19 Destinations Where Houseboat Rentals Beat the Beach

White Houseboat, on the Left, Close to the Shore of Lake Powell, Arizona, Red Rock Mountains

White Houseboat, on the Left, Close to the Shore of Lake Powell, Arizona, Red Rock Mountains by Dave Minkel (CC BY-NC-ND)

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White Houseboat, on the Left, Close to the Shore of Lake Powell, Arizona, Red Rock Mountains
White Houseboat, on the Left, Close to the Shore of Lake Powell, Arizona, Red Rock Mountains by Dave Minkel (CC BY-NC-ND)

Floating Holiday

Anyone can spend a week at the beach, but renting a houseboat combines a bit of adventure with the comforts of having a private, floating hotel suite. Houseboats typically come with a kitchen, bathrooms, living room, and sleeping quarters, and they're big enough for groups of family members or friends, which can help defray costs, and vacationers can find good rentals through services such as Vrbo, Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. Here are some of the most-recommended houseboat destinations in the U.S. 

Related: The Best Lakes in All 50 States

Boats in Wahweap Marina of Lake Powell, Arizona, Expansive Aerial, Red Mountains Are Reflected in the Lake

Lake Powell

Arizona and Utah
Perhaps one of the best-known houseboating locations of all, Lake Powell is known for its striking red sandstone canyons with fascinating hiking opportunities. Popular activities here among houseboaters include water skiing and wakeboarding. The lake has more than 1,800 miles of shoreline, and anglers should know some record-setting fish have been caught there.

Where to rent: Wahweap Marina, Antelope PointBullfrog Marina, and Lake Powell Resorts & Marina

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Aerial of Lake Mead, Nevada, Two Boats in the Water, Expansive View of Mountains in the Background

Lake Mead

Arizona and Nevada
The largest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead was desert before the construction of the Hoover Dam flooded the area's canyons more than 70 years ago. Today, Lake Mead attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually with its remote coves, canyons, and secluded beaches. The lake's picturesque shores are home to diverse ecosystems and stunning rock formations waiting to be explored.

Where to rent: Callville Bay Marina

A Few Houseboats Docked in a Marina of Shasta Lake, California

Shasta Lake

Houseboaters are attracted to Shasta Lake for its breathtaking mountain and forest scenery, its hundreds of coves and bays, and its abundant opportunities for recreation. Houseboating here is a great way to explore some of the many caverns and rock formations around the lake's shores. On the western end of the lake is a natural waterslide, and in the Shasta Caverns boaters can find 250-million-year-old stalagmites.

Where to rent: Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake

Two Boats on Water of Table Rock Lake, Missouri, Islands of Trees Scattered with Hills in the Background

Table Rock Lake

Table Rock Lake earns its reputation as a houseboat destination for its tree-lined shores, clear water, and hidden beaches. Its hundreds of miles of forested shoreline offer abundant opportunities for wildlife viewing. Unique scuba-diving attractions include an underwater forest, large boulders, and a sunken boat.

Where to rent: Five Star Houseboat Vacations

Related: America's Most Unusual Beaches

Three Pelicans Flying Over St. Johns River, Florida, Dock and Shore in the Background

St. Johns River

A river that's very slow and wide, the St. Johns is particularly houseboat-friendly. The river borders the Ocala National Forest, and bird-watching is a popular activity, with blue herons, egrets, ospreys, and eagles among the regular sights. One of the most popular houseboat stops is Blue Springs State Park, where manatees are often seen. Adventurous diners will want to stop at the riverside fish camps where they often serve up fresh blue crab and alligator.

Where to rent: Holly Bluff Marina

Houseboat Docked in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota, Evergreen Trees Lined the Shoreline

Voyageurs National Park

Offering vast areas of remote forest, waterways, and islands — but no roads — Voyageurs National Park was practically made for houseboating. It covers more than 100 miles along the Canada-Minnesota border. Houseboats are free to cruise Crane Lake, Lake Kabetogama, Lake Namakan, and Kettle Falls. Boaters often spot deer, moose, otters, bald eagles, black bears, and white pelicans.

Where to rent: Ebel's Voyageurs Marina

Drawbridge at Exchange Street Along the Erie Canal, New York, Bike Path on the Right Foreground Going Into the Distance

Erie Canal

New York
Houseboating along the Erie Canal offers a unique way to explore 524 miles of upstate New York. A remarkable feat of engineering, the canal features stone locks, lift bridges, and guard gates that date back to the 1800s. In addition to miles of scenic waterway, there are also many canal towns and trails to see, such as Palmyra, once known as the "queen of the Erie Canal towns." The town's attractions include museums, festivals, and antique shopping.

Where to rent: Erie Canal Cruise Lines

White Houseboat on Suwannee River, Florida, Shore in the Foreground, River Surrounded by Trees

Suwannee River

A 246-mile black-water river, the Suwannee is home to some of the world's largest and most beautiful springs. Additional highlights include the East Pass area for fishing, where tarpon, redfish, and sea trout abound. Another popular place on the river is Manatee Springs State Park, where boaters can enjoy spotting wildlife, such as deer and manatees.

Where to rent: Gateway Marina

Lake Ouachita, Arkansas, As Seen Through the Trees on a Hill, Islands of Trees Scattered in the Lake
Kathy Byrd/istockphoto

Lake Ouachita

Surrounded by a national forest, Lake Ouachita has 970 miles of tree-lined shores and more than 100 uninhabited islands ready to be explored by boat. Not to be missed is the Geo-Float trail, an interpretive trail that guides boaters around the lake, highlighting and describing geological formations unique to the area. Scuba diving is also popular here.

