California Dream'n

Head west for your next houseboat vacation

August 2010 Feature Brady L. Kay

When you think of California, you tend to think of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the sunny weather and golden beaches of San Diego, or the romance of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Yet the best-kept secret for those outside of the Golden State is the great vacation destinations for houseboaters.

Houseboat magazine went on a journey this past summer in search of the best places to rent a houseboat in northern California. What we discovered was a beautiful lake nestled in the northern mountains called Shasta Lake where we visited two popular rental marinas. A little further south we came across Don Pedro Lake, which is hidden in the oak and bull pine covered foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, 35 miles east of Modesto. And for our final stop we checked in at Lake McClure, which is less than 30 miles northeast of Merced, which gets its water from the winter snows of Yosemite National Park.

These California rental hot spots each have a lot to offer and all three lakes have their own unique charm. It's this individuality and setting that will keep you coming back for years. Once you've been on one of these western lakes, you'll become a regular when it comes to planning your summer vacations. Forget about Mickey and his Magic Kingdom; northern California is the place where real dreams are made. On Lake McClure

When full, McClure has 7,100 surface acres and more than 80 miles of scenic shoreline to explore. The lake is framed by topography ranging from the rugged Merced River Canyon cliffs to oak-studded golden Sierra foothills. Magnificent scenery, miles of secluded shoreline and fantastic boating and fishing make Lake McClure the perfect place for a day trip or extended family vacation at any time of the year.

Fishermen rate McClure as their favorite for its excellent trout, black bass, spotted bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish action. The lake is regularly stocked with trout and the popular trophy-size Florida largemouth bass has been introduced to the area. Many wildlife species including deer, fox and raccoon can be seen along the shoreline as well. Up above, eagles, heron, hawks and cormorant are common sights.

Although Lake McClure's ample surface area provides for great boating, the best way to discover this lake is to rent a houseboat. By day, houseboats are the perfect hub for the day's fishing trips, waterskiing runs and swimming. Later, slip your houseboat into a secluded cove and enjoy a peaceful Central Sierra evening.

The Barrett Cove Marina, which is owned and operated by, is located on the northern end of the lake and is a full-service facility for boaters. There are several different models to choose from, including the Odyssey and the Eclipse as well as the elegant Escapade. The high-end Escapade includes a home theater sound system including DVD and tracking satellite for TV and features a faux fireplace in the main salon. Also included on the upper deck is a six-person hot tub, waterslide, TV, observation counter and second galley with barbeque and fridge. Including the air-conditioned penthouse loft, the Escapade sleeps 15 comfortably.

Although Lake McClure is a spectacular recreation destination all by itself, it happens to be near one of California's most popular (non-Disney) tourist spots, Yosemite National Park. If you're looking for more than a water-oriented vacation, the choices really are endless for this area.

The lake is also surrounded by the Gold Rush towns of Jamestown, Coulterville, Mariposa, Sonora and Columbia, a restored 1860s era State Historic Park. For more information on renting a houseboat on Lake McClure visit or call 877-468-7326.


Seven Crown Resorts On Lake Shasta

Referred to as the Jewel of Northern California, Lake Shasta is fed by three major rivers: the Sacrament, the Pit and the McCloud. Recreation enthusiasts can enjoy average summer water temperatures of 77 degrees. With a shoreline of 370 miles, the lake is the largest reservoir in the state with countless coves and inlets in which to drop an anchor or tie up. Fishing (the lake has 17 varieties of fish), boating, swimming and other water sports are popular on this lake and views of 14,162-foot Mt. Shasta are breathtaking. On the shore, Shasta Lake offers several scenic trails for nature buffs, including the one-mile Samwel Cave Nature Trail. The lake also supports the largest number of bald eagles in California. Also on the shore are the Lake Shasta Caverns, which showcase 20-foot stalactite and stalagmite formations.

There are quite a few places to rent a houseboat on Shasta, but there are two that we particularly like. One is Seven Crown Resorts, which actually has two locations on Lake Shasta. We stopped at the Bridge Bay Resort that is conveniently located off the Interstate-5 freeway at the southern end of the lake. The resort offers houseboats, ski boats, wakeboard tower boats, fishing boats and patio boats for rent. This full-service marina includes a gas dock and launch ramp, as well as boat slips.

