Whether you’re in the mood for a quiet retreat or a floating party, houseboats deliver. You don’t even have to know how to drive a boat to rent one; if you can drive a car, you can captain a houseboat.
Although the drought has left California’s lakes disturbingly low this summer—Clear Lake in Lake County isn’t even allowing boat rentals currently due to water levels—there are still at least three places where the calm blue waters are just as inviting as in wetter years. So grab your inflatable unicorns and water noodles, here’s how to get out on the water.
Houseboats are available for rent at Lake Shasta near Redding.(Courtesy of @bridgebayhouseboats)
At Lake Shasta, you can cruise the blue-green waters of California’s third largest body of water by day and drop anchor in quiet coves by night. There are more than 360 miles of shoreline to explore with all of the comforts of home on board—soft beds, full kitchens, and bathrooms with running hot water.
Pick up your boat at one of two marinas where they’ll give you a quick lesson on how to keep the thing afloat before sending you on your way. At Holiday Harbor, rates range from $584 for two nights on a six-person houseboat to $1,763 for three nights on one that accommodates 16. Boats for eight to 16 are also available for rent at Bridge Bay (contact for rates).
// Holiday Harbor, 20061 Shasta Caverns Rd (O’Brien), lakeshasta.com/houseboats; Bridge Bay, 10300 Bridge Bay Rd. (Redding), bridgebayhouseboats.com
At Napa’s Lake Berryessa, you can have all the fun of a houseboat with or without the overnight commitment. At the Pleasure Cove Marina, they not only have luxury houseboats with beds for up to 12 people (some even come with hot tubs on the roof deck), they also rent a daytime party barge. The Patio Pontoon, rentable for two hours or four, comes complete with a waterslide, gas barbecue, and a bathroom with a shower. Contact Pleasure Cove for current rates and availability.
// 6100 CA-128 (Napa), goberryessa.com
Trinity Lake, just south of the Oregon border, is a stunning reservoir at the base of the snow-peaked Trinity Alps. Less crowded than its counterparts farther south, you'll find peace and quiet here along with some pretty epic fishing. Rent from the Trinity Lake Marina where boats range in length between 50 and 59 feet, each with a waterslide, full kitchen and outdoor grill, and entertainment center (contact Trinity Lake Marina for current rates). Houseboats are also available through the Trinity Alps Marina, where a 10-person sleeper starts at $429 per night, and a 14-16 person boat with two full-size penthouse suites starts at $657 per night.
// Trinity Lake Marina, 45810 CA-3 (Trinity Center), trinitylakemarina.com/boatrentals; Trinity Alps Marina, 1 Fairview Marina Rd. (Lewiston), trinityalpsmarina.com/boat-rentals