A few years ago, the only thing I knew about Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, was that it was the hometown of my favorite author, Marilynne Robinson. I couldn’t have told you what it looked like or why it would be an appealing place to visit. Idaho, for me, conjured up images of potato fields and heaps of snow.
This summer, I visited northern Idaho’s Lake District, and I couldn’t have been more wrong about what the region is actually like. Full of lush pines, big hills, and deep blue lakes, the panhandle of Idaho is marked by both rugged beauty and quiet serenity.
I landed in Spokane in the middle of July alongside my entire extended family—15 of us in total. Perhaps the first thing we loved about the northwest is its lack of humidity, which was a welcome relief from our homes in the muggy northeast of the country.
We drove an easy 45 minutes from the Spokane Airport to Coeur D’Alene (sometimes referred to as CdA by the locals). The city, located along the shores of its 30-mile wide namesake lake, is filled with walkable streets, fabulous dining, and pristine views. We had lunch at The Buoy Bar and Grill, located on the bustling waterfront. As we munched on burgers and fries overlooking the lake, we wondered aloud if we ourselves would ever return to Pennsylvania.
After lunch, we strolled down to the CdA beach, conveniently located right in town. We watched as our daughters, nephew, and niece splashed in the water, all the stress of the long flight behind them.
Our time in CdA passed too quickly. We hiked Tubbs Hill, a kid-friendly hike through the forest that offers stunning views of the lake. We swam, strolled the many shops, and ate at noteworthy restaurants like Crafted Taphouse and Kitchen and Abi’s Ice Cream. Every corner of Coeur D’Alene felt enchanted, beautifully kept, and full of wonder.
I’m not the only one who has been recently enchanted by Coeur D’Alene and the surrounding area. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Americans from all over the country have been relocating to northern Idaho’s Lake District, using their new work-from-home status as an excuse to live somewhere new.
Coeur D’Alene is one of the nation’s hottest emerging real estate markets, its luxury real estate and accessibility to nature making it an incredibly desirable place to live.
According to Fortune Magazine, the market is so competitive right now that every listing gets at least 30 offers.
From Coeur D’Alene, we traveled further into northern Idaho’s Lake District to Sandpoint. This Idaho town has something for everyone. We loved swimming at the City Beach, which backs up against a park and playing fields, then strolling into town for coffee and a ham and cheese croissant at Bluebird Bakery. The ice cream at Panhandle Cone and Coffee was worth going back twice for, but the best meal we had all week was at the Pack River Store outside of Sandpoint. There, at a picnic table along the water, we ordered the best deli sandwiches we have ever had.
The main attraction in Sandpoint is, of course, Pend Oreille Lake. With a depth of 1,158 feet, the lake is among the deepest in the nation. The south end of the lake has been used to test submarines because of its depth.
The lake draws fishermen near and far—my husband included. It isn’t uncommon to find kamloops and mackinaw that weigh more than 20 pounds in the lake. Not one for fishing personally, I enjoyed exploring the lake in the early mornings in a kayak, and then later in the day, as we lazed on the water in a pontoon boat.
Northern Idaho is full of wildlife. Among our most exciting moments of the week was a distant encounter with a moose. We took in incredible views on Schweitzer Mountain and enjoyed sunsets from our back porch looking over the lake.
Our week in northern Idaho passed too quickly, and it felt like we had only grazed the tip of the iceberg of all there is to see and do. Hikers, fishermen, and nature lovers alike will walk away from Idaho’s natural beauty wondering, as I am, how quickly they can return.