What to Know About Shuswap Lake Houseboating

Heading into Mara Lake
Heading into Mara Lake

Have you ever thought about a houseboating holiday on Shuswap Lake in British Columbia? Does it have appeal but you’ve never driven a boat before? Do you think you’ll run into nothing but a bunch of drunken partiers? Are there things to do off the houseboat? Can you play golf? Do you have to cook?

Here are the answers – and 10 things you should know about Shuswap Lake houseboating.

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Where to stay before of after your Shuswap Lake houseboating trip

In Sorrento check out the beautiful cabins at Woodland Cabins Micro Resort. It combines a luxury hotel experience with the serenity of nature. There are several well-equipped cabins to choose from.

Selah Retreat Guest House B&B in Sorrento, rated superb, would also be a great choice.

In Blind Bay check out the exceptionally rated Hannie’s Gasthuis.

Houseboating on Shuswap Lake
Houseboating on Shuswap Lake

1. The town of Sicamous on Shuswap Lake is the houseboating capital of Canada.

Don’t be put off by this fact. Shuswap Lake offers over 1,000 kilometres of shoreline and 309 square kilometres of lake – a deep lake that’s perfect for swimming and boating.

Yes, it has a reputation for party boats – but if that’s not your scene then travel up Seymour or Anstey Arm and get away from the crowds.

Heading into Mara Lake
Heading into Mara Lake

2. Be prepared to relax on a Shuswap Lake houseboating trip.

A quick look at the list of boat names – No Bullship, 19th Hole, Ship of Dreams, Barefoot Elegance, Woody’s Crew…might give you a few clues of what’s expected. 

Absolutely nothing – if that’s what you want. Sit in a hot tub as you watch the world go by. Curl up on a lounge chair. Have a drink at the bar and admire the scenery. Stay in bed till noon. Play board games. Listen to music. A Shuswap Lake houseboating trip can be as relaxing or busy as you want it to be.

Houseboats awaiting the next set of guests
Houseboats awaiting the next set of guests

3. You don’t need boat experience to rent a houseboat on Shuswap Lake.

The folks at Twin Anchors provide a comprehensive one hour orientation. They go through everything from how to operate the appliances in the kitchen (and the boats are fully decked out), to how to use the stereo, DVD player, play station etc. in the living room, to the chemicals used in the toilets.

You’re given plenty of advice on maneuvering the boats, and you’ll learn what you need to know about batteries, bilge pumps, throttles, radios…you name it.

4. Houseboats on Shuswap Lake are loaded with amenities but…

Our houseboat boasted a spacious living room and galley, air conditioning and a fireplace, a gas BBQ, waterslide, hot tub, stacked washer and dryer, home theater center, one bathroom and several staterooms – aka bedrooms.

I would take exception to their stateroom terminology. I lucked out with a “stateroom” complete with a double bed and two small cupboards for my things. I did have sliding glass doors opening to the back of the boat.

Some of the staterooms were little more than cubbies. You aren’t likely going to be spending a lot of time in your room but be prepared for some sour looks if you win the coin toss.

My friend Mike also has this to say – the glaring inequities that I suffered will never be properly documented, other than the social worker’s report buried in some BC whitewash. Hopefully your traveling companions will have the same sense of humour mine did.

My stateroom while Shuswap Lake houseboating
My stateroom

5. Take turns piloting the houseboat.

It’s hard to eat and pilot the houseboat at the same time. Drinking is different – but with up to 200 houseboats, let alone small watercraft on the lake, act responsibly.  

The actual steering of the houseboat is how I imagine it would be driving a super-sized RV – sluggish and unresponsive. It takes a bit of practice to gauge how far to move the wheel. And a bit of courage the first time you try landing on the beach.

Kevin our boat captain expertly piloting the houseboat
Kevin our boat captain expertly piloting the houseboat

5. Getty antsy for some vigorous exercise off the houseboat?

The lake is dotted with parks and many have hiking trails emanating from them. The Shuswap region is famous too for its bike trails – over 675 kilometres of them.

Didn’t bring a bike – no problem. The folks at Skookum Cycle will bring bikes to you – and take you on a guided tour if that’s what you’re after.

Dock the boat and go for a walk
Dock the houseboat on a Shuswap Lake beach and go for a walk
Go for a swim in Shuswap Lake
Go for a swim in Shuswap Lake

6. Interested in a round or two of golf ?

You can drive your houseboat right up to the MaraHills Golf Resort– make a phone call to the office – and in a matter of minutes be out on a course.

It’s a beautiful one too with expansive views of Shuswap Lake. Three other golf courses are also accessible from your houseboat; they are all well-marked on any map and easy to find.

The view from Hyde Mountain Golf Course
The view from Hyde Mountain Golf Course

7. You hate cooking. Are there options for dining when you’re houseboating on Shuswap Lake?

Fortunately there’s a dock in Salmon Arm and from there it’s just a short walk into town to gather supplies.

Have a meal at the Barley Station or grab some fresh pie at the Shuswap Pie Company and bring it back on board. And then of course there’s always the floating Shuswap Shark Shack.