Besides having a lakeside store that offers basic groceries, there is also a nice restaurant on the property that serves up world-class food while boasting a panoramic view of the lake.

Houseboats offered at Seven Crown Resorts range from the high-end Grand Sierra EX that sleeps 13 to the Cascade, which sleeps eight. Prices range depending on the time of the season and availability and discounts are offered on its small rental boat fleet when renting a houseboat as well. For more information on Seven Crown Resorts visit or call 800-752-9669.


Shasta Marina Resort

Just up the road a few miles is another houseboat rental company on Shasta that we'd recommend. At the Shasta Marina Resort the houseboats look and feel more like a boat you'd borrow from your rich uncle instead of some houseboat rentals.

The high-end posh interiors and packed amenity houseboats are built by Thoroughbred and are specifically designed to be rental houseboats but you wouldn't guess it.    

The luxurious 16 sleeper Thoroughbred is a 15- by 56-foot houseboat that includes central heat and air conditioning. There are five staterooms onboard and with the sofa foldout there are a total of eight beds onboard.
The kitchen is beautiful and spacious with stainless steel appliances and is equipped with quality dishes and utensils. There is even a kitchen phone which is used to communicate with the wet bar on the upper deck.
The lounge is luxuriously furnished with a gas fireplace and an entertainment center featuring a flat screen TV with self-tracking satellite, offering premium channels and satellite radio. This boat is perfect for cruising the lake with the whole family. Shasta Marina Resort also offers other options for rentals including the Mirage line that consists of two models, the 14 and the 16 sleeper versions.

For more information on Shasta Marina Resort rentals call 800-959-3359 or visit


Forever Resorts on Lake Don Pedro

Just east of Modesto, Calif., you'll find grassy, oak-covered hills, miles of blue majestic water and crystal clear late summer skies. But like the gold of the early rush, not everyone is in the loop when it comes to cashing in on this houseboat rental hot spot. In the past, only a handful were lucky enough to know about Don Pedro. Well, consider the rush back on. With this article, the word is out. That is assuming, of course, that most houseboaters appreciate calm, underused waters, plenty of shoreline, and some quality houseboats to rent.

Lake Don Pedro is a nearly 13,000-surface-acre (more than two million acre-feet when totally full) lake with over 160 miles of shoreline. This beautiful lake is the state's sixth largest reservoir.

There are two marinas on this lake, Moccasin Point and Lake Don Pedro Marina. Both are owned and operated by Forever Resorts, the world's largest houseboat rental operator. At the Lake Don Pedro Marina location, houseboats ranging from 50 to 59 feet are available for rental. Each 59- by 14-foot Deluxe houseboat sleeps ten comfortably, maximum 12 and is luxuriously equipped with a long list of features, plus a canopy top and wet bar on the sundeck.

From a practical standpoint, the lake is just large enough to satisfy your tastes for adventure, but not quite big enough to get disoriented on. Shorelines consist mostly of muddy sand with some hard shell rock. If you're into fishing, be prepared with jigs and bait that will attract the lake's supply of bass, trout, salmon, crappie, bluegill and catfish. If water sports are your ticket, the lake earns a top score for waterskiing due to its low traffic and therefore low water disturbance-especially during the week. Of course other sports such as wake boarding, tubing, sailing and windsurfing are good options as well.

If you're into wildlife, keep your eyes open for mule deer, raccoons, coyotes, fox, golden and bald eagles and ravens.

For more information on renting a houseboat from Forever Resorts on this lake visit or call 800-255-5561.

These popular northern California houseboat rental operators have a lot to offer, but book early in the year and make your plans in advance to ensure you get the dates you want. From Lake Shasta to Lake Don Pedro and Lake McClure, it's easy to see why these western lakes are becoming more and more popular each year.  


Planning Time


For houseboat rentals on Lake McClure visit or call 877-468-7326.


For houseboat rentals at Seven Crown Resorts for Lake Shasta visit or call 800-752-9669. For Shasta Marina Resort rentals call 800-959-3359 or visit


For houseboat rentals from Forever Resorts Lake Don Pedro visit or call 800-255-5561.

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