Best Houseboat Locations | LakeWizard

Houseboating is a great way to take a vacation—or to live full-time. But what locations are best for living aboard or taking a houseboat vacation?

The best location to live aboard a houseboat is Lake Cumberland, Kentucky. The best houseboat vacation spot is Shasta Lake in California, and the best houseboat rental locations are Lake Mead, Lake Powell, and Lake Havasu.

In this article, we’ll cover five of the best houseboat locations for living, renting, and vacationing out on the water. We’ll link to houseboat rental marinas on each waterway, and we’ll compare the differences between each type of houseboating destination.

We sourced the information used in this article from state parks websites, local marinas, and from the online houseboat community.

Table of contents


What Makes a Great Houseboat Location?

The answer depends on what you’re looking for—a great place to rent a houseboat, a great place to take a floating vacation or a great place to live aboard a houseboat. Some locations are great for all three, while others are best for living or visiting. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Great Houseboat Vacation Locations

A great houseboat vacation location to visit is fun and accessible, and there’s something beautiful or interesting to explore. An example is Lake Shasta, which has stunning mountain views—but the weather makes it impractical to live there full time.

Great Houseboat Rental Locations

If you’re just looking to rent a houseboat and cruise around with friends and family, then consider a top houseboat rental location. These areas are easy to find, affordable, and the water is large enough for inexperienced boaters to learn the ropes safely.

An example of a great houseboat rental location is Lake Mead. This massive lake has plenty of places to anchor out or cruise around, and houseboats are available from multiple locations at an affordable price.

Great Liveaboard Houseboat Locations

Liveaboard houseboats have a hard time finding great locations, as everyone wants great scenery and affordable prices. Plus, many of the best houseboat destinations don’t allow liveaboards, as slip spaces are reserved for rentals and recreational boats.

Some areas, like Puget Sound in Washington, are excellent for living aboard a houseboat. Sausalito, California, also comes to mind, as it has beautiful views of the bay and surrounding hillsides and welcomes full-time houseboat liveaboards.

Best Locations for Houseboats

Here, we put together a list of five of the best locations for houseboats. Each location offers unique benefits to vacationers and cruisers, and they all offer full-service marinas and houseboat rentals. Here are our top picks and why we chose them.

1. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky

Lake Cumberland and its surrounding towns are by far the best houseboat location in the United States. Lake Cumberland is a large man made lake that’s home to all kinds of recreational activities. Additionally, hundreds of houseboats float on the lake, and it’s probably the largest concentration of houseboats anywhere in the world.

Lake Cumberland is 102.4 square miles of clean freshwater surrounded by forest. The lake is also home to one of the largest boat tie-ups, which lasts for an entire weekend in September. Hundreds of boats—including houseboats—tie up for a late summer party that features music, crafts, and all kinds of activities.

The lake itself is also an affordable destination, and many people live full-time aboard their houseboats here. The most common kind of houseboat on Lake Cumberland is the classic self-propelled cruising houseboat, which you can purchase and dock or rent from one of the many local boat rental agencies.

You can rent a houseboat on Lake Cumberland from multiple locations, including the State Dock Marina, which also offers slips for rent.

Lake Cumberland Advantages:

  • Affordable houseboat rentals
  • Liveaboard locations
  • Huge houseboat population
  • World’s biggest annual raft-up
  • Large area

2. Lake Havasu, Arizona

Lake Havasu is another popular houseboat destination. The weather is warm, and the water is full of boats almost all of the time. What makes Lake Havasu a great houseboat destination is the surrounding town and boardwalk, which is bristling with restaurants, bars, and shops.

Thousands of people visit Lake Havasu for vacation each year, making it one of the most popular house boating locations in the country. Lake Havasu is 30 square miles, or just shy of 20,000 acres, and has an extensive beach that’s great for hanging out with friends and family.

Lake Havasu has multiple boat rental locations that offer all kinds of vessels, including houseboats. Rental rates are a bit pricy during the summer season but often competitive with similar vacations. Liveaboards aren’t that common in the area, so Lake Havasu is best for vacationing.

Lake Havasu has multiple boat rental locations. One of the best places to rent a houseboat is Lake Havasu Houseboats, which is located in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and open this season.

