Sandpoint is a popular city and tourist destination in North Idaho on the shore of lake Pend Oreille (Pond-Orr-Ay) in northwestern United States. (although Idaho is generally recognized as a Mountain State, Sandpoint and other far northern Idaho cities are most often categorized as officially being part of the Pacific Northwest. At last census, the population of Sandpoint was 6,853 (est. 2006 was 8,206). The closest city of 100,000+ people is Spokane Washington (78 miles away), 500,000+ is Seattle Washington (390 mi), and 1,000,000+ is Los Angeles California (1,000 mi). The zip code is 83864, the time zone is Pacific (UTC-8), and the area code is 208. The official currency is United States Dollars, but most stores and restaurants will accept Canadian currency due to Sandpoint's proximity to the Canadian border and the large amount of Canadian tourists that visit the region.
Vistors to Sandpoint must realize that it is a region in transition. From humble timber and fishing beginnings, Sandpoint has suddenly been rocketed to among the top destinations in the West, indeed the nation. It was number one on USA Today's List of Unforgettable Summer Vacations, as well as Sunset Magazine's top small Western Town, along with numerous other distinctions. Obviously, the locals have mixed feelings about this. Along with much-needed additional revenue and diversity, tourists and new transplants bring with them additional traffic in an already choked town, pollution from all those extra cars, and a crowded downtown. The average cost of a house in Sandpoint has skyrocketed, and property taxes are through the roof.
Although most residents are at least tolerant of the added load and many are overtly friendly with tourists, any and all visitors must be prepared to read some anti-tourist bumper stickers. Few, however, will ever encounter the wrath of a truly ticked local, a force to be reckoned with indeed. To avoid this, one only needs to arm oneself with some basic knowledge of the town, as most of this stems from annoyance with perceived ignorance.
The bottom line- don't skip this beautiful resort town because of the rumors of California haters. Just read up on the town in advance, and please don't walk out in front of cars in a crosswalk under the assumption that they'll [be able to] stop!
This article could perhaps be more accurately titled East Bonner County. The region generally known as Sandpoint is actually a collection of small communities lining highways 2, 95 & 200, the largest of which being the actual Sandpoint. Excluding Sandpoint, they are the following:
- Careywood 18 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95.
- Cocallala 12 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95.
- Westmond 10 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95.
- Dufort 8 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95.
- Algoma 6 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95
- Sagle 5 miles south of Sandpoint, Hwy 95
- Ponderay 3 miles north of Sandpoint, sandwiched between Hwy 95/2 and Hwy 200.
- Kootenai 4 miles north of Sandpoint, Hwy 200.
- Sunnyside 6 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200
- Oden Bay 8 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200.
- Trestle Creek 14 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200.
- Hope 16 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200.
- East Hope 17 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200
- Beyond Hope 21 miles east of Sandpoint, Hwy 200
- Dover 3 miles west of Sandpoint, Hwy 2.
- Wrencoe 9 miles west of Sandpoint, Hwy 2
- LaClede 14 miles west of Sandpoint, Hwy 2.
Located just north of the 48th parallel, Sandpoint's climate is rather unique in the region. Although found not far from the deserts of Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho is actually on the rainy side of the next mountain chain- the Rocky Mountains. Many climate maps will show Sandpoint as an arid or semi-arid region, but this is not accurate. With long, usually quite cold winters (average temperatures are generally below freezing, and usually dip down to -20F for a week or two in February) and short, hot summers, (80-90F is the average, but be prepared for the possibility of up to 100F for short periods) Sandpoint most resembles a Hemiboreal or even Boreal climate, similar to that of the southern interior of Alaska (Fairbanks and the like, with milder winters).
Winter lasts from late November to March, whereas Summer weather doesn't really hit until July and peaks in August. Spring (April-June) and Autumn (September-early November) are generally rainy and cool.
Storms are quite common in Sandpoint- thunderstorms are the norm for hot summer afternoons and windstorms strike the most in spring.
Sandpoint does have an airport, unfortunately it is only serviced by charter planes and even then, getting in and out is complex and expensive. If you want to fly in, Spokane International Airport (GEG) is your best bet. Located about 2 hours southwest of Sandpoint, it is a hub for Horizon Air, Northwest Airlines, Frontier, and Big Sky Air, and airlines like United, Southwest, and Delta also fly there. Most flights bound for, and departing from, GEG leave from/go to Seattle/Portland, so be prepared to fly to Seattle or Portland even if you are heading east. You can get a flight directly to Minneapolis, but expect to pay more.