The Shuswap Shark Shack
The Shuswap Shark Shack
Enjoy a flight of beers at the Barley Station
Enjoy a flight of beers at the Barley Station

8. I know I’m in wine country but how can I take advantage of that?

Before you even get on board you could visit a few of the local wineries like Granite Creek Estates and Recline Ridge. But if that’s not possible then check in with Mojo Tours and arrange an afternoon of local tasting. They’ll even pick you up at the dock in Salmon Arm.

Wine country is very accessible
Wine country is very accessible

9. Is there anywhere to have a bonfire on Shuswap Lake?

Providing no fire bans are in place, you can enjoy a bonfire on one of the Shuswap Lake beaches. Bring the marshmallows – or make your own sweat lodge.

What a treat to have a bonfire
What a treat to have a bonfire on the beach

10. How many days should I go Shuswap Lake houseboating?

Once you’re out on Shuswap Lake you’ll probably wish you’d booked more time on the boat. Allow a minimum of three days.

A week is probably enough for most people. The houseboats don’t move quickly so if you want to explore all the arms of the lake in a relaxed manner book as much time as you can afford.

Shuswap Lake houseboating means a well-appointed common area
A well-appointed and laid out common area on one of the Twin Anchors Shuswap Lake houseboats

When is Shuswap Lake houseboating season?

The Shuswap Lake houseboating season starts in June and goes through till the end of October. Low season rates are in effect from May 1st through to June 6th and from September 1st to October 31st.

Peak season is June 27 – July 2nd and July 11-August 22nd. Mid season rates apply for the rest of the summer dates.

Shuswap Lake houseboating allows you to explore this beautiful region
Shuswap Lake houseboating allows you to explore this beautiful region

Further reading on places to visit nearby

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

10 things to know about Shuswap Lake houseboating in BC

  1. We are planning a houseboating vacation this summer. We love to hike and have heard that there are a lot of hiking options but can’t seem to find any real data. Have you seen a site or book with maps that tells where hikes/waterfalls are on the Shuswap?

  2. These are great things to know if house boating in this particular area. However, I would love to add that some of the things you mention can apply to anyone renting a houseboat anywhere. And, if you are looking for specific amenities – air conditioning, large staterooms, food and drink included, or stereo equipment – it is best to do your research before committing to a specific boat. I also love that you make it known that you do not have to have experience to rent a houseboat. If you are not renting a boat that has an assigned captain, it’s okay! With a little bit of training everyone can enjoy piloting the boat and enjoying the fun. Thanks for sharing!

  3. CUrrently exploring the idea of purchasing a former rental houseboat. Do you know of any regulations that might be negative toward private house boating or mooring?

  4. I would like to book a houseboat this summer. Can anyone recommend a company? I noticed on one website that someone posted bug bite pictures from their houseboat experience. I don’t want to experience the same thing.

  5. Very relaxing vacation. The house boats have everything you need. Don’t know why the northern lights were not mentioned but what an assume show every night.

  6. Born and raised in Salmon Arm, and now living in Alberta – I seen the start of the houseboat industry on the lake when I was still in highschool ( back in early 80’s). It wasnt until I graduated and moved to Alberta that my first trip on a houseboat was many yrs later, and I seen first hand the littering and dumpage of waste material( kitchen, toiletries, clothing, parts and accessories/ deck furniature), LOADS of bottles and cans, etc. strait down in the water, at what would be aprox the end of the houseboats end- as its parked nose first on the beaches.
    I know we pay a hefty DD on our VISA, upon booking- and was just wondering if any $$ from the operation of the company, went into clean up of said litering , both under the water and just inside the bushline from the beach areas. After all- the Gem of The Shuswap wont stay sparkly after years of abuse and neglect from partying houseboaters, from where ever they are from. Im not opposed to the means of travel, esp now that waste disposal of black water is no longer just dumped direct into the lake as in earlier yrs….but it would bode well for conservation to happen as the company profits and expands, rather than waiting until all is a disaster and having to do damage control.
    Just concerned about my lake and its arms which I learned to swim in before I walked, and the areas we grew up camping and fishing.

    Thanks for your time

  7. As someone who has houseboated on Shuswap Lake before, and taken extended family along, it was a VERY relaxing time. There is a map on each vessel with approximate times to each spot, and as the boat only goes so fast, you kinda plot your course for the day, point, and enjoy.

    As my one cousin said after our excursion, “That’s the first vacation I have ever taken and felt truly rested at the end!” I’d do it again in a HEARTBEAT!

  8. I’ve never been houseboating on the Shuswap, but I sure have visited it often. As kids we used to boat out to Copper Island. No, I *never* had enough guts to jump the bluffs lol.

    Can’t say I ever saw the Shark Shack. What a fantastic idea. Obviously after my time. Sadly I haven’t been back to BC in many years. We do hope to retire there though. Nothing like it anywhere else I’ve lived in Canada (and that’s several provinces).

    1. @Shannon Thanks for stopping by. I thoroughly enjoyed my houseboating experience – much more than I thought I would. I used to jump off cliffs when I was a kid but I think I’d be too chicken to do that now.

    1. @Billie The houseboating was great fun. Shuswap Tourism had organized the whole thing. Kevin – our captain was the friend of someone – and great company. He graciously agreed to stay on for the three days we were on the boat.

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