Boating Big Blue | Magical West Shore, Part I

The West Shore is perhaps the most alluring of Tahoe’s shores from the mouth of the Truckee River – Lake Tahoe’s only outlet – to the old Tahoe estates. It’s rich in history, sightseeing and places to explore, so in this feature, I’ll cover the northern end between the Tahoe City dam and Homewood.

Editor’s Note: The Tahoe Weekly is exploring Lake Tahoe from a boater’s perspective throughout the summer. Find features on the hamlets of the North Shore at Click on Boating & Sailing under the Out & About tab.

The West Shore begins at the Tahoe City dam, which has regulated the flow of water from Lake Tahoe via the Truckee River since the first dam was built in the 1860s.

As you head south along the West Shore, use caution near the first buoy field after leaving the Truckee River outlet area. You’ll see a large boathouse at the site of the former Tahoe Tavern where there are many underwater hazards.

READ MORE: Check out the annual Concours d’Elegance during your West Shore visit. Find details in this edition.

As you round the first bend in the shoreline, you’ll be at Sunnyside. Head to shore for a meal at one of the West Shore’s best restaurants, to stock up on supplies for your own picnic, or for marine services and gas. Sunnyside Resort is a popular spot for visitors and locals where you can grab a sandwich on the vast deck overlooking Lake Tahoe or dine in style in the Chris Craft Room. Whatever your dining choice, be sure to ask for a slice of Hula Pie for dessert. The restaurant offers a complimentary water taxi and buoys for its patrons on a first-come, first-served basis.

Located on the end of a pier, Chambers Landing is said to be the oldest bar on Lake Tahoe.

Navigation aide: The lights from Sunnyside Resort can be used as an aide, along with the row of four lights from the private beach at Tahoe Park north of the resort. Heading north along the West Shore, you’ll see the row lights from Tahoe Park before Sunnyside comes into view.

Leaving Sunnyside and rounding the next point, you’ll enter Hurricane Bay with a more than 1.5-mile stretch of public beach. The rocky beach is a popular spot for sunbathers, and Hurricane Bay is an ideal spot for water skiing and boasts one of the best fishing spots on the lake. This also is one of Tahoe’s few public beaches where dogs are welcome.

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With 9,214 feet of elevation, Snow Valley Peak is the East Shore’s highest mountain abo

Heading south, a small rocky outcropping hides a lagoon. The lagoon is the remnant of a failed attempt by two brothers in the 1980s to illegally build their own marina. As the story goes, their construction project landed them in the slammer.

Continuing south, you’ll come upon Kaspian Picnic Area with public restrooms, picnic tables and barbecue grills (dogs also are welcome). This end of Hurricane Bay is generally less crowded and there’s a public access pier – it’s the only one without a gate. From the pier, head left on the bike trail to the restrooms and picnic area.

If you’re willing to walk a bit, head left from the pier along the bike trail to climb Eagle Rock, a volcanic outcropping towering above Lake Tahoe. This quick hike offers a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe; it’s about .2 miles from the beach.

McKinney Bay, home to the community of Homewood, lies south of Hurricane Bay. As you enter the bay, you’ll notice the majestic stone chalets of Fleur du lac built by Henry J. Kaiser in 1939 in only 29 days. Fleur du lac is a private community featuring a rocked-in inland waterway, a red brownstone breakwater with a lighthouse, drive-in boat storage, a double swimming pool, amphibious plane landing and a water ski take off. Please respect the resident’s privacy and do not enter the marina.

Two marinas serve boaters at Homewood, with Homewood High & Dry on the north end and Obexer’s Marina to the south side. Both offer gas and pump services, along with a chandlery. If you want to stock up on supplies and grab a bite to eat, tie up at Obexer’s and visit Obexer’s Market featuring an espresso bar, deli and an upscale market.

Homewood is also home to the fabulous West Shore Cafe with its signature red umbrellas. Enjoy drinks at the outside bar or reserve a table on the pier to enjoy the sunset. A complimentary water taxi and buoys are available on a first-come, first-served basis for its guests.

As you head out of the south side of McKinney Bay, you’ll come to one of Lake Tahoe’s most popular gathering spots – Chambers Landing. Located on the end of a pier, Chambers Landing is said to be the oldest bar on Lake Tahoe. It is famous for its Chambers Punch and is a popular viewing area for summer sunsets.

Navigation aide: The lighthouse at Fleur du lac marks the north end of McKinney Bay, with Chambers Landing rounding out the south end. In succession from north to south at night are the lights of Fleur du lac, Homewood Marina, Obexer’s and Chambers.

I’ll cover the rest of the West Shore in a later column.