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Houseboat communities are a great place to store and live aboard your houseboat, especially when compared to regular marinas.
The best houseboat communities in the United States are Mangrove Marina, Waldo Point Harbor, Holly Bluff Marina, Clearwater Harbor Marina, and Alma Marina.
In this article, we’ll review and cover the details of five of the best houseboat communities and liveaboard marinas in the country. We’ll also discuss the differences between houseboat communities and liveaboard marinas, along with what to look for when choosing the best place to stay aboard your houseboat.
We sourced the information used in this article from local guides and directly from the houseboat communities and marinas listed.
Houseboat Community vs. Liveaboard Marina
What’s the difference between a houseboat community and a liveaboard marina? In most cases, it’s just a perception based on the number of houseboats in the area.
However, liveaboard marinas can often do better than houseboat communities that don’t allow liveaboards. It all depends on the area and the services offered by the marina, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Perks of Houseboat Communities
Houseboat communities have more to offer than standard marinas. First, it’s easy to live aboard in them. Plus, your neighbors are doing it too, so you have a shared experience with the people living around you.
Additionally, houseboat communities tend to be nicer and better-equipped for living. This includes perks like recreational areas, a bar or restaurant, clean water taps, and reliable and reasonably-priced access to electrical power.
Houseboat communities also have docks and dock fees designed for houseboats. This is beneficial because houseboat owners at regular marinas often pay the same as someone who has a 50-foot schooner with a 9-foot draft.
Given the vastly different displacement and spatial characteristics of houseboats and sailboats, paying the same absurd amount to dock them doesn’t seem quite fair. And thanks to houseboat communities, you don’t have to settle for paying outrageous rates to dock a ‘smaller boat.
Traits of the Best Houseboat Communities
What sets an average houseboat community apart from the best? It’s easy—the best houseboat communities are places where people like to be and are allowed to live and enjoy their houseboats.
These marinas have electrical hookups, pump-out stations, potable water connections, washing and bathroom facilities, and all the other services you’d need to live comfortably.
Additionally, the best houseboat communities cater specifically to houseboats or offer guilt-free liveaboard activities. But what does that really mean? Many marinas believe the negative stigma associated with liveaboards, so the best houseboat marinas treat liveaboards well and offer reasonable rates.
Best Liveaboard and Houseboat Docking Marinas
There are thousands of marinas in the United States serving tens of thousands of houseboats, but which are the best? Here are our favorite houseboat-friendly marinas and liveaboard communities based on price, location, services, and overall attitude.
1. Mangrove Marina
Mangrove Marina is easily one of the best liveaboard houseboat communities in the country—and perhaps the world. Unlike most marinas, which only offer limited resources to liveaboards, Mangrove Marina specifically caters to them.
The marina offers 102 floating liveaboard slips and all the infrastructure you need for comfortable full-time houseboat living. The marina also serves as a local resort, offering beautiful views of the Florida Keys and a truly tropical vacation or living experience.
The facilities at Mangrove Marina are some of the best available to liveaboard houseboat owners. It includes communal recreational facilities, such as BBQs, tiki huts, areas for pets, and all the laundry and wash facilities you’ve come to expect from a houseboat community.
Additionally, there are health facilities, salons and barber shops, a gym, and shopping destinations within a short walk from the marina. The services and access to the local community at Mangrove Marina are simply unparalleled, which earns it the number one spot on our list.
2. Waldo Point Harbor
Waldo Point Harbor is perhaps the most iconic houseboat marina in the world and certainly the most creative. Waldo Point is an ideal location for storing your houseboat if you’re lucky enough to get a slip there.
Waldo Point Harbor is located in Sausalito, California, amongst one of the oldest and most well-known houseboat communities in the world. People have been anchoring and docking their liveaboard boats here for decades, and the tradition has attracted some of the most interesting boats around.
Houseboat living is part of the culture in Sausalito, which is a little community located in the northern part of San Francisco Bay. Sausalito’s quaint downtown is beautiful and well-kept, and the houseboat lifestyle is so entrenched that there’s even a floating homeowner’s association.
Waldo Point Harbor isn’t the cheapest place to keep a houseboat and liveaboard. But it offers some of the richest culture and most unique scenery available anywhere to houseboaters. Plus, the weather in the Bay Area is some of the best and most mild in the entire world.
3. Holly Bluff Marina
Holly Bluff Marina is one of the best houseboat communities in the country. They offer houseboat rentals, boat storage, yard service, and repairs, along with some of the best docking facilities on the St. Johns River in Florida.
The marina is located in Central Florida on the St. Johns River, which is the perfect location for storing or staying aboard a houseboat.
The area enjoys the warm tropical weather of Florida but lies in a location protected from foul weather and high winds that often make houseboat life uncomfortable or impossible.
But not all locations on the river are the same—and the Holly Bluff Marina is located in one of the best. The surrounding environment is untouched and offers a rare glimpse into the stunning southern tropical ecosystem.
Rare birds and sea life are a common sight, and there are even manatees in the area that occasionally appear.
Wet slips are available for between $185 and $325 per month in the canal. Electricity is available for boats in this area, and the length limit is 40-feet. The marina has limitations to protect the environment, such as a ban on old boats (pre-1998) and vessels with wood, steel, or concrete hulls.
Liveaboards aren’t allowed in the canal part of the marina. Riverside storage is a different story, and the cost is currently $9.25 per foot per month with a $365 minimum. Electricity is metered with a $50 minimum.
4. Clearwater Harbor Marina
Clearwater Harbor Marina is located in the city of Clearwater, Florida, at 210 Drew Street. This southern location offers excellent water conditions, warm weather, and a friendly community of boaters from all backgrounds.
As far as facilities are concerned, the Clearwater Harbor Marina has plenty. The marina offers 24/7 security, laundry facilities, utilities (power and water), and a septic tank pump-out connection. This is everything you need to keep your boat and yourself in good order.
Electrical power is available for hook up, and it’s metered by kilowatt-hour usage. Pricing is competitive, and it’s a great low-key environment that’s free of the requirements and minutia of fancier yacht clubs.
Slips at the Clearwater Harbor Marina range in size from 30 to 55 feet, which is long enough for the majority of cruising houseboats. And like many Florida marinas, the Clearwater Harbor Marina is run by the city itself and offers equal slip priority to residents and non-residents.
5. Alma Marina
Alma Marina is one of the best houseboat rental marinas and houseboat communities on the Mississippi River. The location offers great warm weather and a protected area that’s ideal for houseboats.
As one of the few houseboat river communities in the area, this well-maintained and well-designed marina earns a spot on our list. This northerly marina is located in Alma, Wisconsin.
The Alma Marina is one of the area’s premier houseboat rental locations as well. They have several boats to choose from. Alma Marina houseboats range in size from the large 14’ by 59’ Delite model to the quaint but comfortable Days Away model, which measures 37 feet long.
Alma Marina offers rental slips for all kinds of boats, including houseboats. The slips offer power and water services and even a ten-cent discount on gasoline at the fuel dock. This is a marina that appreciates your business and offers an excellent location to dock your boat.