The Skinny on Sandpoint, Idaho

Services for Real Estate Pros

First, Lake Pend Oreille is the second largest freshwater lake and the deepest in the West with 111 miles of shoreline. Watersports, sailing, and racing are common and several boat cruises are offered. Next is Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, a top winter destination rated in the Top 25 in Skiing Magazine and Top 10 in Sunset Magazine, with the finest skiing and snowboarding with unbelievable panoramic views overlooking Lake Pend Oreille. With over 2,900 acres, 2,400 feet of vertical, 67 named runs and seven chairlifts, Schweitzer Mountain is a dream for downhill enthusiasts. There's also 32k of cross country trails, beautiful snowshoe trails, and a brand-new tubing center plus shopping galore. Winter Sports feature snowmobiling and ice skating, and during the summer we host the NORBA Nationals and biking of every sort. We are home to

Coldwater Creek with their HQ and biggest store. There are three golf courses, among them award-winning Hidden Lakes, now the Jack Nicklaus Idaho Club. Just a few miles away is Silverwood Theme Park, the Northwest's largest theme park.

Sandpoint is a great, historic railroading town, with fantastic scenery on short or long trips within the Pacific Northwest. The Burlington Northern, Montana Rail Link, and Spokane International rail systems all converge to create "The Funnel," an amazingly active rail crossroads with more than 40 trains a day traveling through. Rail buffs come from around the world to see the many trains traveling through. We are home to the award-winning Pend d'Oreille Winery, and North Idaho and Eastern Washington have many wineries, and Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint have no fewer than twelve wine bars. The area is filled with world-famous artists, galleries, antique stores, and shopping. We have great restaurants, including Sushi, Tapas, and eclectic as well as traditional fare that satisfies every taste.  As the saying goes, "Where do you find the best restaurants in Spokane? Sandpoint!" There are several wildlife refuges, national parks, nature preserves, and state parks within short driving distance. We also have some of the finest hunting and fishing in the nation. There are dams, horseback riding, sleigh rides, camping and hiking. We have the International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile driving loop through two countries (U.S. and Canada) and two states (Idaho and Washington) considered to be one of the best drives in the country. Finally there are so many events that they are too many to mention. The historic Panida Theater has many of them, but others are city or county-wide such as our Madcap Mardi Gras during our Winter Carnival celebration and two Oktoberfests. To see a full Calendar of Events, click the link on the left. In short, North Idaho is a jewel, with Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene sparkling bright. Come visit us and see why so many that do never leave.

Here is a little more about what the Sandpoint Area Offers

One of America's truly unique places,  sheltered by the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains, the climate is further tempered by prodigious Lake Pend Oreille, offering amenities normally found only in much larger and so-called more sophisticated towns.

The sheltering didn't end there. First the artists and hippies came, such as Ed Kienholz, and the few knew the beauty and outstanding lifestyle, they kept the secret close to the vest. However, Sandpoint's charms have recently been discovered by the outside world. Outside Magazine recently named Sandpoint one of America's Top Dream Towns, calling us  "The cool northwest's hot property", while Sunset Magazine calls it "The Best Small Town in the West". Read on and learn grasshoppers. Oh, did I mention we have awful big grasshoppers?

Skiing and Winter Sports

While many resort towns have great summers, or fantastic ski seasons, we have a true four-season climate, and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is minutes from downtown. So it is small wonder Sandpoint is a fantastic place for the winter sports enthusiast. But the spring and fall brings mountain biking, hiking, hunting, and festivals. The summer has boaters, fishing, sailing, waterskiing, jet boating, etc., etc., etc.

Food and Drink

Where can you find a town of this size with two wine bars, two Starbucks, and a Sushi Restaurant? We have several health food stores and cafes, and many, many good restaurants. In fact, according to the article in Outside Magazine, a standing joke in Spokane - a city of almost 200,000 about 75 miles to the southwest - goes something like this: "Where's the best place to eat in Spokane? In Sandpoint". While this might have started as a marketing ad we put out some twenty years ago, it may well be true. As the host of the radio show - Gourmet to Go, and a former local restaurant owner, I have a little insight on the subject. I worked with Emeril Legasse at Commander's Palace in New Orleans for three years, and I guarantee that we have some good fixin's here.

