All aboard: 5 ways to get on Lake Tahoe in winter

Kayla Anderson
Special to the Tribune
MS Dixie II runs tours to Emerald Bay.
Photo courtesy Aramark


Lake Tahoe is known for its abundance of summertime water activities, but what is one supposed to do when December comes around, the temperatures drop, and the snow starts flying and you don’t ski or snowboard?

MS Dixie II in Zephyr Cove runs year-around.
Photo courtesy Aramark

Fortunately, even when all the jet skis, parasails, and Cobalts are put away for the season, there are still some ways to enjoy Big Blue without fully immersing yourself in its chilly waters (Fun fact: Since Lake Tahoe is so deep it never freezes). Here are a few memorable Lake Tahoe-based outdoor experiences that visitors and locals can take advantage of at any time of the year:

Tahoe Bleu Wave offers tours throughout the year.
Photo by Kayla Anderson

Climb Aboard the MS Dixie II in Zephyr Cove

Based out of Zephyr Cove on the southeastern side of Lake Tahoe, a 500-passenger paddle wheeler called the M.S. Dixie II shuttles visitors a few days a week to Emerald Bay and back all winter long. On a sightseeing or dinner cruise, gently glide through the beautiful blue waters on the 2.5-hour long adventure while learning about the history and formation of one of America’s most famous lakes. The M.S. Dixie II was built to be reminiscent of an original Mississippi steamboat, and watching it plow through crystal clear waters is an adventure. The M.S. Dixie II offers lunch and bar service at an additional cost; rates are $68 for adults, $39 for kids ages 3-11, and children three years old or younger are free.


Watch Out for Eagles While Aboard the Tahoe Bleu Wave

Floating in the Tahoe Keys Marina in South Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Bleu Wave is a yacht that comfortably holds up to 47 people. The Tahoe Bleu Wave generally travels over to through Rubicon and over to Emerald Bay as its knowledgeable captain shares information and stories about the area.

Tahoe Bleu Wave offers tours throughout the year. Photo: Kayla Anderson

Indoor seating is available (there’s even a fireplace), a bathroom, and a bar featuring Tahoe Blue vodka is available to purchase, or breathe in the cool, crisp air on the party bow of the boat while keeping an eye out for birds and local wildlife. In the winter months, bald eagles, hawks, and ospreys can be spotted as well as coyotes or bears. Emerald Bay Sightseeing, Happy Hour, and Sunset cruises are all available for only $90 per person.


Take a Scenic Cruise on the Safari Rose

Residing in the Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe, the Safari Rose claims to be the largest luxury yacht on Lake Tahoe that regularly ferries people to Emerald Bay and back. Offering scenic cruises and a private charter, the Safari Rose is 80 feet long and 20 feet wide. It was originally built by the 3M Corporation and contains six bathrooms, a dining room, three staterooms, a full bar, heated salon, upper sundeck, and other amenities. Besides the friendly staff and relaxing setting, the views of the southwest shoreline are spectacular. The cost for the 2-hour Emerald Bay Sightseeing Cruise is $90 per adult and $49 for kids under 12.


Rent a Kayak or Paddleboard at Waterman’s Landing

Directly in the middle of Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, a café/paddleboard rental shop called Waterman’s Landing is on the shores of a dog-friendly public beach in Carnelian Bay. Along with serving delicious Alpen Sierra coffee and breakfast burritos made with its signature house made bacon jam, Waterman’s leases kayaks and/or SUPs when the lake is calm, and the air temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the water is so cold (it can drop down to 42 degrees), safety is of utmost importance and people who want to rent a kayak or SUP must have experience- paddlers need to know how to swim, wear a leash, have a life jacket on them or their boat, and stick close to shore within the buoy line.

“I always tell people to paddle as far as you’re willing to swim back in case something happens,” says Waterman’s Landing Owner Anik Wild. The owners make the decision every morning whether they will allow people to go out on the lake that day and even if there’s a storm blowing through, the café will still be open 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., daily for food and drinks. Tahoe Waterman master Jay Wild also gives guided tours; call for more information and rates. Waterman’s Landing is located at 5166 North Lake Boulevard next to the Sierra Boat Company., 530-546-3590


Catch a Big Fish on Big Blue

For aspiring or experienced anglers, there are several fishing outfitters all around Lake Tahoe who are more than happy to take people out to try and catch a big Kokanee salmon or a brown/lake/rainbow trout. Fishing licenses are usually an extra fee, but many Tahoe charters sell them at their location or provide the information about how to get them.

Tahoe Sport Fishing Co. boat trips based out of Ski Run Marina in South Lake Tahoe are chartered by nine fishing experts who have cast lines all over the world, everywhere from Pyramid Lake to Mexico. Yet they’ve chosen to make Tahoe their home base for fishing. Five-hour early morning fishing trips are $150 per person, 4-hour afternoon fishing trips cost $140 per person, and private charters are available where you can book out the entire boat for your group.

Over in the Tahoe Keys on the southwestern side of the lake, Mile High Fishing takes people out on half-day and full day fishing trips as well as accommodates private charters. Mile High captains are licensed in both Nevada and California, bringing 25 years of angling experience to the water. Along with trout and kokanee salmon, Mile High guests have also caught bass, bluegill, and whitefish. Up to six people can go out on a regular fishing boat trip; all ages and abilities are welcome.

A few fishing charters are also available on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, like Reel-Lentless Fishing Charters ( and Hooked Up Sport Fishing ( Based out of the Sierra Boat Company in Carnelian Bay, Mickey’s Big Mack Charters takes people out on a spacious 43 feet. sport fisher boat with all the equipment you need to catch the big one; in the past 40 years anglers have caught 30 pound mackinaws and 11 pound trout off the Big Mack II.

Kayla Anderson is a contributor to Tahoe Magazine, a sister publication of the Tribune. Read more Tahoe-Truckee area stories at

Whatever Lake Tahoe experience you plan on participating in, be sure to dress warmly and in layers, watch the weather, be flexible, and call ahead or visit the business’s website to double check that your reservation is still on. When everything aligns, you’ll have an incredible time being on the lake around snow-capped mountains in fresh air.


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