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10 Charming Houseboat Rentals for a Social-Distance Summer Trip

By Maggie Fuller

Jun 12, 2020

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This gorgeous blue houseboat is docked in Jamaica Bay, New York.

This gorgeous blue houseboat is docked in Jamaica Bay, New York.

Planning your next trip is smooth sailing with these floating getaways on Airbnb and Vrbo.

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One of the best ways to beat the heat in the summer is heading to the water—whether that means an ocean, lake, river, or canal. But why rent a house near the water when you can actually stay on the water? There are all sorts of floating accommodations across the United States. Some are permanently docked in marina neighborhoods, like those in Seattle and Sausalito. Other cruise freely in popular houseboating destinations like Lake Powell, Lake Mead, and Lake Havasu. You’ll find houseboats floating in places you may not expect, such as a private lake in Virginia or a glampsite on the Mississippi River.

In most of the better-known houseboat destinations, local companies rent out fleets of multiperson boats. But some of the best we’ve seen are these quirky, charming vessels listed on Airbnb and Vrbo. And since you’re renting the entire place, one of these 11 charming houseboat rentals might just be a perfect solution to your summer social-distance vacation needs. 

Watch the sunset on this private deck off Key Largo.

Floating tiny home escape

Book Now: From $160 per night, vrbo.com

Key Largo, Florida
Sleeps: 2

Crank up the Beach Boys and linger by the Florida Keys in this adorable, quirky houseboat. All the amenities have a place in this petite house, including a loft bed with its own window, a kitchenette, toilet and wet bath, as well as a futon couch, a fan, and a top-of-the-line cooler for food and drinks. You could use the tandem kayak to paddle to shore to hang out at nearby restaurants and tiki bars or visit the local state park. But the wooden Adirondack chairs on the deck are just begging you to stay on board and lounge, fish, and watch the sunset while cooking your catch on the barbecue. 

Drink in the view from this designer houseboat in Seattle.

“Sleepless in Seattle” houseboat dream

Book Now: From $539 per night, vrbo.com

Seattle, Washington
Sleeps: 5

It’s hard to believe that this designer home floats. Indeed, the three-bedroom, three-bath space looks more like a house than a boat from the outside. But you can swim off the back deck or moor your dinghy as you could on any houseboat. With huge windows throughout the place, a dining room that converts into a dance floor or yoga studio, a hot tub, and all the water toys imaginable, the 30-day minimum stay might not be long enough.

The red Tessie Ann is moored in Robinhood Cove in Maine.

Unique, romantic, motorless floating island

Book Now: From $307 per night, vrbo.com

Georgetown, Maine
Sleeps: 4

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Moored in Robinhood Cove, the Tessie Ann is exactly the kind of New England maritime experience you may have dreamed of. Onshore, the town is full of saltbox houses in shades of weathered blue and gray. The brick red Tessie Ann’s single bedroom is located in the bow of the boat and has windows on five of the six sides. The dinette area converts into a sleeping area if you’re bringing more than two people. There’s also a bathroom and small, fully equipped galley—or kitchen—and a barbecue on deck, as well as a 15-foot skiff so you can get to and from shore.

Cruise around Lake Shasta in this 20-foot houseboat.

Shasta Marina’s Sumerset houseboat

Book Now: From $905 per night, vrbo.com

Lakehead, California
Sleeps: 20

Lake Shasta is one of the most popular places in the country for houseboat vacations and here, it’s all about the party. The massive Sumerset is the perfect place for a family vacation or reunion, sleeping up to 20 people with six bedrooms, a convertible dining area, and two convertible sofa beds.  The common area makes efficient use of space with a booth-style dining table that has a countertop on either side. But if you’re staying on a houseboat, you want to be outside. The Sumerset’s full-length top deck has four seating areas, including a large wet bar, a barbecue, a hot tub, and, yes, a slide. It’s also one of the few boats on this list that you can drive out of the marina and cruise around on.