The Festival at Sandpoint

Harking back to a more relaxed era, the Festival at Sandpoint has been providing an unequaled out door concert experience since 1983. The individual acts are quite varied, so there's something for any taste, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Seating is "on-the-grass" and concert goers are welcome to bring their own picnic baskets, blankets, and chairs. For out-of-town visitors for whom preparing a gourmet picnic might be difficult, local restaurants provide a fantastic array of food, beer, and wine.

The Arts

This is one area where we truly excel. We now have almost five hundred artists in our midst. Over the years, the Sandpoint area's tranquil beauty has attracted these hundreds of artists. Beginning with the now-iconic regional photographer Ross Hall in the 1930's, the tradition continues with the Pend Oreille Arts Council and the Artist's Studio Tours, as well as a healthy number of Art Galleries.


The Sandpoint area has no fewer than six golf courses. The Elks Club Golf Course is right on the outskirts of town, while the famous Hidden Lakes course, which was one of the best courses in the Pacific Northwest, is just a few scenic miles to the east. It has now been bought by Jack Nicklaus and renamed The Idaho Club, and while their company has dozens of courses, Jack himself has designed only a handful. This is one of 'em. Of course, rumors continue that the Ruen property will be bought by Arnold Palmer, but don't hold your breath. The new Stoneridge Golf Course is in nearby Spirit Lake, and Settlement Golf Community is being developed overlooking the Pend Oreille River twenty minutes from Sandpoint in Priest River. Still, golfin' is good in the neighborhood.

Fishing & Hunting

While most of the country and much of Idaho call our region "the Panhandle," we typically think of ourselves as simply North Idaho. As you can tell from our Lakes Guide and Rivers Guide, we have almost 140 lakes, plus over 2,000 miles of rivers and streams. The largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille, has 111 miles of coastline and over 86,000 acres, and many other lakes - Hayden, Coeur d'Alene, Twin Lakes, Priest Lake, and Lake Cocolalla - are very large. We also have dozens of much smaller lakes - 1-2 acres  -  and everything in between. Many people associate Minnesota as the land of lakes for the U. S., but our Idaho Panhandle has the greatest concentration of lakes in all the western states, giving us the water sports and fishing haven we all enjoy.

Lake Pend Oreille is the nation's fifth deepest lake (1,158 feet at its deepest), and boasts over 100 miles of scenic shoreline. Its also a world class fishery, with the world record for a rainbow trout, a 37 pound giant caught by Wes Hamlet in 1947. For a real treat, try a fishing charter on the lake where 25# rainbow trout are a regular occurrence. Of course, on a lake this fantastic, there has to be more than one good charter service!

While the state of Idaho has more wilderness acreage than any other state, the Idaho Panhandle has more game, and better hunting than any other region of Idaho. With so many acres in the wild, no other state in the lower 48 has as much big game hunting variety and quality as Idaho. Idaho is sparsely populated with huge areas of forests, canyons, and mountain wildernesses. Idaho seasons generally run from 20-65 days. Hunter congestion remains rare. An amazing amount of land remains in the hands of the federal and state governments: 21,621,000 acres of the state's total acreage remains forested. The Federal Government holds 65.2% of all land, with estimates of 78 percent of all of Idaho belonging either to state or federal forests, etc. Hunting is perhaps the best in the lower 48.

The Literary Scene

Sandpoint has been the home of a diverse collection of writers over the years - ranging from Marilynne Robinson, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Gilead, and Sandy Compton, who writes local color stories, to Peter Fenton, who writes about subjects such as Tibetan Medicine. A recent addition to the scene is the "Open Mic" at one of Sandpoint's newer restaurants, The Downtown Crossing. If literature is your thing, you'll definitely be interested in this article from Sandpoint Magazine.

Click here to learn more about the Skinny on Sandpoint

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at any time.

Gary Lirette
Realtor, Tomlinson Sandpoint Sotheby's International Realty
Host of North Idaho Business & North Idaho Arts & Adventure on KSPT and KBFI

To learn more about North Idaho, Sandpoint, and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, visit the community websites:


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