As the days get longer, Flathead Lake’s east shore is the place to be

Story & Photos by JUSTIN FRANZ
Warm spring days may arrive a little later in the Flathead Valley, but with each passing week, Flathead Lake’s eastern shore is bathed with just a little bit more light. It’s a small reminder that warm days on the water are not that far away, even if snow hangs in the distant mountains.

It was with thoughts of warm days on the lake ahead that I and a few of my colleagues headed south to Bigfork and the east shore for an evening of fine food, plentiful drink and good company.

While we only enjoyed dinner and drinks, there are plenty of places to discover before building up a strong appetite. There are three Montana State Parks on Flathead Lake’s eastern shore: including Finley Point just north of Polson, Wayfarers near Bigfork, and Yellow Bay partway between the two. Each park has opportunities for hiking, biking and fishing. On warmer days, bring a tent and make a weekend out of your east shore adventure. Bigfork is also home to a handful of boat touring companies, including A Able Fishing Charters and Pointer Scenic Cruises, all offering great ways to explore the lake.

About 4,200 people call the Bigfork area home and it seemed like a good number of them were at our first stop on a Wednesday evening, participating at Flathead Lake Brewing Co.’s weekly trivia night in Woods Bay. The brewery is a great place to stop in and have a pre-dinner drink and appetizer, including a plate of cheesy, meaty, spicy nachos that are second-to-none. If you’re looking for a drink with a little more kick, then the Whistling Andy micro-distillery is the way to go.

Turning to the main course, Bigfork and the surrounding communities have some great fine dining options. On this night, after squaring away our tab at the brewery, we headed up to Saketome Sushi in downtown. With the help of our waitress, we selected a satisfying lineup of rolls, including the Les Halles, which features seared foie gras, and the Trophic Cascade. It can get busy on weekends and holidays, so calling ahead is recommended. If fresh sushi isn’t to your liking, then you can’t go wrong with Moroldo’s Fine Italian Restaurant, led by head chef Fabrizio Moroldo, who was recently named one of America’s best. Another fantastic stop for dinner is ShowThyme on Electric Avenue. The menu includes fish, pasta and wild game. If you find yourself farther south, near Finley Point, and are looking for something more casual, the Finley Point Grill is sure to please. Steak, chicken, chops and seafood are the main fares here, and every helping is healthy in size.

For after-dinner drinks or some evening entertainment, there are two pubs on the east shore that are not to be missed. The Garden Bar is a local institution in downtown Bigfork and usually features music on the weekends. Just down the road, in Woods Bay, sits another legendary Flathead Lake watering hole, The Raven. This dockside spot is always a party and features a great menu as well; the fish tacos come highly recommended. During the warmer months, there’s inside and outside seating and plenty of events, including Margarita Mondays, Sunset Sundays and Full Moon Parties.

We all left with a sense that warmer days are ahead and there’s no better place to take it all in than Bigfork and the East Shore.