Boating along Tahoe’s North Shore

Lake Tahoe can be easy to navigate if you pay attention to landmarks and navigation aids. Look for things that can be seen from nearly anywhere on the lake, like the ski runs of Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe that make an inverted “V”, the Cal-Neva in Crystal Bay (the only building visible on the North Shore from most of the Lake) and Cave Rock on the East Shore.


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Then, watch for other landmarks, like restaurants on the lake’s shore, the ski runs of Homewood Mountain Resort and Eagle Rock on the West Shore, the landslides distinguishable above Emerald Bay and Carnelian Bay, and many others. Do so, and you’ll find the Lake easy to navigate.

The North Shore begins at the dam in Tahoe City and continues east, weaving in and out of the coves making up the hamlets of Tahoe Vista, Agate Bay and Kings Beach, before crossing from California into Nevada to Incline Village.

READ MORE: Explore Tahoe City by boat

From the eastern end of Tahoe City to Kings Beach, there are few spots to stock up on supplies. But, boaters will find several public docks and ramps for their use, along with several exceptional restaurants accessible by boat.

Heading east from the outskirts of Tahoe City (visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for the feature on Tahoe City), boaters can discover the cliffs of Lake Forest just past the public boat ramp.

Lake Forest Beach | Alyssa Ganong

Lake Forest

Perhaps the most heavily used public boat ramp on the North Shore lies outside Tahoe City in the Lake Forest community. The channel leading into the ramp area is shallow and marked by some rather large boulders. There are no services at Lake Forest, but there are two campgrounds to the east and west of the ramp, along with a park, a picnic area with barbecues and restrooms.

Next to the boat ramp is the U.S. Coast Guard Station. A long, sandy stretch of public beach – Lake Forest Beach – and public pier are just beyond the Coast Guard station. There are no services at Lake Forest, but there are restrooms at the campground above the beach.

Garwoods Dock

Carnelian Bay

As you round Dollar Point into Carnelian Bay, you may catch a glimpse of anglers along the thick brush and rocks on the point. Dollar Point is a premier fishing spot with locals. Stay clear of the point, however, as the underwater boulders are extremely dangerous to boaters and the water level can be deceptive.

On most days, you’ll notice a distinct shift in conditions rounding the point as the water becomes rougher and the winds stronger.

Gar Woods Grill & Pier offers indoor and outdoor dining in the heart of Carnelian Bay, and it’s not uncommon to see a wedding at the beach in front of the restaurant. The pier at the restaurant is public, as are the beaches to either side of the pier. Boaters can tie up at the pier, which is handicap accessible, or the restaurant has a boat valet available until dusk for its customers.

READ MORE: Summer fun in Carnelian Bay & Tahoe Vista

Navigation Aide: The large wooden and glass exterior of Gar Woods can easily be mistaken for another lakefront home. Look for the mammoth buildings making up the facilities at Sierra Boat Company; Gar Woods is across the expanse of rocky beach to its left.

If you’re planning to eat at the restaurant, I suggest using the boat valet. When the winds are high, boats tied at the pier can be damaged, as was the case on one beautiful summer day as I dined inside with friends.

Sierra Boat Company offers a full-service chandlery, slip rentals, and specializes in the restoration and sales of wooden boats. The Sierra Boat Company has been a fixture on Lake Tahoe since 1952.

Situated between Gar Woods and Sierra Boat is Carnelian Bay Beach, a rocky public beach maintained by the California Tahoe Conservancy with picnic facilities and restrooms.

If you need to stock up on supplies, you’ll find a convenience store across the street along with CB’s Bar & Grill with some of the best pizza around.

On the west side of Sierra Boat Company is Patton Beach. This rocky picnic and beach area is dog friendly with public restrooms available. On the beach, you’ll find Waterman’s Café, serving breakfast and lunch along with kayak and paddleboard rentals and lessons. A short walk to the west of the beach and across the highway is the Old Post Office, a sit-down restaurant open for breakfast and lunch.

Continuing along the North Shore out of Carnelian Bay, look back at the far side of Sierra Boat Company to see the largest mural on the lake. In 2000, local artist Susie Alexander-Georgeson completed a beautiful landscape mural on the side of the building.

North Tahoe Marina

Agate Bay

Entering Agate Bay, the last bay on California’s side of the North Shore, you’re treated to more of the beautiful lakefront homes. The west side of the bay has little development other than the magnificent wood and glass structures that look like magazine covers. On the east side of Agate Bay is Kings Beach.

There are several public beaches on the east side of Agate Bay – Sandy Beach and Tahoe Vista Recreation Area, which has a public launch, picnic area and restrooms. Across from street, you’ll find coffee and great fare for breakfast and lunch at Global Café or the newly opened Pep’s Place.

Continuing along the shoreline, you’ll see North Tahoe Marina to the west. The marina has a full chandlery and offers sales and repair services. They also offer gas and pump out facilities, along with slip rentals and moorings. There is no public use of the pier allowed.

Shortly before the marina is Moon Dunes Beach, a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming. Boaters will have to either swim ashore or take a dinghy, as boats are not allowed in the swimming area. The beach has a picnic area and restrooms.

Tahoe Vista Boat Launch | Courtesy TVRA

Kings Beach

One of the most gorgeous sandy beaches around Lake Tahoe may be found in the heart of the quaint town of Kings Beach. The large sandy beach also features a large plaza and playground along its edge, making it a popular spot for beach lovers, but not really accessible for boaters.

READ MORE: Family friendly good times in Kings Beach

After many years of being closed due to low water levels, the Coon Street boat launch in Kings Beach has reopened. There is limited parking at the boat launch and access to the restrooms. The shoreline is shallow and full of underwater boulders, and most of the waters in Kings Beach are strictly for the use of swimmers, kayakers, paddleboarders and other water enthusiasts.

To explore Kings Beach, please plan to spend the day coming by car (or preferably by bike) to enjoy the beach, dine at local restaurants, enjoy the ice cream, and shop at the many unique shops in town.

READ MORE: Music on the Beach free concerts every Friday

Boaters will want to pack a picnic and anchor just outside of the swim area on Friday nights during the summer to enjoy Music on the Beach and don’t miss the spectacular fireworks on the 3rd of July. Find details on both in this edition.

The Tahoe Weekly will explore Lake Tahoe from a boater’s perspective throughout the summer. Find more features on boating at TheTahoeWeekly.com. Click on Boating & Sailing under the Out & About tab.