Lake Havasu Advantages:

  • Convenient location
  • Surrounded by restaurants and bars
  • Houseboat rentals available
  • Draws large crowds
  • Great weather

3. Lake Mead

Lake Mead, which is located in the states of Arizona and Nevada, is a top destination for house boating and houseboat rentals. The lake is an artificial reservoir famous for feeding the Hoover Dam from the Colorado River. And though its levels have been low over the past few years, it’s still an excellent destination for house boating.

Located within driving distance of Las Vegas, this large and open lake has numerous places to anchor out, beach the boat, and explore. It’s relatively quiet year-round, which encourages families to enjoy a tranquil houseboat vacation. It’s also a great place for houseboat parties, as you can find a secluded location and make as much noise as you want.

The lake is surrounded by red desert rock formations and scenic views. Lake Mead is a freshwater lake that covers 158,147 acres, or 247 square miles. Its shoreline is an astounding 550 miles long, which gives ample opportunity for cruising or exploration.

Lake Mead isn’t the best place to live aboard a houseboat. However, it’s an excellent location to cruise around. Beginners have an easy time on the lake, as big storms are rare and the water is mostly calm. There’s also plenty of room to cruise around in solitude while you learn how to control your boat.

Houseboat rentals on Lake Mead are available in a few areas. The most popular is Callville Bay, which is a full-service marina that offers houseboat and powerboat rentals for affordable prices.

Lake Mead Advantages:

  • Large area for exploration
  • Clean water
  • 550 miles of shoreline
  • Lots of beaches
  • Affordable houseboat rentals
  • Close to Hoover Dam and Las Vegas, NV

4. Lake Powell

Lake Powell, located along the Colorado River, is another excellent place to take a houseboat excursion. It’s about the same size as Lake Mead and part of the same water system. Except this lake is located between Utah and Arizona and not part of Nevada. This large lake is the perfect destination for an affordable and relaxing desert houseboat vacation.

There are plenty of water sport opportunities available on Lake Powell, including everything from kayaking to water skiing. Houseboat rentals are affordable and plentiful, as long as you rent one early enough in the season. Lake Powell’s freshwater is clean and sanitary, which makes it a perfect place to swim and escape the blazing desert heat.

Houseboats on Lake Powell are almost universally equipped with air conditioning, which isn’t always the case in many areas. Additionally, most Lake Powell houseboats are large and luxurious enough to sleep 14 people comfortably. Rental prices, when split between a medium-sized group, are equivalent to a stay in a local hotel.

The huge lake has numerous beaches where you can shore up your houseboat and plenty of quiet anchorages and coves to explore. The weather during the summer is warm but calm, making it a great safe place for new houseboat drivers to learn the ropes.

You can rent a houseboat from several marinas on Lake Powell. Bullfrog Marina, located on the Utah side, is one of the most popular houseboat rental services. They offer luxurious modern double-decker houseboats at competitive prices during the summer.

Lake Powell Advantages:

  • Great houseboat vacation destination
  • Large area for exploration
  • Great weather
  • Numerous beaches and coves
  • Affordable prices

5. Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake is one of California’s most pristine lakes. Located at the foot of Mount Shasta, this bright blue mountain lake offers unsurpassed views of beautiful evergreen forests and wooded hills. Renting a vacation home in the area is much costlier than a houseboat, and you can explore the lake at will with friends and family.

Shasta Lake is a bit too cold and remote for full-time houseboat living. However, summer brings warm weather, calm water, and ample opportunities to take a rental houseboat out on the water. The freshwater consists of mountain runoff, which is clean and refreshing to swim in.

Shasta Lake is located in the California Central Valley at the base of Mount Shasta, which is the state’s tallest mountain peak and an active volcano. The mountain itself is recognizable and snow-capped year-round, making it a perfect location for photos and exploration.

Shasta Lake is one of the few locations in the area where you can actually rent a houseboat. Rates are a bit pricey, but the location is scenic, and demand is high. Right now, you can rent a houseboat from a few locations, including Holiday Harbor and Jones Valley Resort. These full-service marinas offer standard and luxury houseboats of various sizes and layouts.

Shasta Lake Advantages:

  • Beautiful views of the mountains and forests
  • Quiet location
  • Photo opportunities


Brian Samson

Brian Samson

I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.

Read More About Brian Samson