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 — three-night rentals can start around $900 on the low end. Here are some of the most-recommended houseboat destinations in the U.S.
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 Point, and Bullfrog Marina
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 and Temple Bar Marina
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
Table Rock Lake earns it's 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: Port of Kimberling Marina
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
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: Alma Marina
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
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: Mid-Lakes Erie Macedon Landing and Erie Canal Cruise Lines
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
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
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: Vermillion Houseboats
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in rural southwestern Virginia, Smith Mountain Lake is 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
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: Jamestown Resort & Marina, Beaver Creek Resort, and Burnside Marina
Once ranked as the No. 1 houseboating lake by the marina directory Pick A Slip, 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
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
Just outside the sprawling city of Atlanta is Georgia's largest lake, drawing houseboaters with its natural beauty. Lake Lanier offers hundreds of islands to explore and nearly 700 miles of tree-covered shoreline. LanierWorld, a beach and waterpark, is also a popular attraction among boaters.
Where to rent: Port Royale Marina
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: Lake Billy Chinook Houseboats and Cove Palisades Marina
Known for its party coves where boaters gather to enjoy music and each other's company, the lake offers 54,000 acres of water, the expansive Lake of the Ozarks State Park, and numerous marinas. Boaters can stop at the scenic Bridal Cave, a top family attraction where visitors can see giant stalactites and stalagmites. Lake of the Ozarks is about 2½ hours from Kansas City and St. Louis.
Where to rent: Ozark Yacht Club
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, Flat Hollow Marina, and Norris Lake Houseboat Rentals
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
Pennsylvania's largest inland lake, 8,000-acre Raystown Lake has beaches, hiking trails, marina concession stands, and public-access areas. Pick a Slip has recognized Raystown Lake as among the best in North America for houseboating. 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