Idaho may not be synonymous with water to many Seattleites, but Lake Pend Oreille, and the largest town on it, Sandpoint (population, approximately 7,000), provides a formidable sunny oasis. Tucked into the north end of Idaho’s panhandle, the lake brims with summer life, being Idaho’s largest and the fifth-deepest in the country.
Sandpoint City Beach, a well-manicured 22-acre grassy peninsula fringed with fine sandy beach and shade trees, is ground zero for lakeside lounging: Pack a picnic, sift sand between your toes and go swimming, boating or fishing on glorious Lake Pend Oreille, which reflects the surrounding mountain ranges—the Selkirk, Cabinet and Bitterroot—in its depths. Pooches get their own off-leash slice of beach at Sandpoint Dog Beach, just south. One of the best ways to get to know the 148-square-mile lake is by boat. You can rent your own or book a tour; with Lake Pend Oreille Cruises, tour options include lake history rides, birding tours and a Fourth of July cruise that gives you a front row seat to the town’s fireworks show.
The lively downtown is lined with shops and galleries, many filled with creative, locally made goods, from house and garden art at Mountain Song Gallery to striking wildlife photography at Cedar Glen Gallery and the very Western-inspired Northwest Handmade Furniture and Gallery.
Grab pub grub and craft beer at MickDuff’s Brewing Company, or go for the fantastic menu, spectacular view and live music at Trinity at City Beach restaurant.
One of the town’s biggest attractions is Cedar Street Bridge Public Market, a historic bridge turned public market that stretches across the narrow part of Lake Pend Oreille. Refresh with a gelato or espresso (or both) at Cedar Street Bistro, and browse shops and stands on the way down to Sandpoint Byway Trail. Following the trail south leads you back to City Park and the lake; north takes you to the Popsicle Bridge Trail.
While there are a variety of generic hotels in this resort community, The Lodge at Sandpoint, just across the lake in Sagle, is an attractive alternative with an airy, woodsy vibe, 29 rooms and suites, two cabins and a house available to book, along with power boat, kayak and paddleboard rentals. At the intimate Huckleberry Hill Bed and Breakfast, the innkeepers invite guests to enjoy the communal gathering room, where they’ll keep you fueled with coffee and tea all day and treat you with an evening sweet or hors d’oeuvre.
Schweitzer Mountain is just a 30-minute drive away. The winter ski resort turns into a hiking, biking and ziplining mecca in summer. Be sure to visit Sky House, with a stunning 360-degree landscape view and bites available at The Nest or Red Hawk Cafe.
GETIING THERE: Drive east via Interstate 90 to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, then take U.S. Highway 95 north. Or take the scenic route by connecting with U.S. Highway 2 from Spokane; this road takes you along the Pend Oreille River all the way to Sand Point and Lake Pend Oreille.
Lodge at Sandpoint, Sagle, 41 Lakeshore Drive; 208.263.2211
Huckleberry Hill Bed and Breakfast, Sandpoint, 248 Woodland Drive; 208.920.3357
MickDuff’s Brewing Company, Sandpoint, 312 N First Ave.; 208.255.4351
Trinity at City Beach restaurant, Sandpoint, 58 Bridge St.; 208.255.7558
Cedar Street Bridge Public Market
Lake Pend Oreille Cruises, 100 Bridge St.; 208.255.5253
Mountain Song Gallery, 300 N First Ave.; 208.602.0722
Cedar Glen Gallery, 300 N First Ave.; 208.304.5393
Northwest Handmade Furniture and Gallery, 308 N First Ave.; 208.255.1962
Cedar Street Bistro and Coffee Shop, 334 N First Ave. (on the Cedar Street Bridge); 206.265.4396