Only oceans have beaches, right? Think again. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a beach as "the shore of a body of water, especially when sandy or pebbly". With 72 miles of shoreline including plenty of sandy and pebbly spots, Lake Tahoe has its share of real beaches. Some Tahoe beaches even come complete with sunbathers, volleyball players, families, sun umbrellas and police boat patrols. Others are far from the hustle and bustle, tucked among granite boulders in miniature coves reachable only by a good, solid hike or kayak.
Here's a look at the various beaches around the South Shore. (Hint: Just as San Francisco is referred to as "The City", Lake Tahoe is admiringly called "The Lake".)
This is a long narrow strip of white-sand beach situated between the Lake and the Truckee River Marsh. To get there, drive (or bike) one mile north on Highway 89 from the "y" in South Lake Tahoe and it's on the right just south of Camp Richardson. There is a kiosk at the entrance and you will have to pay $7 to drive in. Hint: If you don't mind a quarter-mile scenic walk, you can pack it in (or bike in) for free. Huge rustic tables make for great picnicking.
Camp Richardson Resort
Just north of Pope is Camp Richardson Resort and beach. The resort was founded in 1926 and still rents some of the little cabins near the beach. There's a campground, lodge, general store, pier, boat launch, ice cream parlor and the Beacon Lakeside Restaurant which is famous for a cocktail called the Rum Runner. Most locals just call the whole place "Camp Rich" and it's a great place to "see and be seen" as well as listen to live music while relaxing in the afternoon sun. Parking costs $7 or just ride a bike-the bike trail goes right to it.
The turn-off for Kiva Beach is about a mile past Camp Rich and the parking is free. You can also park at the Forest Service Visitor Center and walk to Kiva, which is situated at the moth of Taylor Creek in a breathtaking wetlands area with the 9,735 foot Mount Tallac as a backdrop. Dogs are allowed from the western tip of the beach to the fence marking the boundary with Camp Richardson Resort.
Just north of Kiva Beach is beautiful Baldwin Beach with its course white pebbly sand and spectacular mountain scenery. Great for swimming and kids, Baldwin is the furthest north beach accessible by the forest Service Bike Path from South Lake Tahoe. There is a $7 entrance fee, flush-toilet restrooms and plenty of parking.
This popular cove on Tahoe's west shore is a half-hour drive from the "y" in South Lake Tahoe, yet driving there is half the fun. Skirting the famed Emerald Bay on one side, and Cascade Lake and Eagle Peak on the other, this drive north on Highway 89 has got to be one of the most scenic in America. Meeks Bay resort and campground on the Lake is run by the Washoe Indian Tribe, the original inhabitants of Lake Tahoe.
Timber Cove Beach
This public beach is located just behind the Best Western Timber Cove Lodge (across the street from Safeway in South Lake Tahoe). The beach is probably as close to Coney Island style as you will find in Tahoe, complete with Pier, snack bar, restaurant, boat and kayak rentals and retail. This is a great place for kids as there is plenty of sand, usually lots of other kids to play with, and the water is relatively shallow. It's also one of the few places in Tahoe with a Pier restaurant where the grown-ups can sip drinks and watch the sunset.
El Dorado Beach
This is a beach in the heart of South lake Tahoe where Highway 50 goes along the shoreline just across the street from Campground By The Lake. Needless to say, there's always lots of activity here. A neatly-groomed grass covered bluff overlooking the Lake serves as an ideal picnic and sightseeing spot. During high water years, the sand beach below can be limited. There is also a boat ramp (closed in low water years), summertime snack cart and history-telling tile mural.
This city-managed beach is tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood just down Lakeside Avenue from El Dorado Beach. Regan is not a true beach seeing that there is no sand or pebbles., but it's nonetheless inviting - lots of green grass right along the water's edge complete with volleyball court, restrooms, playground, swings and even a snack shack. Free parking.
This is a wide beach that rarely seems too crowded due to the mammoth expanse of sun-drenched sandy real estate. Located in Nevada, drive 2 miles north from the South Shore Casinos and turn left on Elks Point Road. A short hike will save you a $8 parking fee. Campground too!
Round Hill Pines Beach
You could spend your whole vacation here and never run out of things to do, from lounging on the half-mile of sandy beach to swimming in the heated pool. There's a deli snack bar and drinks bar right on the lakefront. You can rent a paddle boat or Sea Doo personal watercraft or kayak. You can experience the heart-racing thrill of para-sailing. Did we mention the tennis courts? To get there, take Highway 50 past Round Hill Square Mall in Nevada and watch for the Pines entrance on your left on top of a small hill. You'll be just two miles from the stateline casinos and a world away from stress. $8 automobile entry fee required.
This scenic Nevada-side beach located four miles north of the stateline casinos has it all - campground, restaurant, marina, pier, beach-side bar, boat rentals, volleyball courts, para-sailing and even horseback riding. It's also home of the famous M.S.Dixie II paddle wheeler and sleek Woodwind II sailboat. South of the pier - with the Sunset Beach Bar and volleyball courts - is THE place to show off that perfect tan, while the endless expanse of beach north of the pier is just right for beach goers in search of solitude. Parking $8.