In Europe, it may be true that all roads lead to Rome, but in the Northwest all roads lead to Seattle. Sandpoint is no exception, as two of its three highways will eventually take you there.
- From Seattle/Portland Driving east from the west coast, you have two options. I-90 eastboand is the fastest, but it is mostly barren steppe and scrubland. In Coeur d'Alene, take Hwy 95 north to Sandpoint. The scenic alternative to I-90 is Hwy 2- which winds through northern Washington and drops you off right in Sandpoint. It is slightly longer, though.
- From Boise Instead of taking Hwy 95 northbound through the state, take I-84 out of the city and follow it north (it becomes Hwy 395 along the way), then hop on I-90 and drive east until you reach Coeur d'Alene. Although on a map 95 seems shorter, it is a winding road that has fallen into disrepair in many places with few stops along the way.
- From the East I-90 westbound is your best bet. Same drill- take 95 at Coeur d'Alene. For an alternative, Hwy 200 winds through northern Montana, passing through Kalispell/Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park
Sandpoint has a small station on the Amtrak Empire Builder Line,  which runs from Chicago to Seattle/Portland, and services most of the northern Midwest and Northwest. All Amtrak trains arrive and depart from Sandpoint at ungodly hours, but bunks and other accommodations are available.
Greyhound Bus Lines  operate a station in Coeur d'Alene, a large town south of Sandpoint. From Coeur d'Alene, you can take a N.I.C.E (The North Idaho Community Express) Bus to Sandpoint.
Although Sandpoint bills itself as a walking town, you can't really see everything without a car, or even a bike if you're athletic.
A plan for public transportation is in the works, but for now the only buses are the privately owned ones that take you up and down Schweitzer Mountain during Ski Season and the NICE Bus, which runs from Sandpoint to CDA.
- Bonner Cab Company, ☎ (208) 263-7626.
- Sandpoint Cab Company LLC, ☎ (208) 610-6212.
For car rentals from the airport, see Spokane.
- Dollar Rent-A-Car, 800 Airport Way, ☎ (208) 263-9102.
- Thrifty Car Rental, 31466 Highway 200, ☎ (208) 255-7909.
- Winter Carnival
- Lost in the 50's
- Fourth of July
- The Festival at Sandpoint
- POAC Arts and Crafts Fair
- Sandpoint Farmers Market
- Crazy Daze Street Sale
- Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort.
- Art Works Gallery, 218 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-2642, . A huge collection of fun and funky art, running the gamut from glass jewelry to handmade soap to computer generated fractals, and everything in between. A Sandpoint must-see.
- Cedar Street Bridge Public Market, First and Cedar (can't miss it), ☎ 208-263-5101, . Located on the world-famous Cedar Street Bridge, this collection of small shops has something for everyone, and an ice cream shoppe to boot.
- Hallan's Gallery, 323 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-4704, . Featuring the work of famous Sandpoint photographer, the late Russ Hall, one of the oldest stores dating back to 1906. See Sandpoint as it used to be!
- Janusz Studio by the Lake, Hope, ☎ 208-264-5153, . Beautiful lakeside studio, open for tours during the summer. Call beforehand.
- Panhandle Art Glass, 514 Pine Street, ☎ 208-263-1721. Specializing in gorgeous glass works of art, including light fixtures and sculptures.
- Wonderland Studio & Imaging, 108 McGhee Road, Ponderay, ☎ 208-263-7688. Featuring the photography of local Bob Gregson. Also does custom framing.
- Fine Art Tile, 806 Oak Street, ☎ 208-263-0826. Beautiful hand-painted tiles for use on signs, in your kitchen/bathroom, or anywhere else that needs some ceramic sprucing-up!
- Hen's Tooth Studio, 323 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-3665. Featuring the work of Sandpoint native Ward Tollbom, also offers custom framing.
- Sunshine Goldmine, 110 S 1st Ave, ☎ (208) 263-6713. Sandpoint's largest jewelry gallery, specializing in gold but offering other precious jewels and medals too.
- Bella Jezza, 324 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-1116. Fun and funky women's fashions- also sells hats, incense, and jewelry!
- Bizarre Bazaar Upscale Resale, 105 Vermeer Drive, Ponderay, ☎ 208-263-3400. Upscale fashions in a laid back, consignment style atmosphere. Proceeds benefit the Sandpoint Community Assistance League.
