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A Cottage by the Lake

We are by no means discounting those ambitious holiday plans that involve passports, airport security and complicated itineraries. But there is something to be said for packing a small bag, slipping on a pair of flip-flops and making a short drive to one of the most beautiful spots on Earth—where, by the way, you will be required to do absolutely nothing once you arrive. Although if sitting in the sand with a good book gets too slow after a day or two, you can sail a boat, go fishing, ride a horse, do some yoga, catch a little Shakespeare, even play a slot. And did we mention watch an amazing sunset, eat farm-fresh food and sip a local wine or craft beer? All in a private cottage or cabin or villa—right on the beach.

By Matthew Bieker, Katrina Paz, Thea Marie Rood, Whip Villarreal and Kathleen Vivaldi

Cedar Crest Cottages
(featured image – Photo by Vance Fox)

These are the cottages one thinks of when imagining the quintessential mountain getaway. Established in 1933 as a hunting lodge, the property was purchased and essentially rebuilt in 2012. The owners, a longtime Tahoe family, took great care in maintaining the original look and feel of the property, but with a distinct sense of luxury.

The patriarch of the family, Bruce Olson, is a builder in Lake Tahoe and has worked on some of the region’s most high-end homes. His experience and craftsmanship is evident in the sleek design and attention to detail here. His daughter Blyth, the onsite host, is quick to point out her love for the West Shore—quiet but still close to everything—and eagerly shares her favorite spots: D.L. Bliss State Park, Emerald Bay and Blackwood Canyon are not far and perfect for hiking, biking and exploring. A recently completed bike path stretches all the way to Tahoe City and beyond to Squaw Valley. She also directs guests to Fire Sign Café for breakfast and lunch, Obexer’s General Store for quick (and amazing) sandwiches and Café Zenon in Tahoe City for specialty cocktails and casual-elegant dinner.

Blyth’s sister and brother-in-law helped design and decorate the cottages—no two alike—and the décor is contemporary but homey. Each cottage is named after a bird, which served as the inspiration for the chicly simple style.

The nine cottages, ranging in size from one to four bedrooms, are nestled together on naturally pristine grounds with a fire pit for s’mores. The largest cottage, the Eagle, tends to be popular for families or small groups of friends. There is a large double-faced stone fireplace, spacious living areas, a kitchen and an expansive deck with lake views.

A shared beach is only a few steps away, just across West Lake Boulevard, and beach towels and chairs are available from the host. There are also lawn games, such as cornhole and lawn ladder, for lazy summer afternoons.

In addition to flat screen TVs, Bluetooth sound bars, washers and dryers, and free high-speed internet, the kitchens are fully stocked with all the utensils and cookware for preparing meals.–K.P.

4815 West Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA, 530-412-9222, cedarcrestcottages.com. Rates $229-$653.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort

The Hyatt Regency cottages in Incline, Nev. Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort

Lake Tahoe is world famous for its auspicious collection of nearby ski slopes, but the Jewel of the Sierra shimmers just as brightly in the summer. At the peak of the season, Lake Tahoe’s cool alpine waters, mountain trails and spectacular views draw crowds in the millions, so when vacationing here, it’s important to plan your access accordingly. The Hyatt Regency offers cozy cottage options with every modern luxury only a short walk from the beach.

Located in Incline Village on Lake Tahoe’s northern shore, the Hyatt Regency holds a AAA Four Diamond rating and offers guests a chance to partake in the local culture and natural appeal of the lake from a convenient location. The hotel has all the expected amenities like a heated pool and fitness center, as well as a lounge serving breakfast and evening cocktails, but certain summer-centric features make the Hyatt a draw for vacationers and adventurers alike.

The one- or two-bedroom cottages are inspired by the lake’s pioneering heritage and take a modern approach to the traditional alpine cabin in their design. Steps from their own private beach and outdoor fire pits (for nights under the stars), the cottages are also pet-friendly, so the whole family can come—literally.

Cottage Interior Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort.

