Nestled in the mountainous Idaho Panhandle, 45 miles North of Coeur d’Alene, lies the small resort town of Sandpoint. Located next to the largest lake in Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille and close to Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, Sandpoint thrives on tourism and recreational activities. For residents of North Idaho and Eastern Washington, Sandpoint is a fun day excursion, particularly when the weather is warm enough for outdoor activities. Here is how to spend a summer day in Sandpoint.
What do to in Summer in Sandpoint, Idaho
A summer day in Sandpoint should start with a delicious breakfast and freshly brewed coffee.
Sandpoint is famous for its beach. But before you head to the sandy shore, stop at
Sandpoint City Beach
After lunch, walk down to City Beach and relax on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. With two designated swimming areas as well as horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, and tennis courts at City Beach Park, you won’t run out of things to do. If you’re feeling adventurous, book a kayak tour through Full Spectrum Tours, which offers guided half-day, full-day and multiple-day kayak tours of the lake.
If you’d prefer something larger than a kayak, Lake Pend Oreille Cruises offer a daily 90 minute, nine-mile afternoon cruise. Learn about the history of the area while enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery.
Lunch in Sandpoint
The Hound Downtown is a great option for lunch. This small, unpretentious building with groceries for boaters serves some of the greatest food in the area. Don’t let the casual atmosphere fool you- this is not fast food and worth the wait. The Hound Downtown serves a variety of pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and hot dogs- including a vegetarian “hippie dog.” They offer five homemade soups every day with at least one vegetarian option as well as the cheapest beer in town.
Summer in Sandpoint Idaho should include ice cream! Delicious treats from Panhandle Cone & Coffee are the perfect way to end a visit to Sandpoint in summer. They have a variety of flavors including fun choices like Elvis (banana & peanut butter), Butter Pecan, Chocolate Malt, and Rum Raisin.
Take an afternoon boat cruise on Idaho’s largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille. Summer cruises depart from the Sandpoint City Beach on Bridge Street. The daily “Lake History” afternoon cruise is a 10-mile loop trip near the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. You’ll learn about the history & geology of the lake, early Indian history and the awesome beauty of the lake and mountains.
Shopping & Art Galleries
Residents and tourists alike enjoy the unique treasures that can only be found at Foster’s Crossing. Located at 5th and Cedar, this mini-mall has antiques, vintage jewelry, crafts, collectibles as well as new and used books. There’s even an entire room full of custom clocks. There’s also an adjacent café serving espresso and light snacks.
Walk down the street from Foster’s Crossing and you’ll find the Pend d’Oreille Winery (located at 220 Cedar St). This shop has locally produced, award-winning wines as well as gifts for wine lovers. In addition to good wines, the Pend d’Oreille Winery has live music on the weekends and daily free wine tasting and tours. If you enjoy wine or know someone who does, you won’t want to pass up a visit.
Kellogg Crystal Gold Mine Day Trip from Sandpoint
Surrounded by the scenic Coeur d’Alene National Forest and Bitterroot Mountains in Idaho’s Panhandle, is a tiny town with a sign that reads: “This is the town founded by a jackass and inhabited by his descendants.” Strangely enough, the humorous advertisement for Kellogg, Idaho (population 2,400) pretty accurately describes the town’s founding.
Kellogg is just 1 hour and 20 minutes from Sandpoint and a fun day trip excursion.
Back in 1885, while a prospector was out looking for his lost burro, he spotted a large outcropping of galena (lead ore) shining in the sunlight. The prospector’s name was Noah Kellogg and it was his discovery that eventually led to the creation of the great Bunker Hill and Sullivan mines, which made the town flourish.
For over 100 years, the Bunker Hill mine and smelter were known worldwide as a leader in lead-zinc-silver mining. In fact, Kellogg is part of Idaho’s Silver Valley, named for the area’s rich silver deposits first found in the early 1880s. Bunker Hill ceased operations about 20 years ago, but visitors can still learn about the Silver Valley’s mining history at the Staff House Museum on McKinley Avenue. Mining equipment of all shapes and sizes is on display, as well as extensive metallurgical and mineral exhibits.
A definite highlight of Kellogg is actually found in low light conditions-at the authentic Crystal Gold Mine. Dress warmly, don a bright yellow hard hat, grab a flashlight, and follow your tour guide into the underground world of gold mining.
