How to Plan the Best Summer Houseboat Holiday

Plan a memorable family vacation with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia. Shuswap Lake houseboating.

If you’ve done the road trip, been to Italy, rented that oceanfront cottage, and waited in those Disney lines (not once but five times?!), perhaps it’s time to think about a new summer holiday plan for the family. Think lazy days floating on the beautiful blue waters of Shuswap Lake in Canada’s sun-splashed north Okanagan region. Think about Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

It sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Our family had talked about houseboating for years now. After all, houseboating is a great family-friendly summer holiday activity. It’s economical, accommodates between 2 to 30 family members and friends, and offers the chance to slow down, destress, and discover new places and spaces in your own floating vacation home.

We’re lucky to live just a few hours drive from Sicamous, but it turns out that people come from all over the world to enjoy Shuswap houseboat rentals. And you don’t have to be a professional sailor to do it either. Here’s how to plan a memorable Shuswap Lake houseboating experience for your family.

Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia. Shuswap Lake houseboating.

Houseboat Vacations on Shuswap Lake

Start in Sicamous

While you can rent houseboats in other towns along Shuswap Lake, Sicamous is the houseboating capital of Canada for a good reason. It’s in a great location to easily access the four arms of Shuswap Lake in the north Okanagan region of British Columbia. The four arms form a letter-H shape and are; Salmon Arm (southwest), Shuswap Arm (west), Anstey Arm (northeast), and Seymour Arm (north). The lake system has more than 1,000 kilometers of shoreline and 310 square kilometers of lake to explore. You won’t get bored finding a new beach, hiking trail, waterfall or even Indian Pictographs to discover.

Our houseboat was the ‘Jade VI’ Mirage houseboat from Waterway Houseboats in Sicamous. Waterway has an extensive inventory of houseboats that can accommodate families, groups of friends, couples, and family reunions of up to thirty people. The company has been in the houseboat rentals business for fifty years, and their staff are extremely knowledgeable about anything and everything to do with houseboating.

The summer months are the busiest for houseboating in Sicamous. The spring and mid-August to October timeframe are less crowded, and the lake system is just as gorgeous. The sooner you can plan your vacation dates, the better is to book your houseboat early.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

You Don’t Need Experience to Rent a Houseboat

Not a sailor? Not a problem. I’m not a sailor or a boater, and you don’t have to be either. The video and live orientation presentations cover just about everything you need to know about houseboat operations. From starting the engine to tying up for the night and everything in between. If you forget something, there’s a quick tips cheat sheet and Captain’s binder on board to help with trouble-shooting. Plus, Waterway HQ is always reachable via CB radio.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Still, there is a lot of information to absorb, so it helps to have a few co-captains share the responsibility and houseboat duties. Our mother and son trip was just the two of us, which is the bare minimum to operate the houseboat. We were nervous at first. I didn’t want to float away during the night! But you learn by doing. We did it, and so can you.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Relax and Go with the Flow

Houseboating is a genteel way to travel and see the expanse of Shuswap Lake. You move at a slow but steady pace, so you can’t be in much of a rush anyway. It may take a day to slow your own mind and body down to match the boat’s pace. It’s actually really nice to not have to rush to go anywhere. If you want to stop in the middle of the lake, enjoying the view from the hot tub or to let the kids slide down the waterslide and swim, go right ahead. There’s no wrong way to enjoy your houseboat vacation.

That was one of my favorite things about houseboating. You can do as much or as little activity as you wish. I’d recommend looking over the activity guides and maps to plan your daily routes, hikes, and waterfall visits. And don’t forget to plan which beach you’ll dock at each night. You will have to beach and tie down the houseboat each night – that’s a hard rule. Preferably before it gets dark, trust me on this.

