What makes a good houseboating lake? Certainly the overall attractiveness of the area and the quality of water, for starters. Well-populated lakes have their pros, with full marine service areas and developed tourist locations to add comfort and ease to a vacation, providing a reliable central hub for endless activities. But the unruffled calm of a more secluded lake holds an even stronger charm for other people. When you can hear the pull of your own engine rumbling off canyon walls and not a screeching chorus of engines tying knots around each other in the water, trying to find room to cruise that is when you find yourself really relaxing.
Clear and clean water is infinitely more fun to play in, where your kids don’t get lost in a cloud of algae when they jump in. For those who love to have a twilight grilled dinner onboard, a heavy population of bass, crappies, and other fresh fish is the ideal. And private coves and islands to moor at for the night can add to the individuality and exclusiveness of your houseboating experience.
Here’s a list of high-quality marinas we found catering to a spectrum of lakes pooling across the vast and beautiful California. If you need ideas for a houseboat destination or fantastic prices for clean-and-ready rentals, this is a good place to start looking.
Emerald Cove Marina
Flowering out of the Sierra Nevada foothills just north of Sacramento is a hidden gem—the Bullards Bar Reservoir. This sprawling stretch of lakeside encompasses everything from camping, water sports, hiking and wildlife-watching to mountain biking in the foothills. The Emerald Cove Resort & Marina, host of the only houseboat club in all of northern California, rents luxury houseboats and smaller watercraft like PWCs to carve up the water at Bullards Bar. If you’re looking to cater a gathering of 16 to 20 people, the Sappire Luxury boasts the comforts of home combined with the excitement of lake life with a beautiful kitchen, master bedrooms, hot tub, sky bar and water slide. Depending on the season and how many nights, all houseboat rentals range from $920 for the Patio Cruiser (three-day) to $8,350 for the Sapphire Luxury (seven-day). All houseboat rates include gas allotment, pump out and sales tax. You can also bring your own secondary boat and simply lease a slip for the season. A 20-foot two-sided slip starts at $1,450 for boats under 23 feet, and 30-foot two-sided slips cap off the price at $1,995. The Emerald Cove General Store is close at hand and readily equipped with any paraphernalia you’d need, including water sport accessories. Should mishap strike, the Emerald Cove Service Department waits onsite to aid with repair work, cosmetic work, or general maintenance. To ensure a solid night’s sleep or peaceful daytime nap, all houseboats are built with reverse floor plans, placing the more restful sleeping rooms away from the boisterous excitement of the lake. Solar energy also powers the marina’s larger houseboats, ensuring quiet and cost-effective use of any electronic device or appliance. Little disturbs the calm at Bullards Bar.
Lake Don Pedro Marina
Tucked among forested hills in a canyon carved out by the Tuolumne River awaits Don Pedro Lake. The glassy calm of the fifth largest reservoir in California is directly fed by several tributaries, lending a consistently high water level and pleasant water temperatures. Servicing houseboaters is the acclaimed Lake Don Pedro Marina, part of Forever Resorts.
The full-service marina, store, and café provide for a fleet of lavish houseboat rentals. Rates vary depending on season and availability, but usually range between $695 to $1,450 per day. Some popular features on houseboats like the 70-foot Silver include gas barbecues, canopy tops, waterslides, fully-equipped kitchens and luxurious bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining areas. Special offers are available for your perusal online, including US veteran and military discounts. Pets are even allowed onboard for a flat fee of $100.
If you prefer to cruise in your own boat, houseboat buoy rentals are $258 a month and single slip rentals are $525 a month. This full-service marina, store and café provide for anything you could need from fuel to keep your boat going to fuel to keep you going. Enjoy a hearty burger before you head out to hike the maze of coves and inlets. Fish for small mouth bass on the rocky points and islands or skim down the full length of the reservoir and watch the hills roll out behind you. There is a good reason more than 13 million people have visited Don Pedro since 1971. Discover it for yourself.
Paradise Point Marina
Weave together the water pouring from the San Joaquin, Sacramento and Mokelumne Rivers and you get the California Delta, over 1000 miles of networking waterways to boat. Catering to this unique and unforgettable area is the Paradise Point Marina, well-named as it happens to be. With sandy beaches, wild-berry-vined banks, and islands reminiscent of the Amazon, there’s a distinctive variety to the sights you’ll cruise by on your houseboat.
The Paradise Point Marina, fully-serviced with a personal lakeside grocery and tackle store, offers generous rental rates for high-quality houseboats. The Crownship is only $750 for three days off-season and $1,050 on-season, with features that include a gas stove with free propane and a large sun deck to view the sights from. Prices range up to the Grand Sierra, with a fully-equipped kitchen, walk-in closet, and swim platform, which runs at $1,550 for three off-season days and $1,950 during the summer season. If you bring your own boat, the marina offers a variety of covered and uncovered moorage slip options.
Near the marina are the historical towns Locke and Walnut Grove, which boast a tasteful oriental history, being originally fashioned and inhabited by Chinese immigrants. Old Towne and Waterfront invite old charm as well, with western and nautical nuances to their shops and walkways. As you rove further down the Delta, many waterfront restaurants wait with doors open to whet the biggest of appetites worked up by boating down this stretch of paradise.
Jones Valley Resort
Situated by the massive Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California, just 20 miles north of Redding, lies the Jones Valley Resort. With over 360 miles of mountain-peaked shoreline, Lake Shasta gleams back with a vividness to rival the green of the trees enfolding it. Houseboating is the perfect way to experience this acclaimed boating lake. Float down long channels or set foot to its many islands and inlets. Fish the abundance of bass, trout, crappie, catfish and sturgeon or explore the hiking and mountain bike trails threading through the forest, easily accessible from your houseboat.
Featuring a fleet of houseboats for rent, Jones Valley Resort offers you a perfect spectrum of sizes and accommodations. The Royal Star is a more traditional and intimate houseboat that can sleep 12 to 16, with a spiral staircase and penthouse loft—perfect for a quiet couple get-away or small family vacation. Five houseboats down the fleet later is the Titan, a triple-deck, 65-foot vessel artfully designed with comfort and entertainment in mind, sleeping 22 to 26 people. It has a home theater system, sunken hot tub, waterslide, fireplace, wet bars, eight HD flat screen TVs, four refrigerators, a private stateroom and master suite, propane barbecue, crow’s nest dining area, several observation counters and more. Rentals range from the three-night off-season price of $966 for the Royal Star ($2,014 on-season) to the Titan three-night $5,959 price ($9,100 on-season). Moor in your own cove overnight, settle back, and get a front seat on the top deck to watch the stars wink to life over Shasta Lake.
Of all these fantastic locations, there is sure to be one that appeals to both your sense of adventure and your knowledge of what environment you and your fellow travelers need to best relax in. The houseboating options in California are beautiful and varied and with such top-rate marinas to serve you, you can’t go wrong.