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Shuswap Lake houseboating allows you to explore this beautiful region

Shuswap Lake by Houseboat Over 3 days

Sweat is pouring off my face. I’m having a hard time breathing. And it’s not because I’m in a makeshift tent with three half naked guys late in the evening.

Let me back up a few hours. Around lunchtime I’d boarded a houseboat in Sicamous, BC – the house-boating capital of Canada – with four complete strangers; Mike, the travel writer from Calgary, Kevin our houseboat captain, Robyn from Shuswap Tourism and Howard from Thompson Okanagan Tourism.

The plan was to explore Shuswap Lake by houseboat over the course of three days and nights, with additional side trips and activities scheduled so we could get a real flavour for the area.

Our first night out with a beautiful view of the lake
Our first night out with a beautiful view

Here’s how three days on Shuswap Lake unfolded – using a houseboat as a base 

The first day started with a catered lunch followed by a round of golf at Hyde Mountain. Even though I’m not a golfer it was a fun few hours, especially since no one took it seriously. The one real golfer among us, Kevin, who looked after the Banff Springs Hotel golf course for years, was always enthusiastic with his encouragement, even if it was misplaced. And Hyde Mountain is a beautiful golf course.

The view from Hyde Mountain Golf Course over to the lake
The view from Hyde Mountain Golf Course
Houseboating allows you to explore this beautiful region
Beautiful scenery seen around the lake

After that the rest of the day was spent motoring over to a beach for the night – and then sipping local wines from some of the most northern wineries on the planet. It seems though that Kevin has a plan he’ll reveal as the day turns to night.

Kevin gets to work outside building a fire. I’m not sure any of us appreciated what he was up to initially. We were probably rehashing our golf experience – though I bet Mike was pondering his coin toss loss.

When we first got on board Mike and I had to pick rooms. I won the coin toss and scored the stateroom with the sliding glass door looking out to the back. Twin Anchors boasts on their website that the houseboat has five staterooms.

Although the amenities on board are fantastic (fireplace/washer/dryer/great kitchen/DVD player/BBQ/hot-tub…), I think stateroom is a misnomer. My room was great but the other four staterooms were not exactly what I would describe as a stateroom. In fact Kevin declared that he felt like a rodent crawling up into a nest every night.

My stateroom - and the best bedroom on the houseboat
My stateroom – and the best bedroom on the houseboat

Dinner was another catered affair – barbecued salmon, chicken and beef kebabs, sesame stir fried vegetables and rice. Dessert was a gorgeous chocolate birthday cake for me.

Howard expertly cooking kebabs on the outdoor BBQ
Howard expertly cooking kebabs on the outdoor BBQ
Our very spacious and well-appointed kitchen area
Our very spacious and well-appointed kitchen area

Time for a sweat lodge 

It wasn’t until after dinner I fully appreciated what Kevin was up to. He wasn’t building a fire just for the fun of it, but to heat rocks for at least two hours so they’d be hot enough to provide a sweat lodge experience.

In fact he’d brought on board a duffle bag with all the tools to make a sweat lodge – a couple of tarps, something to fasten them together, work gloves and a shovel for moving the hot rocks.

"Captain Kevin in front of his sweat-lodge; the red glow is from the rocks and steam""
Kevin in front of his sweat-lodge; the red glow is from the rocks and steam and a 30 second exposure

And so about an hour after dinner three of us squeezed under the tarps. One by one Kevin placed red hot rocks into the center of the sweat lodge. We immediately felt the blast of heat. Then came the steam and the full on sauna experience. Sometimes it got so hot I could barely catch my breath. But it left me feeling marvelous and relaxed – so relaxed I slept like a baby.

Surprised by the lake after only one day

And so ended my first day on a houseboat. I’d been pleasantly surprised so far. The lake is very beautiful and much bigger than I imagined. You only actually see a small section of the lake from the highway.