Of course, coming to Lake Tahoe means your focus will more than likely be on the surroundings—not just the rooms—and adventurous guests will find access to the Flume hiking trail, water sport rentals and mountain biking. Unique to the resort, however, is the chance to book a catamaran cruise on the Sierra Cloud for an evening on the water.

At the end of the day, guests can also enjoy the relaxed, free-spirited culture of the lake at almost a dozen dining options. Local beer enthusiasts will find an inviting selection at the Western-inspired Cutthroat Saloon while couples can enjoy a sunset cocktail at Pier 111—the lake’s only floating bar. And to fully partake in the Nevada tradition, night owls will find an open door at the 24-hour Grand Lodge Casino.–M.B.

111 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, Nevada, 775-832-1234, laketahoe.regency.hyatt.com. Rates start at $648.

The West Shore villas'

The West Shore villas’ private sandy beach, Homewood, Calif. Photo courtesy of West Shore Café & Inn.

West Shore Café & Inn

If you want to wake up and wander out to a sandy beach to watch the sunrise, the villas at the West Shore Café & Inn are the place to rest your head. While the inn offers six suites and guestrooms, it’s the two private villas that epitomize the magnificence of lakefront life. The stand-alone villas open up to a private sandy beach complete with chairs and umbrellas to lounge away the warm summer days.

Each villa features a master suite (with private balcony), two guest suites and a loft that can be used as extra sleeping space or as an office area for those who come to the lake to work and be inspired. One villa’s master bath offers a soaking tub while the other has a Jacuzzi.

The great room has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the lake as well as a gas fireplace for cooler evenings. Dark wood furnishings and plush décor bring comfort to granite, marble and stone accents. Practical amenities include a washer and dryer, high-speed internet and a full kitchen with cookware. Room service from the award-winning café is available during dinner hours and an in-house sommelier can assist with wine selections.

Numerous trails are just minutes away and a paved bike path stretches to Tahoe City and Squaw Valley. The property partners with SWA Watersports for boat and jet ski rentals, as well as lessons and private charters. The innkeeper will also assist guests with kayak and paddleboard rentals. For those looking to just relax, there’s a lawn area with chairs, as well as casual seating on the café’s pier and a fire pit on the grounds.

The inn is owned by the same company that owns Homewood Mountain Resort, located right across the street. A number of arts and crafts festivals are held at the resort throughout the summer, and a Lake Tahoe Music Festival performance takes place at the café August 22.

Similar to a ski-and-stay deal, the inn offers a Buoy and Stay package for guests who would like to keep their boat nearby on the lake.–K.P.

5160 West Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA, 530-582-5200, westshorecafe.com. Rates $499 to $1,899.

Donner Lake Village

Beach views from Donner Lake Village, Truckee, Calif. Photo courtesy of Donner Lake Village.

Donner Lake Village

Donner Lake Village is nestled on the shores of beautiful Donner Lake and all its lodging sits among pine trees, sandy beaches and water.

The condominium-style hotel is conveniently located close to downtown Truckee and Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. Both areas have many summer attractions, as well as plenty of shopping and dining.

For example, guests can enjoy quick access to hiking, climbing, biking, golfing, kayaking and sightseeing. Donner Lake Village also has an on-site marina that offers fishing, water sports and swimming—all within steps of the property. Community barbecues and picnic tables are scattered throughout the property and many sit lakeside.

Donner Lake Village offers several accommodation options, all with lake views.

The one-bedroom Lake View rooms are 600–750 square feet with a private bedroom and a separate living area with a sofa bed. A full kitchen, full-size refrigerator, microwave and coffee maker are included.

For bigger groups, the Townhouse Upstairs Lake View or the Townhouse Downstairs Lake View can accommodate up to six people. Both townhouses are 1,000–1,200 square feet with two bedrooms, two baths, a living room with a fireplace, a full kitchen, dishwasher, and washer and dryer.

