Rent a Houseboat in the U.S.A. [Exclusive]

Camp on the water.

7
rent a houseboat

By Hope S. Philbrick with additional reporting by Katie DeTar

Two years ago, in the course of researching this story for Simply Buckhead magazine, I learned that only one company in the entire state of Georgia made it possible to rent a houseboat overnight.

Here, I posted an inside scoop with more information. That post has been popular. But last year Paradise Boat Rentals sold its entire fleet of 11 houseboats.

The good news is we’ve found several other vendors that rent houseboats, including several beyond Georgia. We will continue to add more to this list as we find them.

In choosing which companies to feature, Katie and I agreed to what we consider common-sense: These companies rent houseboats so that you can drive the houseboat around the river or lake and sleep on board, too. Some other companies do rent houseboats for day excursions and some individuals rent houseboats for overnight stays but require that the houseboat remains docked. If you just want to cruise around for a few hours with friends, we think it makes more sense to 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 and you have to leave the dock. Kudos to these companies for realizing this and for making it possible.

Since it was the focus of our original post, we’ve also included everything we could find for houseboating on Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, Ga. Scroll down for details.

Houseboat Rental Roundup

-researched by Katie DeTar, 6/2/19

Who: Mid-Lakes Navigation
Where: New York State, along the Erie Canal. All boats depart from Macedon, New York.
Fleet: 11 Lockmaster-style Erie Canal boats available in various configurations to accommodate 2-6 guests.
Details: Charter options available for 3, 4, or 7 nights. Fuel and tolls included in the pricing.
Captain: Renters captain their own boat following a comprehensive orientation, including a lesson on boat passage through the Erie Canal lock systems. Travelling at night along the Canal is not allowed.
Amenities: All boats are equipped with bath and bed linens, kitchenware, and boat handling and safety equipment. Kitchens include a small stove and oven, small refrigerator and central heat. Mid-Lakes Navigation also provides bicycles for exploring the villages and towpath trails along the route.
Rent: Rental rates range from $1750 to $3500 depending on the size of the boat and trip duration.
Operational Season: Mid May through early October
Experience: Boat travel is a slow leisurely pace of 5 mph through small villages and scenic expanses of Upstate New York. The canal towns along the route offer overnight tie-ups and electric and water hook-ups for a small fee.
More Information: Visit Mid-Lakes Navigation for 360-degree tour of the boat interiors, or visit the YouTube channel for customer testimonials and travel videos.
About the Erie Canal: Click Erie Canalway National Heritage for full information on the historic Erie Canal and the New York State Canal System.

rent a houseboat rent a houseboat

Who: Flamingo Adventures at Everglades National Park
Where: The Flamingo Marina in Homestead, Florida, which is 38 miles from the entrance to Everglades National Park.
Fleet: Four 42-foot houseboats accommodating 6 guests each. Three of the boats have three beds (one queen, one full, and one twin pull-out sofa), one boat has four beds (full-sized bunk beds, one full bed, and one twin pull-out sofa)
Details: Two-night minimum on all charters. 24 gallons of fuel included with rental fee, refueling costs will be charged upon return. Renters are required to stay within the boundaries of Whitewater Bay and are not permitted to navigate the Shark River out to the Gulf of Mexico. All boats are strictly non-smoking.
Captain: Renters captain their own boat. However, per Florida State law, anyone born after January 1, 1988 must possess a valid boater’s safety card or certificate. Minimum age to rent is 25-years-old.
Amenities: All boats are equipped with hot water, large bathroom with shower and standard-size toilet, 70 gallons of fresh water, microwaves, and 3-burner stove. Note that the air conditioning and power outlets only operate with the addition of a rental generator. Boats are stocked with bed linens, paper products and soap.
Rent: $350/night; additional $50/night for generator rental
Operational Season: Year-round
Experience: The Everglades National Park is one of the largest wilderness areas in the United States, known for bird watching and fishing.
More Information: Reserve online through Flamingo Adventures or call 855-708-2207.

rent a houseboat rent a houseboat

Who: KeySea Houseboats
Where: The Florida Keys. All boats depart from Key Largo, Florida, for cruising on Largo Sound, Blackwater Sound and Barnes Sound.
Fleet: One 35-foot Catamaran Cruiser accommodating 2-4 guests
Details: Charter options available for trips between 2 and 7 nights. Pricing does not include fuel or taxes.
Captain: Renters captain their own boat following a comprehensive orientation covering houseboat operation, anchorages and general geography of the area. The driver must have boating experience prior to renting.
Amenities: The catamaran is stocked with 100 gallons of fresh water. The kitchen is equipped with all dishes and cutlery, a microwave and coffee maker. Bed linens, pillows, bath towels and toiletry items are pre-stocked. There is a flat-screen TV, DVD collection, outdoor propane grill, full shower, GPS system and deck chairs. Note that the air conditioning only operates when docked.
Rent: Rental rates start at $365 per night
Operational Season: Year-round
Experience: The subtropical waters of the Florida Keys are known for wildlife viewing, birding and fishing. The catamaran includes a double kayak for exploring the mangrove forests, and all fishing and snorkeling gear.
More Information: Visit KeySea Houseboats or call 305-394-3096.

