2018 UPDATE: Paradise Rental Boats sold its houseboat fleet. This service is no longer available with the company that we reviewed. Rather than delete the article, however, we’ll leave it posted since it may offer insights into the overall experience if you choose to work with another houseboat rental company.
Camp on the water.
Rent a houseboat on Lake Lanier and feel like a VIP: There are only 11 houseboats available for overnight rental in the entire state of Georgia.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Rarely in the world of travel writing is there an opportunity for a scoop—the chance to uncover some totally new story.
This is as close as I may ever get.
In the course of researching this story for Simply Buckhead magazine’s June issue, I learned that only one company in the entire state of Georgia offers overnight houseboat rentals.
This experience is only available on Lake Lanier, which is located less than an hour’s drive north of Atlanta. It’s a big lake with lots of coves, islands, nooks and crannies to explore.
The exclusivity of this experience surprised me and also came as news to the folks who work in Georgia Tourism and Lake Lanier Islands tourism, too. Apparently another company had offered the service a few years ago, then abruptly stopped. Some other companies do rent houseboats for day excursions and some individuals rent houseboats for overnight stays but require that the houseboat remains docked. Paradise Rental Boats lets you drive the houseboat and sleep on it, too.
In my mind, only Paradise Rental Boats’ approach to houseboat rentals makes sense. If you just want to cruise around the lake for a few hours with friends, rent a pontoon or some other boat that’s less expensive and easier to drive. If you want to experience a houseboat, then duh, you have to spend the night. Kudos to Paradise Rental Boats for realizing this and for making it possible.
These houseboats feel like time machines since there’s a distinct retro vibe—I sense the ‘70s and ‘80s, but that’s partly due to the fact that my grandparents had a similar houseboat back then. The décor screams “north woods Wisconsin cabin” with its dark paneling, brown carpeting and bedspreads, and poster of a Canadian goose. If I owned these houseboats, I’d whitewash the walls, swap all the brown for blue, and hang a poster of a great blue heron for more of a Georgia vibe—but if the weather is nice you’ll probably spend most of your time outside on the upper deck anyway, so whatever. The décor feels older than it actually is: The houseboats were most recently remodeled in 2012 with all new furniture, flooring, and appliances.
The 55-foot houseboats offer everything you need for a comfortable stay of two or more nights (there’s a two-night minimum ): A living room, dining room and full-service kitchen are open to one another and a captain’s stool with everything needed for navigation is tucked into a corner. Down the hall are four bedrooms and two bathrooms, only one of which has a shower. (Technically you can sleep up to 10 on these boats, but you’d all be sharing a shower so pick your fellow passengers with that in mind.) Space is at a premium, so each bedroom is furnished with a double bed and a wee closet. That’s it. Nothing fancy. These are like RV campers that float.
Amenities include an entertainment center with satellite television, water slide, propane grill and wet bar.
The driver can sit and manage controls from inside the houseboat or up in the new flybridge on the upper deck.
All of the Paradise Rental Boats houseboats are identical and can sleep up to 10 people with double beds in four bedrooms plus a pull-out sofa in the living room. Two beds are right next to the window so you can lie and gaze at the lake, moon and stars while sleeping on waves as you’re gently rocked to and fro.
Unless you have several drivers and designate shifts in order to tootle around 24/7—which would get expensive in terms of gasoline—you won’t stay on the water all night. These houseboats don’t have anchors so when you want to stop cruising around you have to beach the boat. The rental folks provide detailed instructions about when/where/how/why to do this, but it involves driving the front of the houseboat straight up onto a sandy beach then tying it off. The island is your home for the night. When you’re ready to depart, untie the houseboat, drive in reverse and head back into the open water. (Just remember to pick up all your trash before you leave the island.)
Rent the houseboat with a group of friends or family members and, in Georgia, it’s really something different.
For adults traveling without children, this is a real opportunity: There will be no kids on your rented boat unless you bring them aboard. There are so many islands in this lake that finding a quiet, private section is certainly possible.
Odds of Encountering Children: Zero, unless you bring some along. 21 Plus Salute! Houseboat rentals are available year-round; the most popular timeframe for rentals is Memorial Day through Labor Day. If you want the quietest possible experience on Lake Lanier, choose to go in months when school is in session.
Paradise Rental Boats
c/o Port Royale Marina
8800 Port Royale Drive
Gainesville, GA 30506
770-887-5715 or 855-944-7368
Two night rentals start at $1,199. Average fuel cost for a 48-hour rental with minimal driving around is approx. $400.
Houseboat rentals are available all year and require a two-night minimum. Georgia Law requires rental boat operators must have boater safety education training; Paradise Rental Boats’ boater safety course can be completed online. The renter and all drivers must be at least 25 years old with an official valid driver’s license. No pets. Maximum 16 passengers. Other restrictions apply.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Paradise Rental Boats for overnight use of a houseboat.