Walk on water: The floating boardwalk caters to a dry crowd on Lake Coeur d'Alene.
The hard-playing powerboaters and water-skiers are still in bed, resting up for the afternoon shift, so the kayakers have Idaho's Lake Coeur d'Alene to themselves.
Or maybe not. As a small group of paddlers watch in wonder, a soaring bald eagle flips upside down to snatch a trout from an osprey, then flies away. Meanwhile, a family of red-necked grebes swim out from a shallow marsh to do some fishing of their own, and a white-tailed deer walks silently along the shoreline. As the wildlife panorama unfolds, a guide helping first timers with their kayaking technique quietly makes sure everyone sees the show.
Whether you prefer to relax on or near the water, 49.8-square-mile Lake Coeur d'Alene, about 40 minutes east of Spokane, Wash., is one of the Northwest's great playgrounds. Sandy beaches, an active arts scene, great dining, and a calendar chock-full of festivals ensure you'll find a little something for everyone.
Coeur d'Alene, or "Heart of the Awl, " was the name bestowed upon the area's Native inhabitants by 19th-century French-speaking trappers in reference to the tribe's sharp trading skills.
Much activity revolves around the Coeur d'Alene Resort, which greatly heightened the town's appeal as a regional destination when it opened in 1986. Strolling along the floating boardwalk that stretches three-quarters of a mile around the resort is a fine way to orient yourself to Coeur d'Alene.
Located one block from the lakefront, Erlendson Art Glass & Coffee House, a combination gallery-café where you can watch glassworkers plying their trade, is one of a handful of new art spots that have sprung up downtown. Other recent additions include Painter's Chair Fine Art Gallery, a showcase for works by actor-turned-impressionist-painter Stephen Charles Shortridge, and the Art Spirit Gallery, housed in a beautifully restored 1905 brick structure on Sherman Avenue, downtown's main thoroughfare. These and three other galleries band together for an ArtWalk on the second Friday of each month (April through December)—an excuse to mingle and enjoy food, drink, and music while exploring the latest creative efforts.
The Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course features the world's only floating (and movable) green. 667-4653, (800) 935-6283, www.floatinggreen.com.
When it's time to eat, consider the new Bonsai Bistro, where you can sit at a table with a lake view or on an island set in a koi pond. Chef Troy Louis Chandler's menu has something for devotees of pan-Asian cuisine and culinary novices alike—sushi rolls, cashew chicken lettuce wraps, spicy orange-peel shrimp. Farther up Sherman Avenue is Moon Time, an English-style pub favored by locals. The 20 microbrews on tap are well matched with such eclectic dishes as gumbo, a grilled lamb sandwich, and an Anasazi bean burger.
If you're ready to enjoy some solitude, it's not hard to find. The best times to savor the lake's quiet, stream-fed bays by boat are early morning and sunset, when few people are out and the wildlife is abundant. Bicycling is another good way to see the lake. Try the paved North Idaho Centennial Trail, which runs 23 miles along its north side, or the 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, which spans the Idaho Panhandle and parallels the lakeshore in the town of Harrison.
For a quick hike, locals love to hit Tubbs Hill, a 120-acre preserve laced with trails, some with beach access. In the opposite direction, across City Park, the former grounds of frontier-era military post Fort Sherman are now the site of a quiet neighborhood and North Idaho College, one of the few campuses anywhere rimmed by beaches. It's enough to make you want to go back to college—and pursue a major in leisure studies.
Photography by Joel Riner/Quicksilver Studios
This article was first published in March 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Area code is 208 unless noted. Pick up AAA's Idaho & Montana map, Idaho, Montana & Wyoming Tour-Book, and Northwestern Camp-Book. Or contact the Coeur d'Alene Visitor's Bureau, 664-3194, (877) 782-9232, www.coeurdalene.org.
Kayak Coeur d'Alene Daily tours, May through October. 307 E. Locust Ave., 676-1533, (877) 676-1533, www.kayakcoeurdalene.com. Outdoor Pursuits Canoe and kayak rentals as well as white-water rafting trips. 769-7809, www.nic.edu/Websites/index.asp?dpt=42&pageID=748.
North Idaho Centennial Trail Paved bike path right at the lakefront. www.northidahocentennialtrail.org. The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes Offers 73 miles of paved, easy riding. 682-3814, www.idahoparks.org.
ABOVE IT ALL
Brooks Seaplane Service Scenic flights over the lake. 664-2842.
ART OF THE MATTER
Erlendson Art Glass & Coffee House 116 Lakeside Ave., 667-0641. Painter's Chair Fine Art Gallery 223 Sherman Ave., 667-3606, www.painterschairfineart.com. The Art Spirit Gallery 415 Sherman Ave., 765-6006, www.theartspiritgallery.com.
Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre Four Broadway-style musicals performed from June to August. This year's season will include Some Enchanted Evening, Guys and Dolls, Footloose, and Beauty and the Beast. 769-7780, (800) 423-2849, www.nic.edu/summertheatre.
SHIVER ME TIMBERS
Silverwood Theme Park/Boulder Beach Water Park The largest amusement park in the Northwest—15 miles north of Coeur d'Alene on U.S. 95—features three roller coasters plus more than 60 other rides, shows, and attractions. 683-3400, www.silverwoodthemepark.com.
Bonsai Bistro Tasty small plates and sushi. 101 Sherman Ave., 765-4321, www.bonsaibistro.com. Moon Time Top-quality microbrews and creative entrées. 1602 Sherman Ave., 667-2331, www.wedonthaveone.com.
Best Western Coeur d'Alene Inn $89–$159. About a mile off the lake, but nicely appointed. 414 W. Apple-way Ave., 765-3200, (800) 251-7829, www.bestwestern.com. Coeur d'Alene Resort $139–$449. Comfortable rooms and plush suites on the lake. 115 S. Second St., 765-4000, (800) 688-5253, www.cdaresort.com. Roosevelt Inn $79–$289. 1905 schoolhouse-turned-bed-and-breakfast. 105 E. Wallace Ave., 765-5200, (800) 290-3358.