And on a weekday in June there was only one other houseboat in sight – so you feel like you’ve got the lake to yourself. Our gang of five turns out to be very congenial, the food outstanding and the wine delicious. The boat is roomy enough that you have a sense of personal space. The only thing missing is sunshine.

Day 2 on the houseboat

We covered a lot of ground on our second day out houseboating on Shuswap Lake. Not only did we spend time enjoying scenery on the lake itself we explored a lot of the Shuswap area off the boat as well.

I started the day with a nature walk right from the boat. While I didn’t go far, it was particularly beautiful in June with loads of wildflowers.

A nature walk from the houseboat on Shuswap Lake
A nature walk from the houseboat 
Out houseboating for part of the day
Out houseboating for part of the day

Next up was some mountain biking with a guide from Skookum Cycle & Ski. While great fun, it wasn’t long before we were all sucking wind. It was a treat to get back on paved roads where the biking was easier.

A local bike company takes us on a guided bike mountain bike tour
A local bike company takes us on a guided bike mountain bike tour

In the afternoon we traded bikes for wine glasses and checked out two of the local wineries – Recline Ridge and Granite Creek – two of the most northern Okanagan wineries.

A stop at Recline Ridge Winery
A stop at Recline Ridge Winery
Wine tasting at Recline Ridge
Wine tasting at Recline Ridge

Our day ended with a delicious dinner on Little Shuswap Lake at Quaaout Lodge and Spa. The property enjoys a stunning location with views down the length of the lake. 

From there it was a 35 minute drive back to Salmon Arm and our houseboat docked in town for the night.

A visit to Quaaout Lodge and Spa for dinner
A visit to Quaaout Lodge and Spa for dinner
Looking out at Little Shuswap Lake from Quaaout Lodge & Spa
Looking out at Little Shuswap Lake from Quaaout Lodge & Spa

Day 3 on the lake

We had docked in Salmon Arm for a night. From the dock it’s just a short walk into town to take advantage of restaurants and cafes. I also took advantage of the shoreline walk into the Nature Bay Wildlife Sanctuary first thing in the morning, well before anyone was up.

It was a treat. You simply walk from your houseboat off the dock and then onto a mixture of boardwalk and dirt path with nary a soul in sight.

Birdsong quite literally filled the air, so if you’re into birding this is a fantastic place to put the binoculars to work. Blue herons, yellow headed blackbirds, warblers, and a myriad of duck types showed me their faces – though several female mallard ducks did their best to distract me from seeing their young.

A tunnel of trees in the Nature Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
A tunnel of trees in the Nature Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
A great blue heron in the nature sanctuary in Salmon Arm
A great blue heron in the nature sanctuary in Salmon Arm

Exploring farm country in the Shuswap region

The plan for the day was centered on a visit to a handful of the local food producers. The Shuswap region is farm country and more and more people have embraced the farm to table concept. Locally made and sourced foods are now readily available.

Our first stop of the day was DeMille’s Farm Market. We had the full tour which was great fun – even for adults – as it includes a petting area with farm animals. I now know that it’s better to be bitten by a goat than a donkey! The store is a must stop on the Trans-Canada Highway – even if you have only a few minutes. It’s impossible to walk away empty handed!

A stop a DeMilles Farm Market
A stop a DeMille’s Farm Market
There are animals to see at DeMille's as well
There are animals to see at DeMille’s as well

Gort’s Gouda was next up (now called Grass Root Dairies). It’s a short drive off of the Trans-Canada to get to the farm. The Wikkerinks, owners since 2007, are justifiably proud of their new barn and state of the art organic cheese making facility. They welcome visitors and are happy to provide tastings of their various Gouda cheeses. I particularly liked their jalapeno and spiced gouda cheese.

Rounds of Gouda cheese
Rounds of Gouda cheese

Next up was a quick lunch stop at the Barley Station – located in the middle of town on the Trans-Canada Highway; it’s a place where beer drinkers are going to want to linger. All the beers offered are brewed on the premises. Ordering a sampler is a great way to figure out which one is your favourite.

