Carnelian Bay & Tahoe Vista


Named for the semi-precious stones found in the area, Carnelian Bay was first popularized through Dr. Bourne’s Hygienic Establishment, a health spa that prescribed its patients “pure mountain air, fresh vegetable juices and abstinence from stimulants, hot and cold mineral baths and trout fishing for a long and healthy life,” according to historian Mark McLaughlin.

By the 1870s, health seekers flocked to Dr. Bourne’s spa to reap the benefits of the outdoors and allegedly healing waters found in the area. Later, a road was built through the area connecting Tahoe City to Campbell Hot Springs in Brockway, and the small community of Carnelian Bay grew to include a hotel, a post office, a general store and a wharf. In the 1930s, boat racing became the major attraction in Carnelian Bay and, in 1952, Sierra Boat Company opened and is still known today for its repair and maintenance of classic boats. Each August, Sierra Boat Company hosts the Concours d’Elegance, a classic wooden boat show that pays tribute to the maritime history of the area.


Breakfast & a paddle
Some of Carnelian Bay’s history can still be experienced today. The Old Post Office is a small café in the building that housed the first post office in the area, and a first choice stop for breakfast. The menu includes breakfast favorites such as eggs and bacon, pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelettes, as well as specials including crab cake eggs Benedict.

After breakfast, head across the street to check out Patton Beach, one of the few public beaches in North Lake Tahoe that is dog friendly. The gravel beach offers plenty of room for your four-legged friends to explore while you soak up the sun. Just down the shore, Waterman’s Landing offers SUP and kayak rentals, as well as a SUP retail outlet. Additionally, the café is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and serves certified organic coffee, sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, and beer and wine with a happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. and live music on weekends. Waterman’s Landing also hosts the North Tahoe Paddle Series in conjunction with Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach. This SUP race series takes place every Friday at 5:30 p.m. with the starting point rotating between the two shops.

Alternatively, head east and check out Tahoe Vista Recreation Area. The sandy beach is open to the public and a boat launch is open as water levels permit. Tahoe Adventure Company offers SUP and kayak rentals for those wanting to get out on the water.


Lunchtime eats
For lunch, head back across the street to CB’s Pizza and Grill. Known for its pizza, CB’s also offers an assortment of sandwiches, build-you-own burgers, pasta dishes and salads, as well as Thursday through Saturday specials not seen on the regular menu (See Tastes in this issue).

Or, grab lunch at El Sancho Taqueria and bring it back to the beach for an afternoon picnic. While the fish tacos are a classic favorite at El Sancho, the menu also features a variety of Mexican fare including chile rellenos and empanadas.

After lunch, head down the street to Mourelato’s Cable Car Ice Cream shop open from spring to fall. Cable Car serves BUDS ice cream from San Francisco, which features a high butter fat content making the ice cream creamy and smooth. The outdoor seating is a great spot for ice cream socials during the hot summer afternoons.


Disc or mini golf?
North Tahoe Regional Park offers 124 acres of outdoor activities including a playground, five tennis courts, athletic fields, hand ball and sand volley balls. The 18-hole disc golf course winds though the pine, fir and cedars, taking players on a scenic tour of the park. Additionally, hiking and biking trails meander through the park and provide access to National Forest Land. An 18-station fitness course provides an outdoor alternative to the usual gym routine.

Bring the family together for an afternoon of mini golf at Magic Carpet Mini Golf in Carnelian Bay. Open from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. throughout the summer, Magic Carpet offers three courses to choose from including two 19-hole courses and a 28-hole course. Additionally, Magic Carpet owns a collection of arcade games ranging from classic favorites to newer attractions.


Katherine E. Hill

Fine dining
If surf and turf sounds like the ticket after working up an appetite, head to the lakefront Captain John’s Seafood and Lounge in Tahoe Vista. One of the stops on the North Lake Tahoe Water Shuttle, Captain John’s serves meals ranging from a black angus filet mignon to the Ocean Platter, which includes Seared Ahi with a Cucumber salad, Coconut Prawns with Mango-Dijon Marmalade and Crab and Salmon Cakes with Caper-Dill Aioli.

Experience some of Tahoe Vista’s history at Spindleshanks American Bistro and Wine Bar. Once known as Sandy Beach Resort, Spindleshanks still features the original fireplace from the 1920s. Featuring a menu of regional American cuisine including salads, seafood, steaks and pasta dishes, Spindleshanks offers an extensive wine list to pair with any meal.


Make it a Wet Woody
After dinner, head to Gar Wood’s Grill and Pier for a popular Wet Woody cocktail and an impressive view of the sunset over the lake. Named after Garfield Wood, an engineer known best for his line of racing boats, Gar Wood’s fits into the maritime history of Lake Tahoe. Be sure to check out the live music every Friday and Saturday night. Gar Wood’s serves lunch and dinner lakeside with a boat valet available for its diners on a first-come, first-served basis during the summer.

The Night Rider provides free public transportation from Crystal Bay to the West Shore from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. on some routes. Visit for a complete transit schedule.

Story by Jenn Sheridan
Photos by Jenn Sheridan unless otherwise noted  |  Main page photo by Katherine E. Hill

Upcoming events

Live music | Entertainment section in this issue

Every Friday
5:30 p.m. | North Tahoe Paddle Series |Waterman’s Landing/Adrift Tahoe
Dusk | Sunset kayak |Tahoe Adventure Company

Aug. 12
5:30-9:30 p.m. | Astronomy kayak tour | Tahoe Adventure Company

Aug. 20
6-9 p.m. | Full moon kayak | Tahoe Adventure Company

Sept. 7
5:30-9:30 p.m. | Astronomy kayak tour | Tahoe Adventure Company

Sept. 8
11 a.m.-3 p.m. | Dog Day in the Park | North Tahoe Regional Park

Visitor information
Public transportation |
Water shuttle | (530) 581-8707