This is a guest post from our Director of Sponsorships, Carol Burton, who has loved her houseboat family vacations throughout the years even before “socially distancing” was a thing.
Our annual Lake Shasta houseboating vacation is highlight of summer for our family.
Think camping, but with a shower and a bed. And surrounded by water instead of dirt. (Most of the time.) When it's hot, you can slide down off the house into the lake or jump on a raft.
We pack up and drive there (Lake Shasta is about a five-hour drive from Oakland), then board the boat for four nights, which we have found is the ideal amount of time on a houseboat. We unload our car into the boat and then pull out from the dock for the four-day period.
It’s a lot of work pulling everything together to get ready, but once you are there, house-boating is relaxing and fun. Kids can play outside for hours and there are no screens!
Houseboats vary in size and come with a kitchen, showers, and a water slide.
We like the Presidential boat, which theoretically sleeps 16 people between the staterooms, bunk beds, and a loft for a gaggle of kids, and has two full baths. We have also enjoyed the Executive, which worked out just fine for our family of four and was more affordable. See which boat model fits your family and budget >
Our normal day consists of fishing, eating, and swimming. The Lake Shasta shoreline is huge, over 300 miles, so we don't see a huge percentage of it. And, we don't see a lot of other people.
We pull up on shore, extend the included ramp, and climb off to explore. Campfires on the shores are allowed, a highlight every night, sitting around eating s'mores and checking out the scenery. Lake Shasta is massive and quite beautiful. We often go to a local marina one day for ice cream and a resupply of ice.
We see deer, bald eagles, osprey , snakes, bull frogs, ducks and geese.
What you need to know about renting a houseboat
It's helpful if at least one member of your party is comfortable driving a large boat. We are fans of the service and locations made available at Silverthorn Resort (Jones Valley) on Houseboats.com.
Staff members give you about a 30-minute orientation on the boat how to drive, toilets, cleaning up, docking, camp fire permits, and procedures, etc.
I recommend planning this vacation when kids are at least 6 years old and comfortable in the water.
Consider sharing a houseboat with another family. It can be expensive. The most economical boat from the place we go is currently quoting about $2000 for three nights in the middle of the summer.
Summer is the prime time for houseboating, so plan ahead.
What to bring on a houseboat vacation (Don't forget!)
The boats are stocked with kitchen items for cooking, a blender, plates, sponges, trashbags, etc. There is a stovetop, oven, microwave, and barbecue.
You'll need to bring your own bedding. (We go with sleeping bags on top of fitted sheets.)
Pro tip: You cannot possibly bring too many towels. Who wants to shower with the same towel they used for the lake? Also, old towels for wiping dirty feet.
Bring all your food and drinks, as if camping, including ice.
You can never bring too much sunscreen.
Bring a citronella candle for the evening to ward off the bugs.
Inflatable rafts, life jackets, and other toys that make jumping off the boat more fun. You can rent jet skis or smaller boats for more activities.
I highly recommend water shoes for walking on the shore. Red clay will turn your shoes wet and yucky pronto.
You'll want to bring indoor activities for relaxation time, too: books, games, drawing supplies. iPads? Sure. (But supplying connectivity is on you.)
If you are looking for a different kind of vacation that offers something special for every member of your family, this could be it. From the minute you wake up until lights out, the fun never stops and the scenery is not bad either!
[All photos by Carol Burton and family; all rights reserved]