out at the beach. Umiak Outfitters rents a wide variety of canoes and kayaks and their instructors will help get you started by showing you the basics of canoeing or kayaking. Afterwards, you might be interested in taking a trip to the nearby Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory, or grabbing some cider donuts at Cold Hollow Cider Mill.
Emerald Lake State Park: In southwestern Vermont, Emerald Lake is a favorite destination for families with small children. The clear, emerald-colored water, the great beach, boat rentals and snack bar are a perfect place to try out a canoe, kayak or paddle boat.
Half Moon Pond State Park: While not a day use park, Half Moon is one of our Top 5 picks for family camping. During your visit, be sure to take a paddle on the small pond. Its also a great place for kids to try fishing for the first time.
Shaftsbury State Park: Lake Shaftsbury is a small lake with a large sandy swimming beach, boat rentals, snack bar and nature trail. Hike a little, take a boat out, swim some, build a sand castle or two and treat yourself to a frosty ice cream.
Woodford State Park: This park is primarily a camping park but there is some interesting paddling on Adams Reservoir within the park. The lake has two distinct areas: an open area with easy paddling, and a more natural section with beaver dams and lots of birds and turtles. Both sections are kid-friendly and make for a fun, varied experience.
Camp Plymouth State Park: Camp Plymouth is located on the northern end of the long and skinny Echo lake. The lake by the day use area is small and sheltered and the park rents a kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats. There is a large beach, wide expanses of grassy lawns and a snack bar.
Lowell Lake: A trip to Lowell Lake will feel like a big adventure because its hidden away and has a wild feel to it with beaver activity and few people. The lake itself is small and pretty but you'll have to rough it some, as there are no visitor services like restrooms or drinking water at this park.
Silver Lake State Park: A family favorite, Silver Lake has it all: a nice campground, beautiful sandy beach, new playground, snack bar and boat rentals. It is also close to the Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller National Park.