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Living aboard a houseboat gives you the chance to live almost anywhere, including many scenic and prosperous areas.
The best places to live on a houseboat are Miami, Florida; Lake Havasu, Arizona; Sausalito, California; Fort Washington, Maryland; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Hot Springs, Arkansas; Shasta Lake, California; Lake Cumberland, Kentucky; and Fort Worth, Texas.
In this article, we’ll list and describe ten of the best locations for living aboard a houseboat. Additionally, we’ll cover some of the local attractions, weather, and amenities for full and part-time houseboat living.
We sourced the information used in this article from travel guides and publicly available city information. We also researched local marinas to find the most houseboat-friendly destinations.
Top Ten Places to Live on a Houseboat
When choosing our top ten houseboat locations, we decided based on the overall ease and quality of liveaboard life in the area. This includes factors such as weather, marina reviews, and local art, entertainment, and food. Here are the most desirable U.S.-based locations we found for houseboaters.
1. Miami, Florida
Miami is a top destination for recreational boaters of all kinds, and the city is home to dozens of marinas that are ideal for living aboard a houseboat. In fact, there are lots of places around Miami in surrounding towns where conditions are ideal.
The weather in Miami is warm year-round, and prices are highly affordable compared to states like California and New York. Several liveaboard communities already exist in the region, so there’s plenty of options to choose from.
Virtually all marinas in the Miami area have full grid power and water hookups, and many also offer gray water and black water discharge services as well. The primary drawback to living aboard in Miami is the weather, which can occasionally get hazardous during hurricane season.
2. Lake Havasu, Arizona
Lake Havasu, Arizona, offers ideal conditions for houseboat living. The lake, which is located on the border between California and Arizona, enjoys hot temperatures and calm weather. As a general rule, inland lakes in warm areas are just about as good for houseboats as it gets.
Lake Havasu is a popular house boating destination for vacationers, but there are several long-term marinas in the area to choose from. The waterfront is bristling with restaurants and bars, which gives you plenty to do at night or on weekends.
The cost of living in the area is a bit higher than in Arizona as a whole. That said, it’s still highly affordable compared to most other places with comparable weather, scenery, and infrastructure.
3. Sausalito, California
Sausalito, California, is perhaps one of the most picturesque and best-known liveaboard locations in the entire world, especially for houseboats. The town is nestled on the edge of a cove in the northern part of San Francisco bay, and it has remained largely unchanged for decades.
Sausalito has an extensive waterfront, and a sizable portion of its population lives on boats. Parts of the waterfront are occupied exclusively by houseboats, and they’re some of the most unique and historic found anywhere in the country. The town is easily accessible on foot from the dock, and the area hosts numerous quaint shops and restaurants.
The cove is a favorite anchor-out spot for locals, and it has been for many years. Plus, recent efforts to clean up the local wear and tear from years of dockside living are making progress. Even in its current state, Sausalito offers a one-of-a-kind houseboat living experience in one of the west coast’s oldest anchorages.
4. Fort Washington, Maryland
The east coast has plenty of ideal houseboat mooring locations, and Fort Washington, Maryland, is an excellent example. This beautiful and historic location was once a fort built to defend Washington, D.C., from attacks directed up the Potomac River. Now, you can moor a liveaboard houseboat on the historic river at several locations.
The town is filled with historic buildings and museums, which makes it great for anyone who loves American history. It’s also not far from several major cities, as it’s driving distance from Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. There are two marinas in the town of Fort Washington and several more nearby.
5. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is one of the largest cities on the west coast, and it’s teeming with business and career opportunities. Residents love the city, and its weather is damp but fairly mild most of the time. The Duwamish River, which runs through the city of Seattle, is home to numerous marinas and prime houseboat docking locations.
Seattle’s weather and water infrastructure are quite good for houseboat living, especially if you’re sensitive to heat. The river is protected from the rough Pacific ocean, and it offers stunning (and lower-cost) views of Mount Rainier, the surrounding forests, and the city of Seattle itself.
6. Portland, Oregon
Portland is another popular destination in the Pacific Northwest for liveaboards, as the situation here is similar to Seattle. A series of rivers slice through the city, and they branch off into many navigable waterways along the way. This is excellent for houseboats, as it offers tons of protected real estate where they can safely moor.
Portland is known for its rich culture and relatively good year-round weather, which is great as long as you love the rain. The weather is fantastic for houseboats, as the use of heating and air conditioning is much less necessary than on the east coast, in the desert, or in the southern United States.
The cost of living in Portland is very high, but living on a houseboat can greatly reduce the financial burden. Additionally, most marinas are fenced in and protected from intruders. Like many locations, living on a houseboat in Portland is like living in a floating gated community.
7. Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a small and historic community nestled in the local mountains. The area is home to Hot Springs National Park, which is in Garland County, Arkansas. The scenery here is unlike any other boating destination, and it’s definitely worth exploring if you’re lucky enough to get your boat in the water in one of the regional waterways.
8. Shasta Lake, California
Shasta Lake offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, along with crystal-blue and clean water. The lake is very well protected, so the environment remains pristine. The lake offers a mirror image of the ancient volcano, along with breathtaking forest scenery.
Additionally, the weather on Lake Shasta is usually mild. With an average snowfall of only two inches per year, it’s one of the mildest mountain lake house boating destinations around. The location is close to ski resorts, so Lake Shasta is perfect for liveaboards who want to participate in winter sports.
9. Lake Cumberland, Kentucky
Lake Cumberland is probably the most popular houseboat destination in the United States. The lake is gorgeous and bustling with activities and events. The water is clear and calm, which makes the experience of living on a houseboat here superb. Lake Cumberland is the perfect location to live on a houseboat if you’re looking for a good time on the water.
The weather in this part of Kentucky can be somewhat unpredictable at times, but it’s usually warm and pleasant. The lake is also home to an extremely large annual raft-up event that draws hundreds of boats, and parties tend to spring up spontaneously during the summer months.
10. Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas, isn’t usually on the houseboat destination list, but it’s an often-overlooked secret. Fort Worth is surrounded by numerous lakes and rivers, and the area is rife with small marinas. Houseboats are often seen in these areas, and the cost to moor and service houseboats in the area is quite affordable.
The weather in Fort Worth is usually mild during the winter and hot in the summer but not nearly as soggy and humid as locations on the gulf coast. Dallas is 40 minutes away, and there’s an enormous amount of jobs and career opportunities available in the area. Fort Worth is an excellent location to retire as well.