California is a great place to go boating, but not all places are great for houseboats. This often leaves people wondering where to houseboat in California.
The good news is that California is one of the best places in the United States to own or live in a houseboat for obvious reasons. However, you could end up regretting your choice of location if you fail to do your research.
The best places to sail your houseboat in California are Santa Barbara, Lake Berryessa, Eagle Lake, Lake Tahoe, Clear Lake, and Ventura Harbor. These places will provide you with the amenities you need and are exceptionally friendly for houseboaters.
It goes without saying that it pays to find out the perfect location for your houseboat, especially if you're going to be living in it as a primary home. In California, you will find plenty of options as a houseboat owner, all of which come with their fair share of pros and cons. This is why it's smart to do your research first.
We've been sailing (and living in) houseboats for years now. And finding good marinas and locations to sail in California definitely wasn't easy. Thankfully for you, we've listed down our favorite destinations to help make your decision easier.
Houseboats in California
Over 400 floating houses are nestled away in five residential marinas across the picture-perfect Marin County. But make no mistake; while living on the water may appear to be a sacrifice at first, these dockside homes provide all the amenities of land-based residences, as well as spectacular vistas. In fact, luxury floating houses are frequently even more sought after than traditional on-land properties.
On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, the picturesque tiny town of Sausalito offers lots to appreciate. The Sausalito floating homes are unmistakably Californian in the nicest sense, with colorful tiles, quirky porches, and a genuinely unique neighborhood. While the average property in Sausalito costs $1.5 million, a floating house on the water typically costs between $500,000 and $1,000,000.
However, some houseboats for sale start at $400,000, while some comparable ordinary residences cost more than a million dollars. The monthly expenditures connected with floating-home living, including the cost of drinking water, parking, docking, and garbage, may be budgeted for ahead of time because these charming dwellings provide considerable savings.
Residents generally spend roughly $1,100 on these costs, with additional funds set aside for other luxuries like cable and internet. However, these fees become less demanding because of the lower housing payments.
It's worth noting that boathouses in Sausalito are taxed similarly to typical dwellings, with the exception that the fees are categorized as personal property tax instead of plain property tax. This can make getting a loan for a floating house more difficult—the procedure is easier for cash purchasers than for lenders—but it is still feasible.
Boaters who want to moor their vessels in Santa Barbara Harbor must first get a slip permit from the Waterfront Department. It is a privilege, not a right, to berth a vessel in Santa Barbara Harbor. Slips are assigned for commercial fishing or recreational use, and they may not be utilized for business or living aboard without the Department's permission.
The Waterfront Director must first grant a slip of permission to a vessel owner who wants to moor a vessel in Santa Barbara Harbor. Slip permits are month-to-month licenses that may only be canceled by the Waterfront Director or the licensee.
One of California's largest freshwater man-made lakes, Lake Berryessa, is nestled in the Vaca Mountains. The grassy hills surrounding the lake are dotted with oak and manzanita trees, creating a wonderful backdrop for tourists to admire the magnificent lake.
The sloping hills around the lake are home to a diverse range of vegetation, animals, and wildlife. Lake Berryessa is a great area to see deer, eagles, hawks, and a variety of other bird species in their natural habitat. On this lake, visitors may go kayaking or canoeing while seeing the Blue Ridge and Cedar Roughs that surround them. Hiking the paths of the Lake Berryessa Federal Recreation Area is another opportunity to take in the views.
Lake Berryessa is 18,500 acres in size and has 165 miles of shoreline. Because it is only 55 miles north of San Francisco, many people use it as a weekend retreat. There are several boat ramps and two full-service marinas along the shoreline. The Pleasure Cove Marina is a popular marina on the lake since it rents out a variety of boats as well as cottages, starting at $165 per night for the smallest.
Lake Berryessa was once free, but as of August 2019, it now charges a daily fee as well as annual fees if you desire. The current rates are $5 per vehicle per day or $80 per year. The Capell Cove boat launch now has a $10 charge as well. The following link has their current fees.
There are a few tiny settlements surrounding Lake Berryessa, but Napa Valley is only to the west, where you may visit the many wineries and sample some of the country's greatest wines. On Lake Berryessa, there are plenty of possibilities to catch a variety of trout, bass, and salmon. There are several excellent fishing sites along the coast and from your boat. There are several inlets to explore and put your fishing abilities to the test.
Eagle Lake is a 24,000-acre body of water. There are several locations to moor your houseboat and take advantage of the excellent trout fishing along the 66-mile shoreline. Eagle Lake is home to some of the country's greatest trout fishing. The typical fish in Eagle Lake is 18 inches long and weighs 2 pounds, but the current Eagle Lake record is a 114-pound rainbow trout.