Enjoy a flight of beers at the Barley Station
Enjoy a flight of beers at the Barley Station

You’d think by now we’d be stuffed – and we were – but that didn’t stop us for getting pieces of freshly baked pie to go from  the Shuswap Pie Company. And holy Mother of Pie – these are good.

The Shuswap Pie Company
The Shuswap Pie Company

Back on board it was time to motor down the lake and spend the night closer to nature. Unfortunately water levels on the lake were high so we didn’t have the privacy you would normally expect to have in the off-season. It was the only glitch in three days and not something anyone could control. In the end it didn’t even matter.

We ended the third night with a catered Indian meal. It wasn’t as though we needed to eat another bite but it was positively delicious.

And so ended what can only be described as an incredible day in the Shuswap Region. Until I’d stayed on a houseboat, I really hadn’t appreciated the depth of what one can experience in the area. Truly, it’s a region worth exploring – not only for the houseboating – and I only got a small taste of that – but for the local food, the wine, the golf and most definitely for both road and mountain biking.

Moody lake
Moody lake

Further reading on things to do in British Columbia in summer

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Exploring Shuswap Lake in BC by houseboat over 3 days

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. I totally regret not doing this when I was in the Okanagan! Agh! I want a houseboat with the water slide attached. That boat looks better than my HOUSE!

  2. I totally regret not doing this when I was in the Okanagan! Agh! I want a houseboat with the water slide attached. That boat looks better than my HOUSE!

    1. @Candice Apart from some “staterooms” being cramped it was a fabulous boat. And the bottom line is you hope for sunshine and you’re only using your bedroom to sleep in anyway. Wish it had been warm enough to use the slide too.

  3. Have never been on a true houseboat, but have been on a cabin cruiser many times. This is my kind of trip. Boating, golf, and grilling in one! And you’re right…all it takes is one good shot on the golf course and you’re hooked!

  4. Have never been on a true houseboat, but have been on a cabin cruiser many times. This is my kind of trip. Boating, golf, and grilling in one! And you’re right…all it takes is one good shot on the golf course and you’re hooked!

    1. @Deej I’m not sure if I’m hooked on golf but I’m certainly willing to try it again. I’ll even go the driving range this summer just to see if I can smack anything without it taking 5 swings.

  5. I can’t believe you made a sweatlodge on a houseboat! I’ve never stayed on a houseboat before, but we love boats so it’ll happen eventually. 🙂

  6. I can’t believe you made a sweatlodge on a houseboat! I’ve never stayed on a houseboat before, but we love boats so it’ll happen eventually. 🙂

    1. @Christy We actually tied up to a beach – which you do every night when you’re houseboating – so the sweat lodge was very much on a beach and not the boat!! We would have set it on fire otherwise.

  7. I like your narrative style in this post, Leigh. I went house boating on Lake Shasta in northern california about 6 years ago and had the best time. I really hope to have the opportunity to do it again.

  8. I like your narrative style in this post, Leigh. I went house boating on Lake Shasta in northern california about 6 years ago and had the best time. I really hope to have the opportunity to do it again.

  9. This is definitely NOT how I thought a houseboat! It is luxurious and spacious, well except for Mike’s (state)room. A sweatlodge and golfing to boot! What a great experience. Can’t wait to hear about Day 2.

  10. This is definitely NOT how I thought a houseboat! It is luxurious and spacious, well except for Mike’s (state)room. A sweatlodge and golfing to boot! What a great experience. Can’t wait to hear about Day 2.

  11. That’s quite a roomy houseboat. I wouldn’t mind staying in one or living in one, for that matter. I can do without a sweat lodge, though.

  12. That’s quite a roomy houseboat. I wouldn’t mind staying in one or living in one, for that matter. I can do without a sweat lodge, though.

    1. @Michael Fortunately you could opt out of the sweatlodge. We were discussing Europeans – and what there take might be on the experience because it really is a roomy boat and certainly bedroom sizes are in line of what you’d find in Europe.