- Coldwater Creek, 311 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-2265, . The headquarters of a nationally acclaimed chain and catalog company, Sandpoint's Coldwater Creek features women's styles in a beautiful brick building downtown with a wine bar upstairs. This is a Sandpoint must-see, if only because CC gives back extensively to the community in the form of building us a new animal shelter, a new college campus, and more.
- Eve's Leaves, 326 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-0712, . Among Sandpoint's pricier clothing stores, but nevertheless worth a look. Chock full of beautiful dresses and casual women's wear. Check out the sale rack for some great deals!
- Outdoor Experience, 314 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-6028, . With a large stock of all sorts of outdoor necessities, from clothing to kayaks, OE is a great place for athletic tourists and locals alike.
- The Alpine Shop, 213 Church Street, Sandpoint, ☎ 208-263-5157. Specializing in skis and snowboards, come summer this diminutive shop on busy Church street transforms into a water sports paradise. Also stocks various styles of athletic apparel.
- Athletes Choice, 102 Cedar Street, ☎ 208-263-8158, . This large store stocks mostly athletic shoes, but also carries a variety of clothing and athletic equipment.
- Finan McDonald Clothing Co., 305 N. First Avenue, ☎ 208-263-3622. Athletic apparel is the order of the day here, but Finan's also stocks natural fiber clothing in men and women's styles, plus kids sizes. Check out their neat shoes, too!
- Safeway Food & Drug, 702 N. Fifth Avenue, ☎ 208-263-9638.
- Wal-Mart Supercenter, 3300 Highway 95 North, Ponderay, ☎ 208-265-8332.
- Yoke's Fresh Market, 212 Bonner Mall Way, Ponderay, ☎ 208-263-4613.
- Flying Fish Co, 620 N. Fifth Avenue (In the parking lot of Sandpoint Super Drug), ☎ 208-255-5837 ([email protected]), . Featuring a wide variety of delicious fresh fish and other seafood, Flying Fish Co may look small, but it's got big potential... to please you!
- Sandpoint Super Drug, 604 N Fifth Ave, ☎ (208) 263-1469. Sandpoint's original drug store, Super Drug has everything you never knew you needed, (and some stuff you do know you need) including a pharmacy, a large selection of boxed chocolates, and all sorts of toiletries.
- Mountain Market, 155 Village Lane, Schweitzer Village, ☎ 208-255-2557. Little general store atop Schweitzer Mountain, catering to the ski-type folk.
- Winter Ridge Natural Foods, 703 Lake St, ☎ (208) 265-8135. Specializing in natural and organic foods. Organic produce, bulk grains, natural soaps, gluten free products, a bakery, deli, and smoothie shop can all be found here.
- Truby's Health Mart, 113 W Main St, ☎ (208) 263-6513. A large selection of organic and natural foods is the specialty here, but Truby's also has a lovely café.
For a small town in a relatively remote region, Sandpoint contains an inordinate amount (last count was 60, but not all are listed here) of restaurants of all shapes and colors, likely because of its strong tourist economy and a very hungry population. In addition to the locally owned restaurants listed below, Sandpoint also plays host to several fast food chains throughout town.
Visitors with a particularly discerning palette may be pleased to learn that Sandpoint holds two major "food festivals" annually- A Taste of Sandpoint in February (part of the Winter Carnival) and the Sandpoint Summer Sampler in late June. Both feature many local restaurants serving up their most popular fare in a fun and artsy setting. Foster's Crossing Antiques also holds a fudge contest during the Winter Carnival, and for a small fee anyone can test then judge a preset amount of entries.
Every town has a specialty, and Sandpoint's is huckleberries. From huckleberry pie to huckleberry syrup to huckleberry daiquiris, you can find just about everything in huckleberry come summer. Local stores often carry some of the prepackaged stuff, like huckleberry candy bars, and restaurants usually serve some sort of huckleberry dessert. Huckleberry Ice Cream in particular seems to be the local favorite.
All of Sandpoint's restaurants are casual, that is to say none of them have dress requirements. Even the most expensive restaurants will let you in wearing ripped jeans, but you may get some looks. That being said, you will probably also see many others dressed as you are!
