Town Profile: North Shore
July 1, 2022
Lake County’s known for some spectacular views, and there are few better than the one from Highway 20 between Nice and Clearlake Oaks. There, the road, etched from the mountainside, winds along the shores of Clear Lake, along the broad lake basin, and past the Narrows before heading down the Oaks arm. Mt. Konocti towers over the lake and, depending on the season and time of day, may be covered in snow or glowing deep purple with the sunset. It’s a drive meant to savor, enjoy, and remember with several photos. But enjoying the North Shore of Clear Lake is more than just a beautiful drive. You’ll pass through three towns on the way.
Your first stop is in Nice. Named after the city resting on the French Riviera, Nice began as a resort community. Today, you can enjoy the lake by spending a night at Robinson Rancheria Casino or Worldmark Clear Lake, located on the site of a 1920’s resort. While you’re in town, be sure to stop at the Lunchbox Museum, a truly eclectic collection of Americana that’s been featured on PBS, NBC, and many local news sources. Owner Deb Clarke’s always willing to chat with you about her collection of lunchboxes, Barbies, and toys, some of which date back one hundred years.
Leaving Nice, you’ll wind and twist along the shoreline as the road wraps around Bartlett Mountain, where, if you’re interested, you can head off to the Mendocino National Forest and see some of the best views of the lake on the way up. It’s a dirt road, so be prepared to get dusty.
As you continue down the lake, you’ll drive through a large vineyard that separates Nice from the town of Lucerne, which refers to itself as the Switzerland of America. Here you’ll have to take some time to stop at Lucerne Harbor Park for a picnic. Relax at one of the picnic tables with an ice cream cone from Foster Freeze, watching the pelicans cross the lake, their white wings stretched out only inches above the water. And while there, be sure to stop in for the perfectly unique gift at Lakeside Arts and Gifts, which showcases the work of nearly twenty local artists.
A few miles further down the highway, you enter the town of Clearlake Oaks, famous for its Catfish Derby, the largest west of the Mississippi. It’s also home to Marcel’s Bakery, specializing in authentic French baked goods—they follow traditional recipes and get all their flour and butter from France. While there, grab a bite to eat at Happy Garden, an American-style Chinese restaurant known for great food, large portions, and low prices. Clearlake Oaks is also home to three wineries, all located in the mountains outside of town. Stop first at Brassfield Estate Winery, located on 1,800 acres in High Valley. Be sure to set aside some time because the Mediterranean-style buildings and large picnic area demand attention. Further down the road on Highway 20, you’ll find Stonehouse Cellars, where the old hunting cabin of Country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford still stands. Just a few miles more, and you’ll run into Cache Creek Vineyards and Winery, where you can sit outside on the lawn and watch the turkeys and tule elk graze as you sip on a glass of their Chardonnay.