Lake cruises...an easygoing way to enjoy Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Queen sails daily from Big Bear Marina offering the lake's most complete and informative narrated tour. Join captain Chris Bellows for 90 minutes of Big Bear history, interesting facts and sightings of celebrity homes as Big Bear Queen tours the lake, bright flags flapping in the wind. Big Bear's only guaranteed 2. p.m. cruise plus Saturday sunset cruises July 4th holiday through Labor Day. 500 Paine Court, Big Bear Lake. (909) 866-3218.
Setting sail every day...guaranteed
The 2 p.m. tour is guaranteed to sail every day of the week even if there’s only one person going out on the lake—you. Otherwise the lake’s most experienced tour boat captain, Chris Bellows of Big Bear Queen, makes few guarantees.
He doesn’t, for instance, promise a spectacular sky show every time Big Bear Queen goes out for romantic sunset cruises Saturdays through Labor Day weekend. Some are out of this world, with the sky lighting up in various shades of yellow, orange and red as the sun does down. Other sunsets, like tonight’s, are tamer, limited to yellow hues that are impressive but nothing like we’ve seen on cruises in years past.
This one on a cloudless afternoon in July gets about a C+ on the sunset-meter, at best a low B. Certainly not the Technicolor explosion wife Sandy and I enjoyed a couple years ago, when the sky turned fiery orange then beet red with the lake reflecting it all in colorful collusion. Nor is there the full moon capper we caught as Big Bear Queen returned to the marina.
No matter. This evening we’ve enjoyed the lake at a time most folks are wrapping up their day of play, seen the sights and sites, even heard from Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig. If there was a little more smog or haze in the cities to the west we would have enjoyed a more dazzling sunset, but apparently Air Quality Management is doing a better job down below.
Saturday sunset cruises are a summer highlight
Saturday sunset cruises are a summer highlight, romantic in scope and a favorite with couples like us. As with all Queen tours guests are welcome to bring their own beer, wine, champagne, cocktails, or whatever else they desire to drink, while the boat provides meat, cheese, cracker and vegetable trays at the stern.
Sunset cruises feature a scaled-down version of Bellows’ daily narration so guests can chatter or cuddle. Rest assured you’ll learn a lot of fun facts anyway; this year full to its 70,000-plus acre feet (or over 22,820,000,000 gallons!), Big Bear Lake has plenty of story to tell, since it holds enough water to satisfy the needs of one million people...for a whole year! Along the way we hear about the Zebra room’s sordid past, lust for the largest home on the lake, and marvel at Teetering Rock.
Big Bear Queen isn’t the largest boat on the water, which allows her to go where others can’t. Like right up to Noel Blanc’s dock in Sawmill Cove. His dad was the famed voice of all the Warner Bros. cartoon characters—Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck—and Noel now carries on the tradition. When the man of many voices is home—tonight he is—Queen guests are hailed by voices from their past. "What’s up, Doc?" we hear.
Big Bear Queen goes into orbit instead of just passing around Garstin Island, also known as China Island and home to the famous China House, giving guests an upclose look at one of Big Bear’s most unique landmarks. Each building is actually a separate room of the house, and who better to comment on it than captain Bellows, since he’s been inside the house, only accessed by boat, several times.
He’s pretty much acknowledged as the lake’s guru when it comes to relaying tales of local history and folklore and if he says it, you know it’s true, whether it’s the history of the two dams that form the lake (the first was built in 1884) or celebrity lakefront houses. "If I don’t know it personally to be true, then I won’t use the information on my tour," he said.
The narrated tour is just as colorful as the Queen’s bright flags flapping in the breeze. For over three decades Big Bear’s original paddlewheeler has been plying lake waters since arriving from Newport Beach, serving as the perfect introduction to Big Bear for countless guests.
Captain Chris has been piloting tour boats on Big Bear Lake for over 20 years, not just the Queen but also Pine Knot Landing’s original Sierra, and the Bellows family has been around since 1924. Just as Blanc carries on his dad’s tradition, so does Chris; late father Dave first captained the Queen and now Chris earns tips as Big Bear’s most experienced captain.
For years Big Bear Queen has had the lake’s only guaranteed 2 p.m. tour out of Big Bear Marina. Even if only one other person shows up—you—the Queen sails daily at 2, plus noon and 4 p.m. (15 passenger minimum). Daily Queen fares are $18, $16 65 and over, $12 12 and under, under 4 free. Saturday sunset tours are from July 4th weekend through Labor Day.