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Rental Bucket List

10 hot spots for a houseboat vacation

August 2012 Feature Charlie VanLeuven

There is nothing more awe-inspiring than nature's untamed beauty. In all different climates, the unexplored and untouched wild calls to us on a primeval level and dares us to explore. In the process we forget our toils and cares and just enjoy the surroundings and moments, which become memories we carry throughout our lives.

A houseboat is indispensable for explorers and leisure seekers. Why spoil the trip by hanging around a campground with dozens of other people? Why stare across the water and wonder what the other side holds? Why not rent a houseboat to find an isolated cove or scenic surrounding for your vacation? We want to help you get out there, so we've compiled a list of hot spots with breathtaking natural beauty as well as rental services that we recommend for accommodating your excursions into the wild.


Lake Ouachita, Arkansas


Pronounced "wash-ah-tah," this massive lake is the largest in the interior of Arkansas. It boasts 900 miles of coastline and over 200 islands. It is secluded in the forested mountains within the protected confines of Ouachita National Forest, which means there are no homes or development to spoil the view. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the water of the lake is among the cleanest in the United States. There are also several unique features such as a large crystal vein that runs through a section of the lake, as well as rare species of non-stinging freshwater jellyfish and sponges. The name Ouachita comes from the French spelling of the Indian word "Washita" which means "good hunting ground," but the fishing is what is special here. Lake Ouachita holds the unofficial title of Striped Bass Capital of the World with 40-pound-plus fish being harvested there regularly.

Brady Mountain Marina and Resort ( in Royal, Ky., 45 miles southwest of Little Rock, can outfit your adventure with boat rentals from ski boats, to party barges, to houseboats. There are public boat ramps, beaches, areas to swim, and electricity nearby. The resort also has a 16-room lodge as well as cabins to rent, and also offers horseback riding for when you're ready for a break from the water.


Shuswap Lake, British Columbia


Nestled in a spectacular alpine forest, halfway between Calgary and Vancouver, this lake has the most houseboats in Canada and one of the largest fleets in the world. It is named after a local indigenous tribe. Shuswap is shaped like an "H", with four arms projecting off a central area. The arms are named Salmon, to the southwest, Anstey to the northeast, Seymour to the north, and the main lake to the west. It is also one of the best wildlife watching areas in British Columbia, with nesting areas for grebes and osprey around the Salmon Arm.

Twin Anchors Houseboats ( has two locations on Shuswap Lake, one at Sicamous and the other on the Salmon Arm. They offer five different houseboat models to fit your needs and desires. Its fleet is one of the largest in the world with over 100 custom-built houseboats to choose from. All the houseboats are built locally at the Sicamous manufacturing plant. And all you'll have to bring is groceries, beverages, clothes, and bedding, as they completely outfit the boats with all other necessities.


Shasta Lake, California


Located just ten miles north of Redding, this lake is the largest man-made body of water in the state of California. It was formed by damming of the Sacramento, Pit and McCloud rivers and at one time, the Shasta Dam was the tallest concrete dam in the United States. The spillway at Shasta Dam is the largest man-made waterfall in the US, at a staggering 487 feet. Shasta Lake boasts a large houseboat fleet from several different marinas, perhaps the largest in California. The water rarely dips below 70 degrees during boating season, but if you feel like taking a day off of the water, there are plenty of nearby caves to explore.

Shasta Marine Resort ( refers to its rental houseboats as the equivalent of a quality home floating in nature's paradise. All of its boats have state rooms, two baths, elegantly equipped kitchens, hot tubs, fireplaces, central air and heat, swim slides, entertainment centers include self-tracking satellite televisions with premium channels, surround sound satellite radio and a DVD player.


St. Johns River, Florida


St. Johns is the largest river in Florida. and one of the few rivers in the United States which flows north. It could accurately be described as a "lazy" river as its flow rate is about one-half mile-per-hour. Also, because it empties into the Atlantic, it is affected by the tides and can vary up to one-and-a-half feet in depth. The landscape along the river differs greatly depending on whether you're on the upper, middle, or lower basin. The upper basin has beautiful wetlands with white cypress trees, but is also generally only navigated by the shallow water craft, such as airboats. The middle basin has lakes aplenty, and is a birdwatchers' paradise with wetland birds such as barred owls, white ibis, wood storks, purple gallinules, and limpkins. And as the river moves towards the lower basin, you may encounter manatees grazing and river otters playing. The lower basin is the deepest and navigable portion of the river, and runs through the largest city (by area) in Florida, which is Jacksonville. As it is on the mouth of the river by the Atlantic Ocean, the water in the river turns partly into salt water.

Houseboat enthusiasts should consider renting a houseboat from Holly Bluff Marina (, located in DeLand. It is halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach and on the middle basin. It is near the Hontoon Island State Park, and just three miles from Blue Springs State Park, which is where endangered manatee live. Great bird watching and fishing opportunities are to be had nearby, and the water is warm and clean. And if you'd like a break from the water, there are nature trails to hike and historical museums to explore.


Patoka Lake, Indiana


This lake, one of the largest in Indiana, is a fisherman's paradise and is heavily stocked for annual competition fishing. It boasts that it's the state's best bass and crappie fishing, but is also well-stocked with catfish, largemouth and striped bass, walleye, bluegill and redear sunfish. Patoka is known for its clean water and has plenty of secluded coves to explore. This is the only lake in Indiana in which houseboats may be rented. If you'd like a break from the water, it is also located in Hoosier National Forest, which has plenty of wildlife to enjoy and trails to hike.

