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A Perfectly-Sized Getaway

Tiny Houseboat Adventures

Published in the May 2019 Issue June 2019 Feature Colin Peterson

Imagine anchoring in clear blue water completely surrounded by manatees and watching the sunset from a private little vessel.

Tiny Houseboat Adventures is in the business of creating memories just like this. Taking the tiny house trend to the next level, this company rents out their two tiny houseboats, The Nomad and The Hobo, to guests who enjoy being on the water in the great outdoors and exploring new places. Currently, owners Carrie and Rick Phillips are in the process of renovating a third boat, The Drifter, allowing even more people to embark on their own personalized journeys down the St. Johns River in Central Florida.

Everything You Need

Each tiny houseboat is furnished with a fully-equipped kitchenette, sink, and two-burner gas stove. They each have a private bathroom, a dining table and a couch that converts into a twin bed. For the perfect sleeping arrangements to suit your needs, choose between a bunk bed or a pull-out queen-sized bed depending on the boat. Each vessel can fit up to four people and will give you peace of mind knowing they are powered by environmentally-friendly engines, all for the same price as a hotel room near the water.

On these little houseboats, you’ll get to be your own captain as the boats are easy to operate. The houseboats are 18 feet long and 8 feet wide with an 11-inch draft. Their small size makes them easy to maneuver and get as close as possible to all of the nature larger houseboats can’t reach.

“We spend time with our guests and we make sure they feel comfortable with the boat,” explains Rick. “We take them on a test drive and make sure they have a good feel for it before they embark on their adventure.”

Carrie and Rick’s slogan for this unique experience is, “Your adventure, your way.” It’s for good reason too because you chart your own course, and Carrie and Rick provide information on new places to explore and enjoy on Florida’s longest river fed by over 100 springs.

“It’s the area we fell in love with,” says Carrie.

With a low flow rate, the St. Johns River is somewhat of a lazy river and the perfect spot for those who like to drift at a relaxing pace. The river was previously a large commercial channel, but is now mostly uninhabited by residents and visitors.

The Perfect Getaway

Upon discovering this unique area, the Phillipses’ rental business was born. Initially, they were looking for an escape for themselves and found an antique, Hobo houseboat that they decided to renovate. As they spent time on their boat, they realized there was really no affordable option in the area for couples or small families to take a weekend getaway.    

“We realized there weren’t any options for people who didn’t need a huge, expensive houseboat that sleeps 8 to 12 people,” describes Carrie. “So we thought, ‘Hey, let’s rent out this smaller boat.’ And then we found another one and another one, and it just sort of started that way.”

Their tiny houseboat rentals soon turned into many great family vacations, anniversary trips and getaways.

“We have such a diverse group of guests,” adds Carrie. “We have retirees that come down here for the winter. We’ve had anniversaries. We’ve had engagements, and we’ve had many honeymoons.”

Embarking On An Adventure

Rachel Greelish is one of these Tiny Houseboat Adventures guests who recently spent a weekend. She and her husband were searching for a getaway, and after looking at many different hotels, cottages, and boat rentals, they found Tiny Houseboat Adventures.  

“It was just my husband and myself and we left the kids and dogs at home” explains Rachel. “We just wanted to get away from the world. Now we cannot wait for our next adventure. Honestly it was the best vacation of our lives. The whole week before, I was singing my little song about going on a tiny houseboat adventure; I drove all our friends and family crazy, but it was awesome.”

Embarking on their own tiny houseboat adventure proved unforgettable for the Greelishs.

“We’d never been on a houseboat before, but we grew up in Cape Cod, Mass., so we both have a lot of boating experience,” adds Rachel. “The boat was very nicely laid-out and it was really, really fun.”

Easy Packing

Carrie and Rick make it easy for their guests to enjoy the comfort of their boats without worrying about packing a lot of items.

“They are just the nicest,” attests Rachel. “They have thought of every little detail. Everything is there to make you comfortable and happy—it’s kind of like camping in a boat.”

For their convenience, guests are provided with blankets, a cooler to store food, all needed cookware and dishes, coffee, a French press and a tea kettle.

“Our guests really only need to bring food and their sheets and pillow cases,” says Carrie.

“And fishing gear and snorkel gear if they want to go snorkeling,” adds Rick.

Navigating Nature

After charting a course and launching out onto the river, guests can navigate their way through the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and to various springs, notably Silver Glen Springs, De Leon Springs and Blue Springs, where they can potentially see hundreds and hundreds of manatees.

“You can travel in the protected wildlife refuge and explore for days,” says Rick. “It’s really beautiful. There are tributaries and little back-water estuaries and lots of little lakes without any houses, businesses or buildings.”

“But at the same time,” explains Carrie, “if you want to be around people, guests can get on the main river, and there are restaurants and all types of different activities they can do.”

While exploring the river at your own pace, Carrie and Rick’s maps will lead you to places with vibrant wildlife to snorkel and fish. Or stop at Hontoon Island, only accessible by boat. This island offers hiking trails, a museum of St. Johns River history, picnic areas and hot showers.

Endless Experiences

On her journey, Rachel experienced many of these wonders the area has to offer.

“We decided to go the wilderness route, so we went to the refuge,” says Rachel. It was the most amazing experience when you come out of the river and you’re on Lake Woodruff. It was so beautiful and the sunset was amazing. Swallows were all over and we saw alligators, manatees and turtles.”

After her adventure, Rachel cannot wait to go again and recommends renting from Carrie and Rick a thousand percent. She’s a wedding planner and has already referred quite a few couples to enjoy their honeymoon on one of the tiny houseboats.

Of course, Rachel is not the only guest who has had a great experience with Tiny Houseboat Adventures. Carrie and Rick share guests’ adventures on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube so people can see all of the different things guests have done and what kind of experiences they’ve had.

“I’ve grown up in Florida my entire life and I just now found out about this place and it’s just absolutely beautiful,” says Rick. “Once you actually see what it looks like back there in the wildlife refuge, you’ll realize there’s just nothing else out there like it.”

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