A three hour drive from the San Francisco bay area to Lake Shasta, we arrived at our destination, Shasta Marina Resort, in the early afternoon. The summer sun was already beating down on us; we were happy to be greeted at Shasta Marina with misters spraying fine curtains of water overhead. Our hosts and owners of Shasta Marina Resort, Anna & John Harkrader, had fled the bay area in 1999, after successful careers and raising a family, to begin a new life on Lake Shasta. Today, their job was to teach a family of two baby boomers with two young adults, along with a yellow Labrador retriever, how to survive and thrive houseboating on Shasta Lake for three days and three nights.
Our floating paradise
As this was our first attempt houseboating Shasta Lake, we decided on the luxurious 16 Sleeper Thoroughbred houseboat – our motto for this family vacation ‘go big or go home’. Additionally, Shasta Marina Resort offers the 16 or 14 Sleeper Mirage. Manufactured in Kentucky, the Thoroughbred is a 15 x 56 foot, full-wide cabin houseboat with a hull design, offering state rooms below deck. Two private sleeping areas with 2 queen beds, a mirror and sink, are below deck. On the main deck there were 3 state rooms, two with double beds and one with bunk beds. Naturally, “the kids” claimed the double bed rooms and we bunked in the queen stateroom below. The dining table and sofa both convert to double beds if you need the extra space.
The kitchen came equipped with stainless steel appliances, including a 28 cubic foot refrigerator with freezer and ice maker, as well as a kitchen island with bar stools, dishwasher and trash compactor. Our kitchen was stocked with Pottery Barn dishes, silverware, pots, pans, utensils and the ever important coffee maker and wine opener. The dinner plates were huge – large enough to serve Big Foot.
Failed houseboat mooring attempt
After motoring down the Sacramento River arm, we had a failed mooring attempt between Slaughterhouse Island and Thunderbolt Island on day one. “Don’t you remember the fellow saying to ‘stay away from the red clay?’” our 18-year-old questioned the patriarch and newbie houseboater who had selected what looked to be a prime spot surrounded by ankle sucking, muddy, red clay soils. The two men sunk 3 foot, wrought iron stakes into the ground, along with rope attached, to moor our houseboat for the night, only to watch them slide down the hillside like a slow moving lava flow. Sweating and cursing, my husband admitted defeat and we abandoned ship in search of solid ground.
Houseboat home in Dolly Cove
With our ski boat bobbing merrily behind us like a baby duckling following mama, we found success at Dolly Cove. After high fives all around, we celebrated our mooring victory with a round of wake boarding with Shasta Dam looming in the distance. Shasta Lake was as smooth as glass that evening and offered a gorgeous mountain sunset as we grilled fresh wild Alaskan Sockeye salmon and munched on Brentwood, California sugar sweet corn on the cob, followed by a relaxing soak in the rooftop hot tub. Eureka, we had discovered California gold on Lake Shasta!
Lake Shasta electronic free zone
The kids liked the large flat screen tv, but quickly learned that this trip would be an electronic free zone. As we left Shasta Marina behind us, we cut loose our ties to our smartphones and television, instead turning to books, card games and remembering how to kick back and go with the flow of the lake. The entertainment center offered DVD and stereo with iPod hookup, enabling us to blast tunes while we splashed into the lake via the water slide on the top deck. Thankfully, music could be piped directly into each deck, so both the baby boomers and young adults could enjoy their own music selections.
Shasta Lake recreation
I quickly learned the boating concept of Shasta Lake. Whoever has the most water toys wins! We had our bases covered at Shasta Marina Resort as we rented a ski boat loaded with water skis, wake board and tube for towing behind the boat, in addition to our Thoroughbred houseboat. Our kids loved wake boarding and water skiing, followed with a soak in the hot tub – good for restoring tired muscles. Everyone loved splashing into Lake Shasta from the upper deck slide! Shasta Marina Resort also rents jet skis – customers must rent accompanying ski boats or jet skis for the same amount of time as the houseboat rental.
Rates vary depending on off season, mid season and high season – check the website for current pricing. High season pricing for 3 nights on the 16 Sleeper Thoroughbred was $4,620, 3 night ski boat rental was $900 for a V6 19 foot boat.
Houseboating insider tips
Don’t forget your sunscreen! The houseboat roofs are mostly covered, but floating in the 80+ degree lake water was how we spent much of our time.
Plan on packing all necessary food. There is a large cooler on the deck of the houseboat. The marina store sells items such as ice and basic foods, but not produce.
Bring your own bedding & towels – bed sets are available for an additional fee. Check the Shasta Marina Resort website for a complete houseboat inventory list.
Make time for star-gazing – Lake Shasta by moon light will not disappoint!
Pets are allowed for an additional fee.
Expect to pay about $400-$500 to gas the houseboat and $100-$200 for the ski boat gas; depending on usage – ours was a three day trip.
Bring several good books and plenty of bottled water. While the houseboat has clearly marked spigots – lake water and drinking water – I prefer byob (bring your own beverages.)
Keep all windows and hatch to upper deck closed when running air conditioning. In our experience, the air conditioner couldn’t keep up with the demands when cruising the lake. We found it best to moor the houseboat and explore Lake Shasta by ski boat for better fuel economy and maintaining the air conditioning inside the houseboat.
For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown and follow @ShastaMR on Twitter.
Check-In Time: 3:00pm
Check-Out Time: 9:00am
If You Go:
Shasta Marina Resort – Shasta Lake Houseboat Rentals
(530) 238-2284 or (800) 959-3359
18390 O’Brien Inlet Rd.
Lakehead, California 96051
Article written by, video and photos courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Shasta Marina Resort. All opinions are my own.