Houseboating In The PNW – Where To Go & What To Know

If you’re looking towards the PNW for a summer trip, you’d better hurry! The best time to book is always now and the best activities sell out months in advance.

Speaking of the best activities, house boating in the Pacific Northwest has only grown in popularity in the past couple of years as people look to escape both city life and the heat of summer.

While you can launch a houseboat in many different bodies of water (not to mention the coast you have at your disposal in the PNW) there are a couple of spots in the Northwest that have become synonymous with spending time on a houseboat.

So if you’re willing to distance yourself from Lake Powell and do some houseboating in the much greener landscape of the PNW, your options really boil down to:

If you’re planning on houseboating this summer, it’s time to book. The earlier the better if you want to book those all-important holiday weekends and prime weeks of summer.

Best Places For Houseboating In The PNW

In Washington: Lake Roosevelt

If you’re in the U.S. and want to avoid crossing the border (or can’t with current regulations) then your best bet for some overnights on the water is Lake Roosevelt.

Lake Roosevelt has more in common with Lake Powell or the finger lakes in shape that any other bodies of water in the region. Created in 1941 with the advent of the Grand Coulee Dam, Lake Roosevelt feels more like a massively swollen river than anything. It stretches nearly 150 miles north toward Canada but, even at its widest point, it is barely over a mile in width.

The good part of this is that you will likely never be bored on the lake. You can spend weeks exploring up and down the banks of the river as well as taking place in the normal water activities.

While you can obviously ski, wakeboard, or tube in the 60ish-degree water, fishing is one of the real stars of the show. You can catch white sturgeon, smallmouth bass, rainbow trout, walleye, salmon, and a dozen other species throughout the river.

Wildlife of other sorts is also plentiful and you’re likely to see hundreds of different varieties of birds and animals that depend on the river. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a moose watching you from the riverbank.

While cruising the river may feel like you’re navigating the Mississippi there is a huge difference. Houseboating on Lake Roosevelt is a secluding experience. There are no big cities on the river and even towns are few and far between.

So if you’re looking for a wilderness experience with all the comforts of a houseboat, Lake Roosevelt might be just the place for you!

If you’re looking for a shorter stay, renting a boat for an overnight stay in Seattle is also a solid option.

In British Columbia: Lake Shuswap

Scotch Creek, north shore of Lake Shuswap, B.C., Canada

If you’re willing to head a bit further north, B.C. has a houseboating location that (by all accounts, including my own) is superior to Lake Roosevelt.

As amazing as Lake Roosevelt is, proximity is its main draw for me. If my family and I are looking to spend a week or more on the water then we’ll bite the bullet and drive the 4 hours into Canada to the North Okanagan region.

Here, you’ll find Lake Shuswap.

Lake Shuswap is a better houseboating location than anything found in Washington for several reasons. Namely, it’s more beautiful and there is more to do.

There are excellent fishing opportunities, beautiful beaches, waterfall hikes, and more.

If you’re interested in spending some time getting away from it all on a houseboat, Lake Shuswap is the place destination in the northwest.

In Oregon…head to Washington or BC>

Some Tips For Houseboating In The PNW

Now, what about people in Oregon, Northern California, or other parts of the PNW?

Well, my advice is to head to Washington or B.C. Y’all have many amazing things to offer those traveling the PNW but houseboating isn’t one of them.

Now, if you’re new to the idea of houseboating, don’t be intimidated. Many families don’t get into it because they’re simply not “boating families” and have never had the guts to try.

Well, if you’re of average intelligence then you have nothing to fear. Companies that rent houseboats will show you exactly what to do to care for and pilot your houseboat. If you’re looking to get into big boats in any sort of way, renting a houseboat and staying on relatively safe fresh-water lakes is a great way to, ahem, get your feet wet.

The major key to having a great trip (assuming you don’t own your own boat) is to simply find a good company to work with. Most companies go as far as piloting your boat in and out of the docking area for you to make things as easy and stress-free as possible.

If you are able to get over the nervousness of renting and piloting an unfamiliar piece of equipment that is probably worth more than you make in a year, a wonderful adventure awaits you. Houseboating is a more interesting version of spending time in an RV.

Depending on the option you choose it can be akin to an amazing lake-side cabin that you can move at a moment’s notice. You could have a hot tub, a theater, grill, comfortable beds, and more on a houseboat.

So, find an option that has all the amenities that you want and get ready to spend your time exploring the hundreds of unique hideaway coves that the above two lakes have to offer.

Late night on Shuswap Lake, B.C.

One of the final tips I’ll give that will be applicable to most people is to find someone to split costs with. Many houseboats sleep more than a dozen people so inviting someone to go with will add some spice (hopefully not too much) as well as defray the costs.

If you’re looking to rent a boat for a week or more (the minimum amount to time I’d recommend, really) you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 for the week to $1,500 for the night. For a 50′ houseboat with bunks and normal amenities, we typically look to spend around $2,000.

As with most things, the longer period you rent for the more you “save”.


If you were the kid that always pretended to be a boat captain instead of a pilot or astronaut then now is your time to shine. Planning a trip to houseboat in the PNW is a great way to cover as much of the beautiful water-terrain as possible while spending quality time with those you love.

Lots of quality time. In very close quarters. So choose your boat-mates carefully.

Happy sailing!

For more information on houseboating these Northwest lakes, phone 888-454-8825 for Lake Shuswap or 509-725-7229 for Lake Roosevelt. The website for Lake Roosevelt Adventures is Houseboating on Lake Roosevelt

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