BIG BEAR QUEEN LAKE TOURS–Sail with the lake’s most knowledgeable and experienced captain aboard its original paddlewheeler! Captain Chris Bellows continues in the tradition of his late father Dave in introducing countless guests to the beauty and history of Big Bear Lake. The 60-passenger Big Bear Queen sees the sights and sites of the lake during 90-minute narrated tours packed with history and little-known facts as it visits Garstin (China) Island, lakefront celebrity homes, the dam and Solar Observatory and much more. Sailing daily from May till October at noon, 2 and 4 p.m. including the lake’s only guaranteed 2 p.m. departure. Saturday sunset tours from July 4th through Labor Day are especially memorable and romantic.
Sailing Out of Big Bear Marina • Big Bear Lake, CA (909) 866-3218 www.bigbearqueen.com
Sunsets, Daily Tours on New-Look Queen
The 60-passenger paddlewheeler sails daily from Big Bear Marina with the most guaranteed tours on the lake. The 2 p.m. tour is guaranteed to go out every day even if you’re the only other person on board, and there’s four sure sailings Saturdays (noon, 2, 4 and at sunset) and two on Sundays (noon and 2 p.m.)
She’s captained by Chris Bellows, who has skippered on the lake for over a quarter-century, not just the Queen but also Pine Knot Landing’s original Sierra. Chris has seen the lake full and low, celebrities come and go, and knows which tales are true and which ones aren’t.
Big Bear Queen sports a new look for 2016. There’s new carpet, paint and trim and down below old time photos paint the lake history Bellows so entertainingly presents. Plus there’s now an onboard potty.
“If I don’t personally know stories to be true, then I don’t use them,” Captain Chris said. His narration is always a highlight on every outing as Big Bear Queen cruises past luxurious Metcalf Bay homes on the east side and Forest Service leases on the west, right up to China Island, around the Solar Observatory and aeration system, and much more.
The Bellows spiel started with Chris’ late father Dave, who was a longtime Big Bear Queen captain; the Queen brand has been touring Big Bear Lake since 1965, and captains with the last name Bellows have guided most of them. The Bellows family has been around since 1924.
The narrated tour is just as colorful as the Queen’s bright flags flapping in the breeze. The lake’s original paddlewheeler arrived from Newport Beach over three decades ago and has since served as the perfect introduction to Big Bear for countless guests who see the dam up close and learn the history of how it was first built and then built bigger, with Teetering Rock looking precariously close to plunging into the water. From Valley history including the gold rush to good fishing spots and fun things to do,
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 carries on the tradition. When he’s home, Queen guests are hailed by voices from their past: “What’s up, Doc?”
Big Bear Queen sails daily at 2, plus noon and 4 p.m. (10 passenger minimum). Daily fares are $20, $18 65 and over, $14 12 and under, under 4 free.
Saturday sunset cruises are a summer highlight, romantic in scope and a favorite with couples. As with all Queen tours guests are welcome to bring their own beer, wine, champagne, cocktails, or whatever else they desire to drink, while at sunset the boat provides meat, cheese, cracker and fruit vegetable trays at the stern.
Sunset cruises have a scaled-down version of Bellows’ daily narration so guests can chatter or cuddle and enjoy the Technicolor sky show. If you’re lucky enough to have the Moon come up in the east as the sun sets in the west, it’s magical. Held Saturdays from Fourth of July weekend through Labor Day, sunset tours are guaranteed to sail and recommended for adults, departing Big Bear Marina at 6:30 p.m. (6 p.m. reservation deadline). Cost is just $25.