For over 100 years, no one knew this mine existed. The original prospector simply disappeared, leaving his mine car, track, tools, and high-grade gold ore behind-sure signs he intended to come back, but strangely never did. During the years that the mine was lost and undisturbed, beautiful turquoise-colored blue smithsonite crystals formed on the walls.
You’ll also see gold and wire silver, too. After the tour, pan for gold outdoors under the tutelage of your mine guide. Even if there’s no flash in your pan, you might find a star garnet-Idaho’s state stone. These garnets naturally occur in only two places on earth-India and Idaho.
After being underground, you just might want to head in the opposite direction and get a bird’s eye view of the area via the world’s longest single-stage people carrier-what a huge claim to fame for small-town Kellogg! The gondola at Silver Mountain Resort travels about three miles in 20 minutes to the top of Silver Mountain. If you visit during the winter, you definitely won’t be disappointed by the skiing and other snow sports offered at the resort.
Although you might not find the silver, gold, zinc, and galena that first attracted prospectors and miners to the area, it’s fun to turn back the clock to the early days of Idaho’s mining heritage by exploring Kellogg and other nearby towns. Some of the small rural communities have lapsed into ghost towns, but many offer modern-day amenities and activities for travelers as well as plenty of outdoor recreation such as camping, fishing, cycling, and hiking. Don’t forget your camera-the scenery throughout the region is a real treasure!
Getting to the Gold Mine: Take Idaho Exit 54 on Interstate 90 to the Miner’s Memorial (located on the North side of the freeway). Turn left (west) on Silver Valley Road, and go two miles.
More Day Trips from Sandpoint
- Silverwood Theme Park: The Northwest’s Largest Theme and Water Park is located just north of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. With over 70 rides, slides and attractions.
- Coeur d’Alene: A city on Lake Coeur d’Alene with a quaint downtown district. There are waterfront attractions like Tubbs Hill and Coeur D’Alene City Park. Recreational activities surrounding the lake include hiking trails, camping, fishing, and boating. A favorite spot for cycling and hiking, the 23-mile North Idaho Centennial Trail passes by the Lake Coeur d’Alene shoreline and through McEuen Park.
- Schweitzer Mountain: A ski resort just 11 miles northwest of Sandpoint.
Best Time of Year to Visit Sandpoint
Summer in Sandpoint Idaho is gorgeous. July is one of the best months as the weather is warm enough to enjoy the lake and everything is fresh and green. The days are long in summer and twilight is magical. August is great for outdoor activities, especially water sports, but if you visit during a heatwave, you can see temperatures around 100.
Fall is a beautiful time to visit as well. Come in the last couple of weeks of September into the first couple of weeks of October to see the leaves change. The nights will be cool, so you’ll want a warm sweater or jacket.
Winters in Sandpoint are cold and snowy! The annual snowfall of Sandpoint averages 61 inches of snow per year and the back-country outside of the town can see as much as 300 inches. If you love to ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, and snowmobile this is a perfect time to visit.
Where to Stay in Sandpoint: Find the Best Hotel for Your Budget
Sandpoint is a small town in the beautiful Idaho panhandle. Options are fairly limited as it is a small town. Below are a few options from budget to luxury and our favorite pick for a family-friendly hotel option.
Check Trip Advisor reviews: | |
Fun Facts About Sandpoint, Idaho
- Sandpoint was founded in 1898.
- Indian tribes from Montana and Washington used to come to Sandpoint by the thousands to pick Huckleberries.
- Sandpoint lies on the shores of Idaho’s largest lake, 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille.
Recommended Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads.
- Transport: AirfareWatchDog and Skyscanner (Best Sites to Research Flight Prices)
- Accommodation: Hotels.com and Orbitz
- Top Sandpoint Hotel Reviews: TripAdvisor
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6 Indispensable Items to Pack for a Sandpoint, Idaho Summer Vacation
- Get the Moon Idaho Travel Guide.
- Bring a good quality mirrorless camera for getting those beautiful Sandpoint beach landscape shots. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
- Summers are hot in Sandpoint, so make sure to bring Neutrogena Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 45
- A great cross body travel bag. Cross body bags prevent theft and are much easier to access.
- Don’t forget sunglasses for the beautiful sunny days in Sandpoint. A.J. Morgan Unisex Sunglasses are a great choice and very affordable!
- Water shoes are a great item to pack for any beach vacation. They take up little room when packing and great if you end up at beach or kayaking.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Thinking about visiting Sandpoint? Ask your questions in the comments below!
Jessica Lee is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Central Washington. She lives in North Idaho and travels whenever possible.