Price guide for an average entrée: $ = <$10, $$ = $10-20, $$$ = >$20
- Spuds Rotisserie & Grill, 102 N 1st Ave, ☎ (208) 265-4311, . Perhaps Sandpoint's most well known local restaurant, Spuds' lunch menu is chock full of freshly made sandwiches of all sorts, plus delectable rotisserie chicken and, of course, lots of potatoes. At night, they pull the curtain on their walk up counter and do table service, with steaks, rotisserie chicken, tri-tip, and all sorts of other savory meals, plus several to-die-for desserts. $$
- Cricket Original Bbq House, 212 N 4th Ave, ☎ (208) 265-9600. This cute roadside stand has an excellent location- across from Farmin park. They serve up all sorts of barbequed meats, plus wraps and sandwiches. Particularly observant visitors may notice their truck around town, which has a large menu strapped to the back. $
- The Hydra Restaurant, 115 E Lake St, ☎ (208) 263-7123, . Located in a beautiful blue house on the corner of Lake & 2nd, just far enough from the bustle of the main strip, the Hydra is well known for their buffet, but their steaks are also excellent, as well as their extensive dessert menu. $$
- Duke's Cowboy Grill, 30340 Highway 200, Ponderay, ☎ (208) 263-0600. Out in Ponderay, Duke's serves up barbequed everything, from pulled pork to chili to chicken, along with all the chips and salsa you can eat, in a very authentic Texas-style building. $$
- Eichardts Pub & Grill, 212 Cedar St, ☎ (208) 263-4005. Gourmet burgers seem to be the order of the day at Eichardts, but they also feature sandwiches, salads, and a full service bar. Sitting upstairs is recommended, especially with children. $-$$
- Sand Creek Grill, 105 S. First Avenue, ☎ 208-255-5736, . Serving up Northwest cuisine with a unique flair, this popular restaurant has it all: beautiful views, a huge garden/patio for the summer and fireplaces for the winter, and a large menu of fresh fish, steaks, chicken, and more. $$-$$$
- Slates Prime Time Grill & Sports Bar, 204 N. Triangle Drive, Ponderay, ☎ 208-263-1381, . Although slightly off the beaten path, pool fans will revel in the numerous pool tables scattered throughout the restaurant, along with typical bar food and several big screen TVs. $
- Beyond Hope Resort Restaurant, Off Highway 200, Beyond Hope, ☎ 208-264-5251. Located right on the lake with a beautiful lawn, this upscale restaurant offers all sorts of entrées, from steak and chicken to appetizers and a full service bar. $$
- Captn's Table, 16469 Garfield Bay Road, Sagle, ☎ 208-265-6351, . Located off the beaten path in Sagle, the Captn's Table is a modern take on a wild west saloon, complete with first class meals and a bar. Their specialty is their homemade cheesecake!$$
- Chimney Rock Grill, Selkirk Lodge, Schweitzer Village, ☎ 208-255-3071. Specializing in Northwest cuisine, this grill boasts incredible views of Sandpoint, along with fresh fish, steaks, and a large dessert menu. $$
- Dock of the Bay, Holiday Shores Marina, Hope, ☎ Phone: 208-264-5057. This restaurant on the water features unbelievably fresh fish and other goodies, in a gorgeous wooden Alaska-themed building with a nice patio right on the bay, this restaurant could easily be Sandpoint's best. $$$
- Sunset Saloon, 126 W. Main Street, Hope, ☎ 208-264-6004, . Located in the historic Hope Hotel, this cute little diner features an array of burgers, steaks, salads and more, with a full service bar. $
- Long Bridge Grill, Highway 95 South, Sagle, ☎ 208-265-7929. Right at the Sagle end of the Long Bridge, you will find this fun family restaurant, with steaks, seafood, and other typical steakhouse fare. $$
- The Pastime, 209 N. First Ave, ☎ 208-265-1535. Steaks are the order of the day here, but you can also find lots of other meals, including salads and fresh sandwiches. Upstairs is the Synergy Nightclub. $$
- Floating Restaurant, Highway 200, Hope, ☎ Phone: 208-264-5311. Bonner County's only restaurant not actually attached to the ground (hence the name), the Floating Restaurant serves all sorts of Northwest specialties and is a great restaurant, but beware: the restrooms are on their own separate (small) floats, and during choppy water seasickness may be induced. (!) $$
- Bamboo Chinese Restaurant, 417 Church St, ☎ (208) 263-9593. Located on busy Church street across from the Post Office, Bamboo Chinese restaurant is a great place for lunch, but parking can be an issue. $$
