THE lake rocks. The beach sucks. Take a teenager's word for it: sand between your toes is not what summer is all about.
This may sound like summer sacrilege, but it comes on the excellent authority of Cambell Courtney, 15, who reckons he's found the secret to a holiday that involves neither sand, surf nor seaweed. No squishing between flags. No wishing away sweaty crowds.
Cambell and his family's playground is Lake Eildon, where they own a two-storey designer houseboat.
Noel Courtney sums up the case in favour of a moveable retreat, parked year-round on a lake that spreads across nearly 14,000 hectares:
''You can make it whatever you want it to be, there's so much room,'' Noel says.
If you think of the marina as their street , the lake is their giant backyard. It's terrific for their children - Cambell, Shea, 18, and Georgia, 20 - and hardly a hard life for adults.
''When we get here we never stay in our 'street', we always go out [on the lake],'' says Linda, 48. ''Usually we've got a posse of about 10 friends and we all go out together. We have happy hour every night. Actually, happy hour is getting earlier and earlier. It starts about four, someone will have it on their boat, and that usually ends about 10.''
And when socialising gets too much? Noel, 50, says: ''If you've had enough and you want a couple of days of quiet time, just untie your boat and out you go. Find yourself another little cove.''
On board or off, they want for little. This is close to state-of-the-art houseboat design. It can sleep 12, in beds ranging from a master suite to two rooms holding single and double bunks, to guest beds that appear from nowhere.
The key is exacting use of space: a raised floor conceals a slide-out bed, the TV is suspended from the ceiling. There are lounge and dining areas downstairs, and upstairs a large, covered entertaining area with a table for eight, a barbecue and sun decks at each end. The on-board water for showers and drinking comes from the lake but is filtered. Solar panels power everything on board.
And it's easy to see why the children wouldn't want to be anywhere else. There are toys galore, from wave-boards to a jet-ski. A Malibu speedboat is docked out the front. And a dip in the mild waters of the lake is never more than a few steps away. But toys and price tags aside, this is a house that asks you to chill, reflecting the laid-back family who occupy it. Bare feet and cold beers are in order.
That freedom also comes in handy when the children want to bring their friends - the Eildon difference again. ''Let's say my 18-year-old wants half-a-dozen of his mates to come up. You go out and find yourselves a quiet spot and you can make as much noise as you want.''
The Courtneys have been coming to Eildon for seven years. Noel used to holiday here with his mates after he left school, and had always hankered to return.
Linda was raised a beach girl and when they decided to buy a holiday home she wanted waves nearby. Business success gave them the freedom to pick and choose.
Noel was an apprentice refrigerator mechanic turned multimillionaire boss of the airconditioning company Airmaster. The couple could afford Noosa or Port Douglas, but this man-made lake at the end of a winding mountain road won out.
This houseboat is their second, and has been on the water only since November. The price tag: $580,000. It seems a lot for a boat, but compared to an upscale house in an A-list beach town it's a relative bargain. It's in the upper range in a market that ranges from $150,000 to $750,000.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/travel/have-house-will-travel-life-on-the-lake-floats-this-familys-boat-20120121-1qbak.html#ixzz1kIoEbn9g