Get Off the Boat and Discover Shuswap Lake

Remember those 1,000 kms of shoreline? There are lots of reasons to get off the boat (just tie it up first) and explore the Shuswap Lake system. There are many beaching areas to access marine parks, hiking trails, Indian pictographs, waterfalls and even a couple golf courses. If weather permits, you can have campfires on the beach. Get a handy vacation planner and Shuswap trail guide here.

If you want to try your hand at mountain biking, paddling boarding or kayaking, the Waterway activity centre has recreation rental options available.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Take Turns Piloting the Houseboat

Anyone over 19 years of age can pilot a houseboat. They just have to view the video, participate in the on-site orientation and sign the waivers. It’s a good idea to share the piloting duties so everyone can really enjoy the houseboat holiday. While my son was just shy of legally being my co-captain, he did prove himself to be a wonderful First Mate. He was super helpful with navigating, trouble-shooting, and beaching the houseboat each night.

Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia. Check out our great tips for planning a great Shuswap Lake houseboating holiday.


Lots of Amenities, but You Need to Bring Some Things from Home

Our houseboat was the ‘Jade VI’, a Mirage model houseboat that can accommodate up to ten people. Depending on the season, our houseboat rents weekly between $2,800 to $5,500. *Prices subject to change. Three day weekend and four day midweek rental options are available as well.

In terms of space, we had more than enough room for just my son and I. The kitchen in the Jade VI was newly renovated with a full fridge, microwave, toaster and gas stove. In addition to the sleeping quarters for ten, there were two bathrooms, a rooftop hot tub, BBQ, dining area, seating area, television and fireplace.

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

So the houseboats are well kitted-out. But similar to renting an RV or cottage, you will need to bring a few things from home.

  • All food items, including coffee, sugar, salt, spices and meal supplies
  • Bedding – sheets, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags
  • Towels – Hand, bath, kitchen and beach
  • BBQ accessories, Matches
  • Cooler, Lawn chairs, Kitchen supplies (saran wrap, tinfoil, Ziploc containers)
  • Blender – for those frozen margaritas
  • Fishing Gear/License
  • Books, Games, Playing Cards, DVDs
  • Flashlights, Extension cords
  • Personal Medications, Sunscreen, Bug Spray

If you’re buying food locally, check out DeMille’s Farm Market in Salmon Arm for seasonal produce and organic goods; Askews Foods in Sicamous for local artisan fare; and Fruit World for seasonal fruits and produce. (Check out the ice cream at D Dutchmen Dairy across the street.)

Thinking about Shuswap Lake house boating? Plan a memorable family vacay with Shuswap houseboat rentals in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Safety First

Every houseboat has life jackets on board, as well as carbon monoxide monitors and fire extinguishers. Fireworks are not allowed anywhere on Shuswap Lake, and campfires are only allowed on beaches, weather and fire bans permitting. If you’ve packed alcoholic beverages for the holiday, don’t overindulge. Never drink and boat.

If you’re worried about small children or pets (houseboats are pet-friendly), Waterway Houseboats rents Safety Turtle alarms for an extra fee. Kids wear the green turtle wristband, which connects to a base alarm that alerts parents if the child falls into the water.

Houseboating Shuswap Lake makes for a memorable, fun and affordable summer holiday for the family. Have you been houseboating? Share your tips below.

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Plan a memorable family vacation with this ultimate guide for Shuswap houseboat rentals. Enjoy Shuswap Lake houseboating in the houseboating capital of the world, Sicamous, British Columbia.

Photo Credits: Waterway Houseboats, Claudia Laroye

Disclosure: The writer thanks Thompson Okanagan and Shuswap Tourism for hosting our houseboating adventure. As always, our opinions are honest and our own.

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32 Comments

  • We live house boating on the canals in the UK, but have never thought about on an open lake like Sicamous. It looks so beautiful and navigating the openness would be so liberating.

  • Nicole says:

    I have never thought of renting a house boat for a holiday. This part of British Colombia looks so stunning. So fun!

