Spiritualists hail the NEK and the adjoining region across the border (Quebec's Eastern Townships (Les Cantons de L'Est - a seat of Empire Loyalists) as an area of magnetism and great energy. One can certainly feel something gazing over the rolling hills. Refugees from urban America, including hippies from the sixties, still hide out amid the red painted barns, and winding dirt roads. There are a lot of writers here and other creative types who require the solitude that the Kingdom can provide.
The Northeast Kingdom reminds me of the Thomas Hardy novel, Far From the Madding Crowd (immortalized by PBS). Others say it reminds them of Ireland or the Scottish highlands, Cape Breton or France's Côté Sauvage. There is no coastline, but the rolling hills, lush green valleys buried in mist after a rain storm, sometimes remind me of these places as well.
In reality, there is no other place quite like the Northeast Kingdom. It is still relatively untouched, with its hill top farms, peaceful lakes and stunning sunsets. On bright spring and summer mornings, the lush green is broken by white church steeples appearing out of gentle valleys. It is unlikely that you will find a temple or a mosque in the local village, nor will you find other obvious signs of multiculturalism that make up the fabric of the rest of the country. The church, the local school and the general store/post office are the centers of activity. People carrying cell phones, wearing headphones and carrying bottles of water are relatively few and far between. Life in the Kingdom is like life 20 or 30 years ago in the rest of the country. So, you will see some bad habits from the sixties and seventies such as people smoking and leaving their trucks and cars running at idle while they chat at the local store.
If you are looking for Indian, French, Thai or Vietnamese cooking, you'll have to go across the border to places like Sherbrooke, Magog, North Hatley, Georgeville, Knowlton and Bromont. Burlington might as well be a whole world away. Sure, it's Vermont, but it is become a sprawling megalopolis, just like other American cities. Some people in the NEK are thankful that Burlington is a two hour drive away with no interstates from the NEK to western Vermont. (US interstates were originally built vertically, south to north to each border as a defensive measure - believe it or not but the Pentagon once feared a Russian invasion of Canada.)
There are still some areas of the NEK where the ubiquitous cellular phone fails and it is likely to remain that way. Many people don't want antennas on every mountain top ( a necessity for these phones in hilly country.)
Balanced against this is outstanding recreation, much of it free. Snowmobiling, Cross Country Skiiing, Downhill Sking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting and sailing on the lakes is what the NEK is about for tourists. And, oh yes there is birdwatching,
There are more than 12 lakes in the NEK. You can find out more about them and lake living, by going to our NEK lake pages.
An article in one of the bicycling magazines listed the NEK as an undiscovered destination! If mountain biking is your thing, there are miles and miles of dirt roads here that are a lot safer than the paved thoroughfares. You can actually ride and talk with a companion! There are trails in the woods that you can find by asking the locals. A good starting point is to spend some time at the Craftsbury Sports Center or in East Burke where there is somethig called the Kingdom Trails.
How to get here
You'll notice from the map that this area adjoins Canada and the province of Quebec (though you'd hardly know it when in the NEK) . If you are coming from overseas or from the western U. S., it is more convenient to fly into Montreal, rather than Boston or Burlington. Montreal's Dorval airport is only one and a half hours away from the NEK. You can rent a car in Montreal and take the 10 Est out of the city to Magog and go south to the border on 55. It's an easy drive. The55 in Quebec hooks up with Interstate 91 at a place called Rock Island. Go across the border and you'll notice the topography suddenly changes to a somewhat softer look of gently rolling hills and maple trees. You are in the Northeast Kingdom!