All lodging includes free wi-fi, satellite television, balconies or patios, sofa beds, parking and more. Ask about summer packages and specials when making a reservation.–K.V.

15695 Donner Pass Road, Truckee. 855-979-0402, donnerlakevillage.com. Rates start at $182.

The Cabins at Zephyr Cove

The Zephyr Cove Marina, Zephyr Cove, Nev. Photo courtesy of The Cabins at Zephyr Cove.

The Cabins at Zephyr Cove

The scenic beauty of Lake Tahoe has been the subject of artistic expression since long before it was discovered by settlers in the 1800s. In the summer, its still waters serve as a perfect mirror for the cloudless blue sky—framed by the snowy peaks of the Sierra. Perhaps this is why it’s known in the native tradition as “The Lake of the Sky.”

While not quite as utilitarian as the cabins the first settlers might have gazed out of, the Cabins at Zephyr Cove offer the same rustic setting, albeit with modern conveniences, for an unspoiled Lake Tahoe experience. With 28 cabins ranging from studios to two-story chalets, there are options available for solo adventurers, couples’ getaways, and 10-person expeditions.

Located in South Lake Tahoe only a short walk from the beach, many of the cabins offer lake views with fireplaces, outdoor patios and full kitchens—and are thoughtfully spaced to allow privacy from the neighbors. They are pet-friendly, so guests can save themselves the stress of arranging for a dog-sitter; plus parents of human and fur-children alike will appreciate the lack of nearby traffic, which can be notoriously aggressive in the summer.

With unencumbered access to the lake, guests can take advantage of iconic Lake Tahoe activities. No trip would be complete without a day at the sandy beaches of South Lake, where volleyball nets and chair and umbrella rentals (with complimentary set up) are available. Anglers can book half- or full-day fishing trips for singles or large groups, and horse-lovers can spend the day on the trails on guided horseback rides. Thrill-seekers can also book a parasailing adventure, soaring 1,000 feet above the glassy water for a once-in-a-lifetime view.

The Cabins at Zephyr Cove are also a short walk from South Lake’s bustling casino and bar scene for entertainment and dining options. Watch for summer specials (such as booking two nights and receiving a third night free) and Advanced Purchase Rates can help save 15 percent on rooms.–M.B.

760 U.S. Hwy 50, Zephyr Cove, NV, 775-589-4906, zephyrcove.com. Rates start at $194.

The historic Rustic Cottages

The updated but historic Rustic Cottages, Tahoe Vista, Calif. Photo courtesy of Rustic Cottages.

Rustic Cottages

Originally, the Rustic Cottages property was a sawmill and labor camp that was converted into a vacation destination in 1925 in what is now Tahoe Vista.

The quaint and historical resort offers 19 cottages, each with a different style, and sits on 2 acres with pine trees surrounding the area. Rustic Cottages are directly across the street from panoramic views of Lake Tahoe.

The sprawling property is located in the heart of the North Shore, where there is an abundance of summer activities to choose from—guests can walk to the lake and sandy beaches, or choose golfing, boating, fishing, rafting, hiking and biking. Casinos, shopping and dining are also close by.

All cottages have been updated with private bathrooms and include a microwave, refrigerator, television, coffee maker and free wi-fi. Each cottage has a porch where guests can sit, relax and enjoy the beauty of the trees and lake. Many of the cottages have a fireplace and full kitchen and some allow pets.

A complimentary breakfast is served every day—eggs, sausage and waffles. Firewood is available, and guests are welcome to cook on the barbecue grills, as well as play croquet and use the horseshoe pit.

The small one-bedroom cottages sleep up to three and have a queen bed in a separate bedroom, a day bed in the main room, a fireplace, kitchen, bath and shower. The larger one-bedroom cottages have similar amenities and sleep up to five.

The Birdhouse is an 1800-square-foot, two-story house with three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, and sleeps up to ten. It has a deck with patio furniture and a barbecue, and a full kitchen, washer and dryer, and a Jacuzzi tub in the downstairs bathroom. Birdhouse requires a two night minimum stay.