  13. What a lucky flip of the coin! Your room looks great – you’ll have to show us the others as well. Never stayed in a floating RV, but this certainly looks tempting.

  14. What a lucky flip of the coin! Your room looks great – you’ll have to show us the others as well. Never stayed in a floating RV, but this certainly looks tempting.

  15. So this is why you didn’t have time to visit me? You were busy huddling under a tarp with three half-naked guys? Yeah…I’ll give you that one. Hope you got to enjoy the rest of the Shuswap without getting poured on. It’s really a pretty area.

  16. So this is why you didn’t have time to visit me? You were busy huddling under a tarp with three half-naked guys? Yeah…I’ll give you that one. Hope you got to enjoy the rest of the Shuswap without getting poured on. It’s really a pretty area.

  17. Yes I have been houseboating but yours looks like it was much more beautiful and comfortable! We spent our houseboat experience on Lake Mead Arizona in early July. How do you stay comfortable in 115 degree heat that doesn’t really go away even at night? Funny thing is, all the children (8 of them) would go again and all the adults (a mere 4) would not, at least not on Mead 🙂

  18. Yes I have been houseboating but yours looks like it was much more beautiful and comfortable! We spent our houseboat experience on Lake Mead Arizona in early July. How do you stay comfortable in 115 degree heat that doesn’t really go away even at night? Funny thing is, all the children (8 of them) would go again and all the adults (a mere 4) would not, at least not on Mead 🙂

    1. @Debbie I hate heat like that so I totally understand your reticence to go houseboating again. Shuswap Lake would not get that hot, the houseboats are roomy and the lake would be refreshing to col off in – a few advantages over Lake Mead and Powell – though I lo ve the scenery in that area.

  19. You really got my attention with the “three half naked guys” line! 🙂 A lot of people go houseboating on Mt. Shasta here in N. California and we’ve always wanted to try it. I’d like to have the same accommodations you had, including your stateroom — looks very nice. I’d also like to try my hand at golf again. Only played once – years ago. Left a lot of earth dug up.

  20. You really got my attention with the “three half naked guys” line! 🙂 A lot of people go houseboating on Mt. Shasta here in N. California and we’ve always wanted to try it. I’d like to have the same accommodations you had, including your stateroom — looks very nice. I’d also like to try my hand at golf again. Only played once – years ago. Left a lot of earth dug up.

    1. @Cathy There were a lot of patches of earth that needed fixing after I was through – more like reseeding – but at least I had fun. I hadn’t realized until I wrote this blog that there was houseboating on Mt. Shasta – Lake Shasta??

  21. What a great adventure, Leigh! Awesome way to get our attention on the first sentence too =) I’ve never gone on a houseboat but have always wanted to go on one especially in the Lake Powell region in Nevada. Your room looks wonderful and the Shuswap Lake region just looks amazing.

  22. What a great adventure, Leigh! Awesome way to get our attention on the first sentence too =) I’ve never gone on a houseboat but have always wanted to go on one especially in the Lake Powell region in Nevada. Your room looks wonderful and the Shuswap Lake region just looks amazing.

    1. @Mary Shuswap Lake is very beautiful. I also have always wanted to go houseboating on Lake Powell – but I think I’d go in the off season when you mostly get the place to yourself – and to bypass the party types. I’m not into the party scene and we got a small taste of it one night – not impressed.

  23. Kashmir houseboats are associated closely with the valley’s culture and traditions. A brilliant idea that started from constructing small boats was later revolutionized with transforming these boats into spacious modern styled floating hotels. houseboats are all made of the finest cedar wood that follows with intricate walnut wood carvings, paneled walls and tiled baths. Our boats are categorized in the super deluxe category and each boat has an assorted number of three to four bedrooms with a private bath and wash room.

  24. @Kashmir The houseboats in India sound quite lovely though they are quite a different experience than that experience in the Shuswap area. Still one day I’d like a 3-4 days on one.

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