Looking for a wonderful lakeside getaway nestled in the mountains without the crowds?
Spend time in north Idaho in a string of gorgeous little towns from the Coeur d’Alene area all the way north to Bonner's Ferry just 12 miles from the Canadian border. You can stay in charming renovated schoolhouses, a guest ranch, a turn-of-the-century Victorian hotel, a contemporary home overlooking the Spokane River and more.
Closest to the Canadian border, downtown Bonner's Ferry is a short walk from Northside School Bed & Breakfast, which has a heated pool. Six miles east of town is the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to bears, moose, elk, bald eagles and more. You can do a 4.5-mile scenic drive through it or hop out of the car and use your feet to explore its four hiking trails. Back in town, stop in the Kootenai River Brewing Co. located right on the the Kootenay River for lunch and dinner served in a family-style atmosphere. There are 11 beers on tap.
South of Bonner's Ferry, you'll discover Lake Pend Oreille, the state's largest lake that's an astonishing 43 miles long. Sitting on its shores is the charming town of Sandpoint where you can hike, paddle, bike and walk along its shores. City Beach is a great place to kick back and relax. You can stroll to Trinity at City Beach for waterfront dining that offers lunch and dinner menus.
"Sandpoint is just fantastic," says Gina Hurley, owner of Huckleberry Hill Bed and Breakfast. "Living in a place like this you feel like you're on vacation, but you are still working."
Forty-One South also offers waterfront dining with views that face west for guests to see the sunset. It has an extensive wine list and award-winning meals. For dessert, Panhandle Cone & Coffee is the place in town for ice cream made with locally sourced ingredients.
Stay at Huckleberry Hill Bed and Breakfast, which sits on the edge of Sandpoint and at the foot of Schweitzer Mountain. You’ll experience amazing scratch-made, locally sourced, breakfasts with wild huckleberries. Or opt for a ranch experience at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch where you’ll go on daily horse rides and enjoy three gourmet meals.
At the south end of the lake in Athol, Idaho, is Cedar Mountain Farm Bed and Breakfast where you can choose from a number of cabins set on a 440-acre tree farm with farm animals. Also in Athol is Log Spirit Bed & Breakfast where you can gather in the evenings or mornings at the oversized stone fireplace in the great room.
After fueling up on breakfast for the day, head to Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail just north of Sandpoint City Beach to hike on a flat lakeside path that's three miles out and back. Or do a more strenuous 5.6-mile out-and-back on the popular Gold Hill Trail.
Drive farther south, and you'll discover the Coeur d'Alene area, which also offers a variety of bed and breakfast options. With Lake Coeur d’Alene as the center of a ton of activities, you’ll discover gorgeous trails, small towns and sandy beaches that are all easily accessible.
“You get the big town perks with a small-town feel,” says Tina Hough, co-owner of The Roosevelt Inn. “There’s no traffic. You don’t have lines. It’s just a relaxed small-town atmosphere.”
During the day, get outside. Relax at one of the sandy beaches along Lake Coeur d’Alene, a natural lake with 135 mile of shoreline wrapped around it. Or explore the lake by renting a stand-up paddleboard or boarding a two-deck scenic cruise boat where you take in the scenery from a climate-controlled setting.
Getting out on two wheels is another great way to see the area. Hit area biking trails like the mostly paved North Idaho Centennial Trail that meanders for 24 miles from the Idaho/Washington state line along the Spokane River to Higgins Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The legendary Route of the Hiawatha Rails to Trails bike route offers 10 tunnels and 7 high trestles along the 16-mile-long Old Milwaukee Rail grade.
In the evening return to lodging where you’ll be treated like a valued guest. Fall asleep to the sounds of the Spokane River at the River Cove B&B in Coeur d'Alene. At The Roosevelt Inn, stay in a 14-bedroom converted school where co-owner John Hough attended elementary school.
At the historic McFarland Inn, you can stroll to downtown Coeur d’Alene.
Or base out of Wallace, Idaho, just east of Coeur d'Alene. It's a perfect place to stretch your legs and stay the night at the historic, boutique Ryan Hotel built in 1903.
“All of us have really deep roots here,” Tina Hough says. “We are all on-site owners. We’re dedicated to our businesses and have strong community ties.”
Don’t miss the food and art scene when you’re out and about. The microbrewery scene has exploded, too, with 10 microbreweries in the Coeur d’Alene area. There's also the Coeur d’Alene Symphony and historic Lake City Playhouse, not to mention a slew of family fun parks, including Silverwood Theme Park & Boulder Beach Water Park.
For more information:
North Idaho Bed and Breakfast Association