- Bangkok Cuisine Thai Restaurant, 202 N 2nd Ave, ☎ (208) 265-4149. A local favorite, Bangkok is a hole in the wall place that serves up all sorts of authentic Thai meals in a delightfully decorated building. $$
- Golden Dragon, 100 Tibbetts Dr, Ponderay, ☎ (208) 265-5425. With a huge menu and lots of tables, this is the best Chinese place to go when you have a crowd. It's often overlooked, and is never crowded, but the food is excellent. Just make sure you are very clear with your order, as the staff speaks very little English. $$
- Arlos Ristorante, 330 N 1st Ave, ☎ (208) 255-4186. Sandwiched between the Cedar Street Bridge and Eve's Leaves, this is perhaps the most underrated restaurant in all of Sandpoint. Their fresh homemade marinara sauce is full of ripe tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and tons of other goodies. Don't leave without having a slice of their Chocolate Mousse Pie or a Chocolate-Chip Cannoli! $$
- Ivanos Ristoranté & Café, 102 S 1st Ave Ste 101, ☎ (208) 263-0211. Formerly located in the in the house that now houses the Blue Moon Café, Ivanos serves up Italian dishes of all sorts with a lovely outdoor patio and a cute little café and bakery. $$-$$$
- Second Avenue Pizza, ☎ NN. Sandpoint's classic pizzeria, Second Avenue features pizzas piled high with toppings as well as all sorts of local beers in a cute building filled with 50's memorabilia.$-$$
- Old Ice House Pizza, 140 W. Main Street, Hope, ☎ NN. Although Hope is about a 20 minute drive from Sandpoint, it is well worth it with spectacular views of the lake and wetlands. Located on the side of a mountain overlooking the lake, Ice House Pizza serves up great pizza in a fun atmosphere, with occasional live music and a ping pong table. $-$$
- Thor's Pizza, Schweitzer Village, ☎ NN. Perched atop Schweitzer mountain among some of the best skiing the west has to offer, Thor's has been serving up excellent pizza for years. $-$$
Sandpoint has a variety of hotels, inns, vacation rentals, and B&B's. From a victorian themed room at the Coit House to a beach house on the lake to a room at the newly renovated Motel 6, Sandpoint has a place for all tastes and budgets. Note, of course, that prices given are the bare minimum- the price you get depends on a variety of factors including when you book and what sort of amenities (lake view, king bed, etc) you desire.
- America's Best Value Inn.
- K-2 Inn.
- Best Western Edgewater Resort, 56 Bridge Street, ☎ (208) 255-4947 (fax: (208) 263-3194), . checkin: 11AM; checkout: 3PM. $90+.
- La Quinta Inn.
- Motel 6.
- Quality Inn at Sandpoint.
- Super 8 Motel.
Bed & Breakfasts
After all, there's way more to the region than just Sandpoint! In fact, Sandpoint makes a great hub from which to visit smaller (or sometimes larger) communities. Here are some places to start...
Hwy 95 Northbound
- Bonners Ferry Slightly smaller than Sandpoint, Bonners Ferry is a short drive from the Canadian border. It has a cute downtown full of shops and also the Kootenai Wildlife Refuge, where you can hike numerous trails or take a driving tour.
- Porthill/Rickerts About the only thing interesting about these communities is that they lie exactly on the border and house the US/Canada customs. Unlike many more urban customs offices, waits are not usually long, but remember to bring birth certificates for all minors and identification for all adults, plus passports all around if your vacation falls in 2008 or after.
- Cranbrook, BC Cranbrook is a fun little town not far from the border, whose main attraction is Fort Steele. Fort Steele is a famous re-enactment/museum of pioneer life, complete with exhibits and tradespeople such as tin and blacksmiths, excellent views of Cranbrook, and many exhibits. A must see for all passerby.
Hwy 95 Southbound
Hwy 200 Eastbound
Hwy 2 Westbound
- Priest River/Lake Past LaClede is the small timber town of Priest River. Priest River is home to a cute downtown, Albeni Falls Dam (which supplies the region's power) and plenty of wilderness ripe for discovering. Head north from Priest River, and you will find Priest Lake, a tiny resort town in the middle of nowhere.
- Newport, WA Just over the Washington border lies Newport, also on the Pend Oreille river. Newport has lots of shops and a classically themed movie theater.
- Beyond If you stay on 2, you will eventually end up in Sedro-Woolly and Burlington at the junction of Hwy 2 and I-5. Along the way you will pass through such famous destinations as Winthrop and Republic, all within a days drive of Sandpoint... or Seattle.