Change is in the air at two popular marinas on Flathead Lake as the new managers at Flathead Harbor in Lakeside and Marina Cay in Bigfork are busy preparing for summer.
Earlier this year, an unnamed investor with ties to the Flathead Valley purchased the old Lakeside Marina and renamed it Flathead Harbor. In the months since, workers have been busy renovating the property, demolishing an underutilized boat repair shop, moving the boat fueling station to a more convenient location and expanding the restaurant.
Lois Evans, co-owner of Montana Community Management, the group that is helping operate Flathead Harbor, said the removal of the old boat repair building has drastically improved the property.
“There are wide-open views of the Swan Range now,” she said, adding that the newly renovated facility will appeal to a wide swath of clientele. “We want something that will appeal to both year-round residents and summer visitors.”
At the heart of that appeal will be the new restaurant, Harbor Grille. The restaurant’s general manager, Kevin Pitt, is no stranger to the Flathead’s food scene, having previously operated North Bay Grille in Kalispell and managed food and beverage operations at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
Pitt said the restaurant would focus on American cuisine with an emphasis on burgers and seafood, including oysters and crab cakes. The restaurant will also have a bar and eight beers on tap, seven of which will be local. Another major departure from the past will be that Harbor Grille expects to remain open year-round, offering Lakeside a new culinary alternative later in the year. Pitt said he believes locals and people who ski at Blacktail Mountain will ensure the restaurant succeeds during the slower times of year.
Harbor Grille will host live music, which Pitt also hopes will draw people into the restaurant for dinner or a drink. The restaurant is also being expanded and additional outdoor seating will be added.
“We’re really trying to kick things up a notch here,” he said. “(We believe) it will be a one-stop shop for people on the lake.”
At the docks, better lighting and security measures are being put in place. Boat slips will be available for rent while others will remain open so that people on the lake can easily park their vessels and pop in for lunch or dinner. The fueling pumps have also been moved to the north end of the docks to provide easier access.
Across the lake, Marina Cay in Bigfork is also sprucing up for summer. This year, the marina has a new operator, Garth Wells of Whitefish Marine, who has brought in a new management team for the docks and restaurant.
“We’re really excited to make Marina Cay a place that people want to visit,” he said. “We want to give our customers whatever they need, be it a boat slip or a burger on the lake.”
Wells said Marina Cay visitors will be excited to see the wide selection of boat rentals. Wells said because of the relationship with his other business, Marina Cay will be one of the best places to rent the newest boats on the lake.
Marina Cay and Flathead Harbor both hope to begin operations on or around June 15.