Located at the junction of US-2 and US-95 at the northern end of Idaho’s largest lake, Pend Oreille, Sandpoint (pop. 8,159) is a resort community with a relaxed, welcoming feel. The highly regarded Schweitzer Mountain Resort (208/263-9555 or 877/487-4643) north of Sandpoint attracts adventurous off-piste skiers in winter and daredevil mountain bikers in summer. The mix of Rocky Mountain scenery and abundant recreation has made Sandpoint a popular place to visit and live, yet despite the dozens of real estate agents and other signs of potential despoliation, it still feels like a small town.
As you might guess from the name, Sandpoint boasts a fine, quarter-mile-long beach, City Beach, just a few blocks’ walk from downtown at the east end of Bridge Street, complete with volleyball courts and a dock where you can board tour boats to cruise the lake.
South of downtown, summer visitors in search of burgers and soft-serve cones flock to Dub’s Drive In (703 US-2, 208/263-4300). Downtown, the main business district along 1st Avenue fills a half dozen blocks around the landmark Panida Theater (300 N 1st Ave., 208/263-9191), where big names and locals still perform. You’ll find a number of good cafés here, plus Eichardt’s (212 Cedar St., 208/263-4005), a beer-drinker’s delight with great food (burgers, sandwiches, fish-and-chips). Two blocks east, the Cedar Street Bridge was rebuilt in 1983 to house a funky range of boutiques, cafés, and food stalls, inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. Besides the $150-a-night rooms at Sandpoint’s resorts, there are many more moderate motels, like the slightly faded but well-located Best Western Edgewater Resort (56 Bridge St., 208/263-3194, $89-249), right on the lakefront.