rent a houseboat

Who: Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock
Where: Bull Shoals, Arkansas, for cruising on Bull Shoals Lake.
Fleet: 60-foot and 50-foot houseboat options in various bedroom and sleeping configurations sleep 10-14 people.
Details: Charter options available for trips between 3 and 7 nights. Subject to availability, renters can board houseboats the evening prior to departure for an additional fee. Fuel is not included in rental fee. Note that pets are allowed on the 50-foot boats with a $50 per pet fee.
Captain: Renters captain their own boat following an orientation of boat operations and features during a 30-minute “shakedown” cruise.
Amenities: Kitchens include full-sized refrigerator (60-foot boats have two refrigerators) and 4-burner gas stove, dishes, cooking utensils and necessary propane gas. Boats have showers, deck chairs, outdoor grills and all safety equipment. Note that linens are not provided.
Rent: Rental rates range from $425 to $3900 depending on season, trip duration and boat size.
Operational Season: Year-round
Experience: Bull Shoals Lake is a popular destination reservoir known for hundreds of miles of private coves and year-round fishing.
More Information: Click Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock for more information and video tours of the houseboats.

rent a houseboat

Who: LOTO Sales and Service
Where: Sunrise Beach, Missouri, for cruising on Lake of the Ozarks.
Fleet: 59-foot houseboat sleeps up to 10 people
Details: Charter options available for trips between 3 and 7 nights. Fuel is not included in rental fee. High season runs May 15 through September 30, discounts given for off-season rentals.
Captain: Renters captain their own boat and are required to have a valid driver’s license and credit card.
Amenities: Boat is stocked with paper products, soap, basic kitchenware, gas grills, ice chest, propane gas and deck chairs. Note than linens, towels, pillows and fishing gear are not included.
Rent: Rental rates range from $600 to $1800 depending on season and trip duration.
Operational Season: Year-round
Experience: Lake of the Ozarks is a popular leisure destination with many waterfront restaurants and bars, some accessible by boat with docking slips.
More Information: Visit LOTO Sales and Services’ houseboat rental page for more information.

Who: State Dock Marina
Where: Jamestown, Kentucky, for cruising Lake Cumberland.
Fleet: More than 125 boats in 12 different models, sleeping up to 18 people. Boats range from 64-foot to 90-foot, with the largest boat featuring three full bathrooms and eight private cabins.
Details: Trip durations and boat amenities vary. Fuel is not included in rental fee.
WaveRunners, water skis and tubing gear can be added to the houseboat rental. Pet-friendly rentals are available with a $250 pet fee. Grocery delivery available.
Captain: Renters captain their own boats following a safety orientation. State Dock marina staff pilot every rental in and out of the marina.
Amenities: All houseboats include full kitchens, grills, GPS units, stereos, coolers, outdoor furniture, and waterslides. Most boats in the fleet have hot tubs. Linens are included.
Rent: Rental rates start at $1,478 and vary widely depending on boat size, amenities, season and trip duration.
Operational Season: April through October.
Experience: Lake Cumberland is 101-mile-long reservoir including a scenic waterfall, 258-foot-high dam, campgrounds, marinas and two state parks. Known as “the houseboat capital of the world,” Lake Cumberland is a popular recreation, vacation and fishing destination.
More Information: Visit State Dock or call 888-782-8336 for more information. State Dock’s website includes a video series on boat safety and houseboat operations.

Lake Lanier, Georgia

A representative of Lake Lanier originally told us that a new vendor would once again make it possible to rent a houseboat overnight on Lake Lanier. We have since learned that vendor, Margaritaville, is not offering houseboats for overnight rentals; it does, however, offer daytime houseboat charters and claims to have the largest fleet of boats for rent on Lake Lanier. Houseboat rentals are for 5 hours and cost from $1400 to $3500.

A representative for a different company calling itself “the Airbnb of Boats” reached out to us with the claim that it had overnight houseboat rentals available on Lake Lanier, but we were not able to find any listings on the website (and we both checked). We’re not naming the company nor providing a link because we think you should take your business elsewhere.

Paradise Boat Rentals sold its fleet of 11 houseboats, but has other types of boats available for rent on Lake Lanier.

More Information…

Odds of Encountering Children: Zero, unless you bring some along. 21 Plus Salute! Houseboat rentals are available year-round; the most popular timeframe for houseboat rentals is Memorial Day through Labor Day. If you want the quietest possible experience, choose to go in months when school is in session.

rent a houseboat

–Photos courtesy featured houseboat rental providers. Click on individual images for details.

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 for the original story and post; we are sorry that you sold your fleet!

Hope S. PhilbrickHope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.
Katie DeTarKatie DeTar is the host and producer of “Fringe Benefits,” a Public Television travel series that highlights destinations in and around featured American cities. The show also delves into nearby and lesser-known villages, scenic highlights, unique shopping, local flavor, and relaxing getaways found just on the fringe of the featured city. Learn more about Katie and “Fringe Benefits” here. Follow her on Instagram @katiedetar.

7 COMMENTS

    • Hi Lisa, Sounds fun! To make reservations you’ll need to contact Paradise Boat Rentals directly. The link is in the article (just click on their bold name in the “More Information…” section at the bottom). Or call them at 770-887-5715. Thanks for reading!

  1. As of today they no longer offer this rental. I’m so sad, I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, and they’ve done this rental for years. Now they told me that they’ve sold all of their house boats as of Sept. 2018.

    • Thank you to alerting us to this sad news! I just called to confirm that Paradise Rental Boats sold its entire fleet of houseboats. The company representative offered no information about who purchased the fleet (I had hoped that whoever bought it would be offering the service on Lake Lanier instead, but I haven’t found information that is the case). There are some private owners on Lake Lanier who rent houseboats (as an AirBnB / VRBO option), but back when I originally researched this story none of those private owners let you take the houseboat away from the dock, in which case, what is the point? There are houseboat rental options in other states including Kentucky and Missouri.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.