On Eagle Lake, there are multiple free launch ramps as well as a variety of marinas where you may rent spots or even boats if desired. Eagle Lake Marina is Eagle Lake's sole full-service marina. Eagle Lake Marina also has all of the necessary supplies for a day on the lake. Eagle Lake Marina has everything you'll need for a day on the lake, including permits, fuel, and even shower and laundry facilities.
With a population of 863, Spaulding is the nearest city. 15 miles away, Susanville is the closest city with all the goods you'll need. Hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and horseback riding are just a few of the activities available in the Eagle Lake region. If you don't want to spend the night on your boat, you may attend campfire programs in the amphitheater at Eagle Lake Recreation Area. There are also several camping places which you can visit whenever you want to get off the boat.
The marinas in Ventura Harbor are quite welcoming to liveaboards, giving them a sense of belonging. The Channel Islands National Park to the west and the mountains to the east are popular destinations for liveaboards. The Channel Islands Harbor are the two areas in Ventura County where you may live aboard a yacht. A 40-footer's spot fee may cost $400 to $800 per month. The rates vary based on the quality of the marina and slips as well as the amenities included in the charge (bathrooms, cable TV, etc.).
A 32-foot yacht, for example, costs $400 per month at the Ventura West Marina in the Ventura Harbor, plus $190 per person per month for access to laundry facilities, Wi-Fi, showers, and restrooms.
Many liveaboards have no genuine boating abilities, and their boats may be moored for years and never leave the dock. Others, on the other hand, utilize their ships for trips that last days or weeks. Sailing to Santa Cruz Island and mooring in a remote bay for a few nights is a possibility if they have the time and the weather cooperates. Boat operation needs practice and instruction, and lessons given by groups like the Ventura Sail and Power Squadron are excellent places to start.
For those of you who are interested in docking here, Phases 1 and 2 of the Ventura West Marina provide excellent facilities. Phase 1 includes a big refrigerated locker where residents may keep frozen food, as well as a washing facility, an exercise area, and an entertainment room where people can congregate. Ventura West Marina's success is due to its strong feeling of community, and its residents are highly engaged in promoting that lifestyle.
Clear Lake is 43,700 acres in size and has 127 miles of shoreline. There are several boat docks to choose from since numerous full-service marinas and launches and oat docks are scattered around the area. Crappie, catfish, and bluegill fishing are all outstanding in Clear Lake. Fishing for bass at Clear Lake is a terrific way to have a good time! There have been others as well.
Crappie, catfish, and bluegill fishing are all outstanding in Clear Lake. Fishing for bass at Clear Lake is a terrific way to have a good time! More bass between 3 and 7 pounds have been captured in this lake than in any other in California. The annual Splash In is a fun event that takes place in Clear Lake every year. Every year in September, a large number of float aircraft land in Clear Lake, generating the "Splash In." For the last 40 years, the festival has always taken place on a Friday-Saturday.
Come dark, the clean air provides for some spectacular stargazing, especially from the Clear Lake State Park campsites. Get a closer look at Taylor Observatory, on the lake's west shore near Kelseyville, on the third Saturday of each month. Clear Lake State Park's four campsites provide beautiful vistas, swimming (Lower Bayview), and hike-and-bike sites (Cole Creek), but no electricity or water hookups are available.
Lake Tahoe is the largest lake we've covered, with a surface size of 122,000 acres. Lake Tahoe has just 75 miles of shoreline since so much of the lake is open water, while the other lakes we've seen have numerous distinct coves and inlets, substantially increasing the shoreline distance.
The California/Nevada state boundary cuts Lake Tahoe practically straight down the middle. Lake Tahoe is bordered by fifteen cities/towns and nine state parks/recreation zones. Northern Lake Tahoe is less developed and less expensive to visit than the southern half. The advantage of visiting this lake on a houseboat is that you have a built-in place to stay, which protects you from some of the expenditures.
There are several marinas in the Lake Tahoe area that offer a wide range of services. Most marinas have overnight docks available (assuming you don't want to remain on your boat), as well as gasoline and other facilities. Fishing is popular in Lake Tahoe; however, most fishing must be done from a boat due to the lack of shoreline compared to other lakes.
There are several campsites near the beach, some of which are even within walking distance. Around the lake, there are a variety of picnic sites and beaches that are fantastic places to pass the day. Simply tie up your boat and walk ashore. The vistas from Lake Tahoe are breathtaking, and the water's purity is second to none. Lake Tahoe is a must-see destination for everyone, especially for houseboat owners.
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