Nothing beats a day at the beach. Of course, the nearest ocean is roughly 230 miles west of us in Reno, making a day trip rather more of an epic journey. But don’t despair beach buns; Northern Nevada offers many beach day-aways, starting with the world-renown Lake Tahoe. Here is a break down list of things to do in Lake Tahoe from an insider’s perspective.
Please select an area of Lake Tahoe:
Things to do in Lake Tahoe: North Shore
So you’re hanging on the North Shore
Tahoe’s North Shore offers some incredible beaches when it comes to things to do in Lake Tahoe. In Incline Village, there is Ski Beach, which features large grass areas, a playground, a boating ramp, and volleyball. Farther west is Incline Beach, and right before you enter Incline Village is Burnt Cedar Beach, which offers the most as far as family-friendly fun. The only problem is that the beaches are for residents of "Incline" and their guests, so make sure to get in with the locals before you plan your next beach outing.
Crystal Bay/Kings Beach
The large public beaches of Crystal Bay/Kings Beach are perfect a short drive from Reno (about 45 minutes) and perfect for a day at the lake. Kings Beach offers plenty of family-fun activities, water-craft rentals, BBQs, and local shopping. Each of these things to do in Lake Tahoe are open to all.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe: West Shore Hangouts
Tahoe City/Tahoe Vista
Keep driving down Hgwy 28 to reveal the beaches of Tahoe City and Tahoe Vista, including North Tahoe Beach. This stretch offers a large covered gazebo that plays host to everything from birthday parties to weddings and everything in between.
Located in Tahoe City, Commons Beach features a playground and plenty of shore access. There are also plenty of benches, BBQs for picnics, and local shopping.
Meeks is a favorite along the West Shore since it has a large shoreline, plenty of amenities, and close access to the 2.6-mile Lam Watah Trail.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe: South Shore Style
It pains this North Shore local to admit, but Emerald Bay definitely wins when it comes to pure scenic splendor of Lake Tahoe and it is a must-do when it comes to things to do in Lake Tahoe. Boasting Lake Tahoe’s only island, Fannette Island is home to the famous Tea House of Vikingsholm. While the beaches of Emerald Bay are smaller than others around Tahoe, the hiking cannot be beat and one is remiss without a visit to the grand Scandinavian castle-like home of Vikingsholm.
Zephyr Cove is one of the largest beaches on Tahoe. This huge resort offers plenty for the entire family, including water sports and crafts, picnic and dining, and plenty of local shopping in our list of things to do in Lake Tahoe. It is also the launching pad of the paddlewheel boats the M.S. Dixie II and the Tahoe Queen! Nothing like cruising the lake on these beautiful boats. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a speech by Mark Twain.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe: East Shore Serenity
One of my personal favorite public beaches of Lake Tahoe is Sand Harbor in this list of things to do in Lake Tahoe This large stretch of beach has boat access, sandy shoreline and rocky terrain for the daredevils in the family, and a certain calm that only the East Shore and its unyielding topography offers. While food is available at the beach kiosk, it may behoove you to pack a picnic as this side of the lake has no easily-accessible stores and restaurants. Finally, every summer, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival talks place at dusk at Sand Harbor.
Beach like a local on the Eastern Shore….
There are a lot of large and beautiful public beaches around Lake Tahoe, but they suffer from the same affliction most public beaches in the summer do…crowds. If you are interested in a true Tahoe experience, among things to do in Lake Tahoe, that doesn’t involve paying to park, we have some great suggestions you may not find in your guide book. Be forewarned, these secluded stretches of sand come at a cost of a 10-20 minute hike down to the water. There are no large parking lots either, so drivers should be ready to park along the side of the road and hike down.
Not sure where a particular beach is? Don’t fret; the lakeside route is guaranteed to be littered with paths that will take you towards the waters edge.
In order of beaches driving east on Hwy 50 outside of Incline Village towards the South Shore, these beaches are:
Immediately outside of Incline Village. This gem is a beautiful stretch of private sand that is also one of the few beaches that is dog friendly. Feel free to float a kayak or paddleboard off its inviting shores.
Immediately before you reach Sand Harbor. The name says it all. This beach is really a lot of picturesque water-worn rocks strewn along the shoreline. While they may seem inviting to jump and dive off of, please do not attempt. There are many hidden rocks beneath the water that can cause serious injury.
Chimney Beach and Whale Beach
Past Sand Harbor on the about 5 minute from the intersection of Hwy 28 and Hwy 50. About a 15 minute hike from the top of the road to the water, Chimney Beach and Whale Beach are another secluded area with plenty of rock formations and a small sandy stretch.
Things to do in Lake Tahoe:
And here’s your randomism for the day:
You want some fun facts about Lake Tahoe?
- Lake Tahoe contains an average of 37 trillion gallons of water with an estimated depth of 1,645 feet. It’s hard to imagine, but that is enough water to cover a flat surface, the size of California with 14 inches of of sweet alpine H2O. If you did ever manage to drain Tahoe, it would take around 700 years to fill back up again. Learn more.
- Also, “Tahoe” is a mispronunciation of the Washo Indian word dá’aw for lake, so Lake Tahoe is technically Lake Lake. Talk about originality.
So you want some more information?
Sometimes an article just can’t give you all the detailed information you need to make a day of it. If you’re hungry for more, check out these great links we found with detailed information on some of the beaches mentioned above