Patoka Lake Marina ( is nearly dead-center on the southern shore of the sprawling lake, near the Patoka Lake visitor's center in Orange County. They rent two sizes of houseboats, the Admiral and the Patoka Queen, to sleep from eight to as many as 12 people. They also rent other crafts, such a party barges, pontoon boats and fishing boats. They have plenty of space, with six docks available. They also have a floating store which serves meals, and seven floating cabins to rent.


Lake Cumberland, Kentucky


Many lakes claim to be the "Houseboat Capital of the World," but Lake Cumberland is by far the most deserving of the title. There are several boat manufacturers nearby, as well as several docks where one could rent a houseboat. This large, 100 mile-wide lake, features great fishing and plenty to see. It is the ninth largest reservoir in the United States and holds enough water to cover the entire state of Kentucky. The fishing is great as well, and Lake Cumberland holds state records for many species of fish. Also, when the moon is full, a spectacular moon bow can be seen at several waterfalls around the lake.

Found on the north shore, in a 300-acre lot, Jamestown Marina and Resort ( boasts the "nation's premiere houseboating destination." The resort is lush and shaded and offers many amenities such as a shore-side cafe, cabin rentals, and tennis courts. Jamestown rents three different size houseboats, from the 60-foot Deluxe, to the 77-foot Presidential, to the 80-foot long First Lady. The Presidential and First Lady boats both have six bedrooms, each with queen-size beds and have recently added satellite radio. The Deluxe has one queen bed, one bunk bed and a sofa sleeper. All the boats are affordable, and the website includes a clear pricing guide.


Table Rock Lake, Missouri


Located on the border of Arkansas and Missouri, in the mystical Ozark Mountains, Table Rock Lake is a winding, beautiful lake with seemingly limitless amounts of coves and arms. This is a lake you could really get lost in with 800 miles of coastline. Even though the passageways are relatively narrow and winding, Table Rock has a reputation for safety as the numerous coves, experienced boaters, and State Water Patrol ensure that boats stay a good distance apart. The lake's waters are pristine and offer trout and bass fishing. If you'd like to get off the water for awhile, there is a paved eight-foot-wide trail which stretches 2.2 miles along the scenic coast. Table Rock is also near Branson, the live entertainment capital of the world, which has 50 theaters and 100 live shows per year.

We recommend Five Star Houseboats ( for your houseboat rental needs. This newcomer company started in 2010, but already has two different houseboat styles to choose from with either four or six bedrooms. The houseboats are all brand new and come fully furnished with barbeque grills, cookery, blankets and even a map of Table Rock Lake.


Raystown Lake, Pennsylvania


Raystown Lake is located in the Allegheny range of the Appalachian Mountains about 100 miles from Pittsburgh and 150 miles from Philadelphia. Surrounded by a beautiful forest, along with red shale outcrops and cedar trees, this lake is full of gorgeous wildlife that is typical of the area. What is not typical is the legendary "Raystown Ray," a large aquatic animal similar to Nessie and other lake monsters. This reclusive beast has been sighted several times and even prompted a documentary crew from SciFi Network to investigate. Who knows? Maybe a jaunt onto the lake could provide the missing evidence needed to solve the mystery.

Seven Points Marina ( was voted the Marina of the Year in 2010 by Marina Dock Age Magazine. The company has been family-owned for over 65 years. It started in 1945 when the founder, Jim Filson, built a shack and six docks with a $500 investment. Before the Raystown Dam was completed, the US Army Corps of Engineers bought the original marina, which is now 100 feet below water, and Filson began a new marina. Now the facility boasts 941 slips, a restaurant, a store, and the largest breakwater on the lake. There are houseboats, pontoons as well as utility boats for rent. The marina has recently invested over $200,000 to upgrade its fleet to19 rental houseboats and 14 daily rental fishing and ski pontoon boats.


Lake Amistad, Texas


If you'd like to get away from the cooler north and get some sun in the south, there's no better lake than Amistad. The name "Amistad" means "friendship" in Spanish. It features one of the longest boating seasons in the country. This spring-fed reservoir is located on the border of the US and Mexico, and has over 856 miles of shoreline to explore. From the limestone lake bottom, to the great bass fishing and snorkeling, to the serene desert climate, to the ancient prehistoric sites to explore, this lake offers a unique and lovely choice when it comes to a houseboating destination.

We recommend Forever Resorts ( to those of you who would like to rent a houseboat or stay in a luxurious resort. They offer five different houseboat models, so you're not stuck with too much or too little space. As the resort is on the border, you may even want to go explore Mexico, so don't forget your passport.


Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia


This gorgeous 40-mile-wide lake is found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. It was formed by the damming of the Blackwater and Roanoke rivers. The water quality and fishing are excellent. The landscape is spectacular with cloud-capped mountains and wildlife-filled forests. This lake is the most popular in Virginia and with so many amenities and things to do, it's no mystery why. Everything a person could need or want is found within a 30- to 45-minute drive. There are five golf courses on the 500-mile shoreline. There are even arcades for the kids and two movie theaters.

Parrot Cove Boat Rentals and Sales ( is owned and operated by the Oliver family, and has been in business for over 15 years. Customer satisfaction is their number one priority and they will do everything in their power to ensure that you have the vacation of your dreams. Parrot Cove is offering new Wave Runners for the 2011 season and they are currently renovating three of their houseboats. They rent two different sizes of houseboats, and their fleet is the largest on Smith Mountain Lake.

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