Where to rent: Almost Home Houseboat Rentals

Trees Along Shore and Blue Sky Reflected in Lake Vermilion, Minnesota
J. M./Yelp

Lake Vermilion

Scenic Lake Vermilion has 1,200 miles of shoreline and more than 365 islands. It's also bordered by Superior National Forest. When not island hopping or hiking in the forest, boaters can find superb fishing on the lake, which is home to 12 types of fish, including pike, bass, crappie, and perch.

Where to rent: Lake Vermilion Houseboats

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Wooden Dock of Marina With Three White Houseboats on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia, Shoreline with Fields and Trees in the Background
April S./Yelp

Smith Mountain Lake

In the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural southwestern Virginia, Smith Mountain Lake is a 32-square-mile body of water with numerous inlets. The lake has become a popular place for wakeboarding, with competitions held throughout the summer. In between all the water activity, boaters can pull into one of the many lakeside pubs and restaurants for some refreshments.

Where to rent: Parrot Cove Marina Boat Rentals & Sales

Stretch of Houseboats Docked in the Marina of Lake Cumberland, Kentucky in the Background, Lake As Seen From Boat in the Foreground
Stretch of Houseboats Docked in the Marina of Lake Cumberland, Kentucky in the Background, Lake As Seen From Boat in the Foreground by Laurie (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lake Cumberland

Lake Cumberland boasts 1,200 miles of shoreline, secluded, peaceful coves, and waterfalls. Fall is one of the best times to go, when the foliage is peaking and crowds are thinning. The lake is known as one of the best fishing destinations in the Eastern United States with its largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, white bass, sturgeon, and catfish.

Where to rent: Beaver Creek Marina and Jamestown Resort & Marina

Line of Houseboats on the Right at the Marina on Dale Hollow Lake, Tennessee, As Seen From a Shaded Walkway Dock
Tyanna H./Yelp

Dale Hollow Lake

Dale Hollow Lake is known for being a party spot where nearly every marina rents out houseboats. There's an abundance of deep coves ideal for water skiing and wakeboarding. The smallmouth bass are also plentiful here, a big plus for the fishing enthusiasts.

Where to rent: Sunset Marina and Resort

Dance Party on a Houseboat in Shuswap Lake, British Columbia, Canada, During Twilight in the Summer
Photo by Ryan Cox/istockphoto

Shuswap Lake

British Columbia, Canada
Boaters are drawn to Shuswap Lake by its beauty and seclusion. Shuswap, about 280 miles from Vancouver, is in a region known for its recreational lakeshore communities, such as the tourist town of Salmon Arm, where there are many beaches, marinas, and the longest wooden wharf in North America.

Where to rent: Twin Anchors Marina

Piers on Lake Billy Chinook, Oregon, About Half Opened and Half With Boats, Expansive View

Lake Billy Chinook

Sure, it's possible to admire the cliffs here from the shore, but exploring the landscape of this canyon lake via houseboat is far more intriguing, thanks to the lake's narrow width, which averages 0.22 miles and accentuates the towering cliffs. The lake, about 150 miles from Portland, has 75 miles of shoreline and is also known for its trout fishing.

Where to rent: Cove Palisades Marina

Related: 22 Beautifully Serene Lakes Around the World

Norris Reservoir at Norris Dam State Park, Tennessee, Lake in the Foreground With Trees and Hills in the Background

Norris Lake

Norris Lake is the largest reservoir along the Tennessee River's many tributaries, and despite numerous marinas on the shores of this lake, it still has a peaceful atmosphere thanks to hundreds of miles of a wild, forested shoreline. Boaters should not miss the many coves and picturesque tree-lined inlets. Anglers will also be interested to know the largest brown trout ever caught in the Tennessee was hooked here.

Where to rent: Beach Island Resort & Marina and Norris Lake Houseboat Rentals

Wide Expansive View of Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, Green Plants Scattered in the Water
Wide Expansive View of Lake of the Woods, Minnesota, Green Plants Scattered in the Water by J. Stephen Conn (CC BY-NC)

Lake of the Woods

This massive lake — more than 1,679 square miles with a shoreline of 25,000 miles — straddles parts of Ontario, Manitoba, and Minnesota, and it gets high marks from boaters for its beauty. Boaters may not see many people during their trips here, according to Houseboating.org, but they will likely see all sorts of animals, including bears, deer, and pelicans. This lake, which has thousands of islands, is best visited during summer when the water temperatures are more inviting.

Where to rent: Ontario Wilderness Houseboat Rental and Houseboat Adventures

Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania, As Seen From a Hill, Surrounded By Hills of Trees with Light Fall Coloring

Raystown Lake

Pennsylvania's largest inland lake, 8,000-acre Raystown Lake has beaches, hiking trails, marina concession stands, and public-access areas. The land around the lake remains largely undeveloped, which means there are about 80 miles of quiet shoreline available for docking each evening.

Where to rent: Seven Points Marina

Upper Mississippi River, Alma, Wisconsin, As Seen From a Houseboat, Four Chairs and table on Top of White Deck in the Foreground
Anna L./Yelp

Upper Mississippi River

Alma, Wisconsin
Another top houseboating destination, the upper Mississippi is also among the most unique. In addition to offering hundreds of miles of shoreline and numerous islands to explore, there are many quaint river towns to visit. Excursions here can also include the St. Croix River, known for its river towns and sandy beaches.

Where to rent: Fun 'n the Sun 

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