Renting a houseboat is a fun and economical way to unwind on the water. Houseboat rentals are available at top destinations nationwide.
The best houseboat rentals are available from Lake Havasu Houseboats in Arizona, from Jones Valley Resort at Shasta Lake in California, from Kinseys at Birch Lake in Minnesota, and from KeySea Houseboats in Key Largo, Florida.
In this article, we’ll cover five of the best houseboat rental destinations and companies across the United States. We’ll also go over the basic requirements and procedures for renting a houseboat in each state.
We sourced information for this article from local guides and houseboat rental services around the country, along with the recommendations of people who frequently rent houseboats. We also sourced information from individual state watercraft regulation guides.
Where to Rent a Houseboat
Houseboat rental companies can be found in most areas where houseboats are popular. Examples of these places include large lakes, popular boating destinations in rivers, and calm coastlines.
Houseboat rentals are available on the Great Lakes and in the Intracoastal Waterway as well and along all coasts of the United States. Later in this article, we will cover some of these best destinations for houseboat rentals.
How to Rent a Houseboat
Renting a houseboat is usually just as easy as renting a camper or a speedboat. You'll have to provide some information and sign waivers, and you may have to present insurance. In most states, an adult with a valid driver's license can rent a houseboat.
However, some states have minimum age requirements, and rules between rental agencies vary. All in all, most people can rent a houseboat without much trouble.
Do I Need a Boater's License to Rent a Houseboat?
The short answer is, "it depends." The bare minimum that you'll need is a valid driver's license, which is standard for renting virtually anything that moves. In some states, a driver's license alone is sufficient, as the rules for boat rental are different than for ownership and regular use. Here's a complete list of state requirements.
*Anyone born prior to July 1, 2014 can operate a rented boat in Georgia without a license.
**Anyone born prior to May 1, 1996 can operate a rented boat in New York without a license.
However, some states require you to have a boater's license, boating card or take a boater safety test before operating a powered vessel like a houseboat. You probably won't need any license if you're simply renting a docked houseboat on Airbnb with no intention of actually moving it. That said, it's always a good idea to complete your boater's safety education regardless.
Houseboats on private lakes are sometimes exempt, as are drivers born before a certain date. Also, be cautious when operating in lakes and rivers on state borders. Laws in one state can be entirely different from the neighboring state, and it's often impossible to see where the border begins. Be sure to check state laws before renting a houseboat, as rules can change frequently.
What Type of Houseboat Should I Rent?
Any type that you want! Virtually all kinds of houseboats are available for rental, including small vessels for personal trips and large, multi-room houseboats for groups. Houseboats come on pontoons or as monohulls, and they're available in any configuration.
As a general rule, it's best to rent something slightly larger than what you need for a group, as facilities (such as bathrooms) can be tight. That said, you can expect these spaces to be more spacious than on sailboats or powerboats. Inexperienced boaters should consider something smaller, as docking and maneuvering a floating rectangle can be difficult (especially on windy days).
Best Houseboat Rental Locations and Companies
So, where's the best place to rent a houseboat? We selected five of the best house boating destinations in the United States below, along with the highest-rated rental companies in the area. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it serves as a reference guide and a source for vacation ideas.
1. Lake Havasu, Arizona
Lake Havasu is one of the most famous houseboat destinations in the world. The lake, which is located on the border of California and Arizona, features beautiful desert scenery and shoreline nightlife that's unrivaled even by some major cities. The lake is spacious and calm, and the weather is warm. With 60 miles of clear navigable water, it's the perfect place to explore and spend a week on the water with friends or family.
Lake Havasu has a couple of respectable houseboat rental companies that offer late-model vessels in multiple sizes. Chief among which is Lake Havasu Houseboats, which offers luxury houseboat rentals at seasonal rates. As of 2021, Lake Havasu Houseboats offers an 85-foot Odyssey houseboat, a 75-foot Executive houseboat, a 72-foot Fun Seeker houseboat, a 67-foot VIP houseboat, and a 60-foot Deluxe houseboat. These vessels sleep anywhere from 10 to 12 people.
2. Shasta Lake, California
Is the desert not your scene? Try the mountains instead. Shasta Lake offers blue, clear waters and crisp Northern California air, along with affordable houseboat rentals. Shasta Lake is relatively remote, and there isn't much infrastructure at the docks. This is great if you're looking for a calm and secluded getaway far from heavy marine traffic and lights. It's a great place to see the stars from the deck of a houseboat.
Houseboat rentals are easy to find at Shasta Lake, and there's a huge variety of vessels available most of the year. Jones Valley Resort is one of the primary houseboat rental services in the area, and they currently offer ten models of various sizes. The most glamorous houseboat in the Jones Valley Resort lineup is the big double-deckers, which are spectacular party boats that sleep up to 22 people. The double-decker models include the Titan, the Queens (I and II), the Presidential, the Senator, the Escapade, the Odyssey, and the Corinthian.
The smallest of these boats, the Corinthian, sleeps 12. The Odyssey sleeps 15, and the rest sleep between 16 and 22 people. The largest of the big double-deckers come equipped with private staterooms, washing machines, bars, and even a hot tub. The smallest vessel in the Jones Valley Resort lineup is the Executive, which is a single-decker that sleeps 10.
3. Lake Lewisville, Texas
Are you looking for the best houseboat rentals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area? Drop by Lewisville Lake and enjoy the blue water and green surroundings. The lake is popular with recreational boats, and there's always something going on at the beaches during summertime.
The area has several boat rental companies, but private owners are the main source of houseboat rentals on Lewisville Lake. If you're willing to seek out an owner who's willing to rent, you'll enjoy some of the best house boating in the country.
4. Birch Lake, Minnesota
Birch Lake offers some of the best views of the scenic Superior National Forest in Minnesota. Plus, you can explore the untouched natural environment from the comfort of a modern houseboat. The lake is known for its beautiful scenery and ideal location, as it's not far from the Twin Cities. It's a great place to take a local vacation, and it's also a calm and secluded spot for out-of-state visitors. Plus, the fishing is spectacular.
The best houseboat rental service in the area is Kinseys. The company offers 42 to 50-foot houseboats for rent. The houseboats offered by Kinseys are modern and well-known, featuring luxurious accommodations such as queen bed staterooms, upper sun decks, and full kitchens. Kinsey's also provides a quick, 30-minute driving lesson to ensure you're comfortable operating the floating lodges.
5. Florida Bay, Key Largo, Florida
Key Largo is just about as tropical as the mainland United States gets, and it's a great place to rent a houseboat. Florida Bay in Key Largo boasts crystal-clear waters and abundant wildlife, including dolphins and many varieties of fish. The area is also home to reptiles, amphibians, aquatic mammals, birds, and so many more amazing examples of regional wildlife. There's a lot to explore in this picturesque tropical environment.
Florida Bay isn't a static environment. There's so much to see, which is why KeySea Houseboats offers cruising houseboat rentals. A cruising houseboat is designed for cruising around local waters and seeing all the local sights. These smaller houseboats are safe to use in the area and easy to navigate.
They come with everything you need to enjoy the area with a small group of up to four people. Their 35-foot Lil Hobo cruising houseboats feature bow and stern decks, a full galley, comfortable accommodations, and a full rooftop sun deck.
About THE AUTHOR
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