The Ziggy Stardust surf house in Rockaway Beach features two indoor hammocks.

Ziggy Stardust surf house

Book Now: From $760 per night, airbnb.com

Queens, New York
Sleeps: 12

Possibly the most striking houseboat on this list is the navy blue one docked in the Jamaica Bay area of Rockaway Beach (also pictured at top). The two-story stunner has been a labor of love for its owners, who have deftly mixed driftwood accents with white walls, bold textiles, contemporary design furniture, and pops of color everywhere. It sleeps 12 in four bedrooms and seven beds. Relax with a book in one of the twin indoor hammocks or kick back on the top deck. There are also picnic tables, benches, and other seating on an attached float.

You’ll fnd this tugboat accommodation on a private lake in Virginia.

Lux tugboat on private lake

Book Now: From $300 per night, vrbo.com

Charlottesville, Virginia
Sleeps: 5

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The interior of this red tugboat has all the elegance of a boutique inn, with exposed beam ceilings, old-fashioned lighting fixtures, and plenty of plush throw pillows. The main floor features a bedroom, bathroom, and fully equipped kitchen. The pilot house, or the upper level of the boat, is a cushioned sitting area surrounded by windows and perfect for reading or stargazing; it also converts into a bed. The boat is docked at the edge of a private lake inside a 142-acre forest, so there’s an outdoor area, a beach, and kayaks, which you can use to paddle to the lake’s island, and a firepit area crowned with twinkle lights. 

Tap into your piratical side in South Carolina.

A pirate’s life for me

Book Now: From $309 per night, airbnb.com

Charleston, South Carolina
Sleeps: 4

This lovely little houseboat with a vaulted ceiling in the main cabin has been completely rebuilt using reclaimed materials. With one bedroom and a daybed in the living room, a kitchen, and a full-size bathroom, it packs a lot into a small space without feeling too cozy. The marina is about two miles from the heart of the historic district and there are plenty of closer restaurants too. But you’ll want to make time to sit on the deck and watch for dolphins—they visit often.

The SS City of Seattle first set sail in 1888 and is currently docked in Sausalito, California.

Historic ferryboat in Sausalito

Book Now: From $400 per night, airbnb.com

Sausalito, California
Sleeps: 6

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Sausalito is well known for its houseboat communities. But the SS City of Seattle isn’t just any houseboat in the marina; the bright yellow ferryboat from 1888 is the oldest surviving ferryboat on the West Coast. It features three bedrooms and two baths, as well as dining and lounge areas with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a remodeled kitchen with a Wolf six-burner range stove. There are also three kayaks and three paddleboards to use to explore the quiet marina.

Enjoy views of Lake Union from the deck of this red houseboat.

Traditional Seattle houseboat

Book Now: From $349 per night, airbnb.com

Seattle, Washington
Sleeps: 4

This bright-red houseboat is a can’t-miss sight in the South Lake Union area. The two-story spot, with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, is within easy walking distance to the coffee shops and restaurants of the Eastlake district as well as the tram to downtown. Spend the day on one of the three kayaks, then grill dinner on the outdoor barbecue and enjoy it on the second-floor terrace while admiring views of Seattle’s skyline. 

Glamp on the Mississippi River.

Harbor Breeze: floating glamping tent at Glamping St. Louis

Book Now: From $93 per night, vrbo.com

Grafton, Illinois
Sleeps: 4

Can’t decide between glamping and a houseboat vacation? You don’t have to with this floating glamping tent on the Mississippi River. The canvas tent features a king-size bed. Camp cots for kids are also available on request. There’s a deck and umbrella, as well as a mini refrigerator and coffee maker. It’s even air-conditioned in the summer. Guests have access to the facilities at the marina (which is more of a glampground), which include bathrooms, showers, and an outdoor kitchen area. 

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>>Next: 13 Isolated Airbnb Cabins Where You Can Escape From the World

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