The boulder-strewn East Shore south of Cave Rock is a great place for cruising and sightseeing on Lake Tahoe, but with few safe spots to pull ashore. So, it’s best to admire the shore from a safe distance and go in only at the local marinas.
You can head across to the East Shore from any spot on Lake Tahoe, or launch at the public ramp at Cave Rock State Park. To start a cruise toward South Lake, it’s best to head north first past Cave Rock for the best view of one of the area’s natural wonders.
Cave Rock is named for the small caves above Highway 50 that were cut by waves when the lake was 200 feet higher during the ice ages. Cave Rock is not a rock, however, but the neck of an old volcano.
“Cave Rock was considered the home of the Lady of the Lake.”
It also is a sacred site to the Washoe, Tahoe’s native people. The Washoe once spent the summer hunting and fishing in the Sierra Nevada and Carson Range, living along Lake Tahoe’s shores. In the winter, they would travel to the Carson and Washoe valleys. Cave Rock was considered the home of the Lady of the Lake, a guardian spirit of the Washoe. They would hold important religious ceremonies, including weddings and funerals, at Cave Rock.
Looking south toward Cave Rock, you can make out the features of the Lady of the Lake – her chest starts at the water and the features of her face are formed by the rocks up to her “eyelashes.” Today, Highway 50 runs through the rock through two tunnels.
The stately homes of the East Shore are made even more dramatic by the boulder-strewn shores, where many homes seem to have emerged right out of the granite.
Boaters on the lake will notice the distinct differences between the East and West shores. While the West Shore is heavily forested with vast beaches and high cliff walls on the southern end, the East Shore is most noted by its granite boulder piles jutting out on points up from the lake and along the shoreline.
Intermixed among the lakefront homes that seem to perch on the boulders is the former Harrah home. The structure with square windows is non-descript among today’s estates, save for the tree growing up through the porch. The home was often used by visiting entertainers at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, most notably Elvis Presley, who was known to hit golf balls into the lake.
Zephyr Cove comes into view with its large, sand beach and the paddle wheeler “M.S. Dixie II.” Millionaire eccentric George Whittell Jr. once owned 24 miles of Lake Tahoe shoreline in the 1930s extending from Zephyr Cove north along the East Shore around to present-day Kings Beach.
Zephyr Cove offers fuel and other boat services, along with boat and water toy rentals. There’s a public beach next to the marina, and you can stay the night with a buoy rental from the marina and cabin rentals available from the resort. You’ll also find the Sunset Bar & Grille next to the beach, with Zephyr Cove Restaurant a short jaunt from the beach. There’s also a general store next to the restaurant to stock up on supplies.
Heading south, you’ll round Zephyr Point. Be careful of the underwater boulders and stay well away from the point. Around the point, you’ll enter Marla Bay, with a long stretch of sand beach. The Round Hills Pine Beach & Marina is on the south side of the bay. The beach is open to the public and the marina offers water toy rentals, swimming pool, bar and grill, and the Rum Bar right on the beach. You’re welcome to moor your boat at the pier to come ashore for a bite.
Leaving Marla Bay, you’ll come around Elk Point with Round Mound above at 6,717 feet. The mountain is named for its round appearance, making it easy to spot. While the point is rimmed with dangerous boulders, Nevada Beach lies ahead. The vast, sandy beach stretches down to Edgewood Golf Course. Enjoy the beach, but only admire the golfers from the lake, as Edgewood has no boat access.
The casinos of South Shore tower above the lake before the California state line. Just south of the casinos is Lakeside Marina, the closest marina to the casinos. Lakeside offers full marine services including launching, as well as power boat and water toy rentals. You can grab a bite at Lakeside Beach Grill. However, the beach on either side is private.