The Meadow Vista is the largest house at Rustic Cottages, with two stories, three bedrooms and 1,950 square feet. It sleeps up to 12, can comfortably seat eight in the dining room, and has a full kitchen and washer and dryer. The deck offers relaxing outdoor living with patio furniture, a barbecue and a hot tub overlooking the meadow. Meadow Vista requires a two night minimum stay, too.

Ask about summer packages when you make a reservation.–K.V.

Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina

Camp Richardson water sports, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

7449 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe Vista. 1-888-778-7842, rusticcottages.com. Rates $124–$425.

Camp Richardson Historic Resort & Marina

Camp Richardson, settled on the sandy shores of South Lake Tahoe near the Tallac historic site, offers cozy log cabins surrounded by tall pines. The resort also has its own marina and is close to Emerald Bay, so guests can explore the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe and the natural beauty the Tahoe Basin has to offer.

The non-smoking cabins can accommodate up to eight people in styles ranging from studio size to one or two bedrooms. Each cabin has a gas fireplace, as well as a full kitchen with a microwave, coffee maker, toaster, utensils, linens and towels.

Camp Richardson’s 1920s-era summer cabins provide a taste of history and a casual, rustic lodging option for those looking to break away from the more predictable hotels and vacation rentals. And if disconnecting from the noise of social media and technology is also a goal, guests will be happy to know there are no phones or televisions, in order to accentuate the wooded setting at the historic site.

There is still an abundance of fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, however, and no need to travel for equipment rental needs. The Mountain Sports Center is on-site and provides information on recreation around the lake. It also has one of the biggest selections of bike equipment in the area for those looking to hit the trails, from full suspension mountain bikes to tandem bikes. The Camp Richardson Corral and Pack Station is adjacent to the resort and offers guided trail rides, steak dinner rides and summer hayrides.

And if you’re looking to set sail on the waters, a boat cruise leaves every day during the summer months from the Camp Richardson Marina at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to tour Emerald Bay. Upon arriving back at the beach, guests can relax and enjoy some beachside dining and spirits on the deck of the Beacon Bar and Grill, which is open throughout the year.–W.V.

1900 Jameson Beach Road, South Lake Tahoe, CA, 800-544-1801, camprichardson.com. Rates $130–$170.

Aston Lakeland Village & Mountain Resort

The swimming pools at Aston Lakeland Village, South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Photo courtesy of Aston Lakeland Village & Mountain Resort.

Aston Lakeland Village & Mountain Resort

The Aston Lakeland Village & Mountain Resort has more than 19 acres of scenic, mountainside woodlands surrounded by the slopes of the Sierra. The resort also offers concierge service, free parking, free wi-fi, a fitness center, jet spas and saunas, laundry facilities, swimming pools, outdoor barbecues pits, volleyball, tennis courts and private shuttles to casinos and the downtown area.

Accommodations range from one bedroom to five bedrooms and all come with a fully equipped kitchen, living room, a wood-burning fireplace and a private balcony.

The resort offers discounts for AAA members, seniors, military and guests who make reservations for an extended stay of a week or longer. There is also a loyalty program available where guests can sign up to become an “A-list Insider” and instantly save 10 percent on available rates.

The Aston Lakeland Village Resort places guests near all the activities that attract visitors to Lake Tahoe every year, such as bike rentals, boat and jet ski rentals, fishing, world-class golf courses, hiking, horseback riding and parasailing. And because it is located right in the middle of South Lake Tahoe, it is easy for guests who want to break away from the resort for other events or activities as well.

The resort also offers a summer children’s program that includes crafts, games, sports, beach and pool play, and field trips. The activities take place daily, June through September, and are free of charge during the daytime. For parents looking to go on a night out on the town without the kids, Aston Lakeland Village offers a weekly pizza and movie night to keep the kids entertained for only $5 per child.–W.V.

3535 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA, 530-541-7711, astonlakelandvillage.com. Rates $169–$599.

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