  • Linda says:

    We have always wanted to try renting a houseboat. The canal and lock system in Ontario is very good for this. But trying this in the Okanagan region may be an even better thing to consider. I did not know that Sicamous was the houseboat capital of Canada. Good to know this is the spot to start. I love that you can just stop and land where you want. A great way for slow lazy exploring. Thanks for the list of things to bring from home. Thanks for this great post. Maybe next summer!

  • I love houseboats! We did that a few times when I was a kid and it was fantastic. Happy to see it coming back into style. Shuswap Lake looks ideal for a house-boating adventure, but that water looks cold. 😀

    • Claudia says:

      So lucky Vanessa!! The water isn’t as cold as it may look, even in late August. Though the Lake does get deep, but shallow swimming is very pleasant, especially as it can get super hot in summer – 40C+! It’s wonderful to be able to cool off.

  • Wow, this seems like an incredible experience. I would love to try this for a couple of days. Although Sicamous is a bit far from my city, I might just try it in England. They have these small boats around here too.

  • Jody Robbins says:

    I’ve always wanted to houseboat! I missed that boat in University, but it looks like a good option for teen travel.

  • Mizhelle says:

    I had never heard of houseboating before stumbling upon your post. This looks really fun! I can picture myself enjoying a good book while doing it, or perhaps dining with family and friends.

    • Claudia says:

      Well I’m so glad that you did stumble on to the article and learned something about houseboating! It’s really a great way to see a beautiful part of British Columbia.

  • Lisa says:

    This is such a fantastic idea! I would LOVE to try a houseboat vacation. It looks and sounds so relaxing, but can also be great for groups – so cool! Although I do not have kids, I love the extra safety precaution in place if a child falls into the water.

    • Claudia says:

      I know, right? Those safety turtles are true peace of mind for parents with littles. I would have used them for mine for sure.

  • Jas says:

    I’ve always alwaysssss wanted to do a houseboat stay and did a bit of research for this summer, but never ended up making plans because of the expensive prices. This is totally making me regret it though especially since I live right here in BC too! Waterway Houseboats seems to have better deals, however, so thanks for sharing your experience with us and I know what I’ll be doing next summer!

    • Claudia says:

      I’m glad the article has convinced you to plan a trip in the near future! That’s great to hear. Let me know if I can be of help.

  • Carrie says:

    Hahaha “never drink and boat” seems like such common sense, but I can imagine some folks still do it. They really have boats that can fit 30 people? That sounds like a great option for a big family holiday!

    • Claudia says:

      Yes, so true. Yes, boats for 30 people! Those are BIG houseboats – pretty much triple decker-sized.

  • I’ve always wanted to rent a houseboat (in Australia) and so this had a lot of good ideas about where to start. I think I still may wait until kids are a tad bigger too.

  • sherianne says:

    I haven’t heard of Shuswap Lake or ever considered renting a houseboat but the down time would be wonderful and British Columbia is beautiful. Love the waterfalls – I’m sold!

  • Melinda says:

    This is great! My hubby has been saying that he wants to houseboat one summer, for as long as we’ve been married. I love the idea of going with multiple families and pending a week just having a blast! Thanks for sharing your experience and recommendations.

    • Claudia says:

      I agree! It would be blast to houseboat with another one to two families and whacks of kids. Loads of fun and lots of hands to help out with the chores and piloting the boat.

  • Claire says:

    I have thought about doing a houseboat holiday on the canals in France but not on a lake in Canada, what a great idea! The shoreline looks like a cool place to explore – it’s good to know about all the extras you’d need to take too – I would have assumed most of that would be included!

  • Christina says:

    I have always wanted to rent a houseboat. This has just increased my wanderlust for one. What a wonderful way to explore. And having the safety turtle is extra reassurance for parents with little kids.

    • Claudia says:

      That’s great Christina. I hope you get the chance to rent a houseboat with your littles soon.

  • Lillie says:

    Fascinating… I’d never thought about doing the houseboat thing before, but now am intrigued!

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