Florida Keys Houseboat Vacations

A Florida Keys houseboat vacation combines the pleasures of a tropical resort with the conveniences of home. As dolphins cruise lazily alongside, you guide your vessel through smooth Gulf of Mexico waters, taking time for a detour to see a spectacular orchid tree or mangrove cluster. Drop anchor for a quick dip and perhaps you'll catch a fish for a foredeck barbecue. Everything is provided --- including a nautical training session --- to ensure that you have the tropical vacation of your dreams.

Islamadora is often called the sportfishing capital of the world, but non-anglers flock to this charming village as a starting point for a Keys houseboat foray. The aptly named Houseboat Vacations of the Florida Keys offers three houseboat configurations that sleep from six to ten people. The 42- to 55-foot vessels have completely equipped galleys, seating and dining areas, a barbecue on the foredeck and deck furniture on the rooftop. Unlike a regular boat, each houseboat has a full bathroom with hot and cold running water and good-sized shower.

If there's anything better than a houseboat in the Florida Keys, it's a houseboat with its own private tropical island. Rent this modern 38-foot Holiday Mansion houseboat to cruise around the Gulf waters and then dock on Charlie's Island (Quiet Cove Key) where you will find a runabout boat for fishing or short jaunts, a kayak for exploring smaller waterways as well as hammocks, a grill and a picnic table and more, all included in your rental fee.

Houseboat Vacations in the Florida Keys

Enjoy spectacular sunsets from your houseboat in the Florida Keys.

Houseboats offer an unusual way to explore and enjoy the tropical beauty of the Florida Keys and take advantage of spectacular water-front views, swimming, diving and fishing from your very own front deck. Whether it's a docked "boatel" or a boat you can pilot yourself and stay in a different location each night, there are a variety of sizes, prices and amenities to choose from when renting your boat-away-from-home.

The Keys have a moderate climate year-round, with evening temperatures averaging in the 60s Fahrenheit during the winter and 70s during the summer, while highs rarely dip below 70 or above 90. Summer tends to be wet and winter drier, but the main factor to consider is hurricane season, which starts on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30, the peak period falling during early to mid-September.

Although some houseboats are moored at docks and not driven, other rentals allow you to take your craft out into the water. Piloting a houseboat isn't difficult, and the marina staff will provide instructions whenever you pick up your boat. Although there is no license required to operate houseboats, there are operating rules that the staff should explain to you, as well as offering charts of the local waters that include marked buoys. Make sure any piloted houseboat you rent includes all the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Most houseboat rental outfits provide linens and cooking utensils, and almost all boats include some form of cooking device, be it a grill, burner or stove, as well as refrigerator/freezer. You'll need to provide your own food and beverages, keeping in mind that it's best to use minimal packaging where possible, especially non-breakable items. If you enjoy fishing, you can supplement your provisions with kingfish, wahoo, mackerel, tuna, sailfish and other varieties you catch right from your boat deck. Check with the rental company to see if fishing gear is included.

Houseboat Vacations of the Florida Keys rents catamarans of various sizes that can sleep up to 10 people on double beds and futons. Each unit also includes full upper sun deck with lounge chairs and gas barbecue, range top, refrigerator/freezer, linens, utensils, bathroom with full shower, swim ladder for water access, and DVD players. Keys Adventures Houseboats offer docked boats with similar amenities as well as complete use of the pool, shower and bathrooms at the marina, which also features what it calls "the last great tiki bar in the upper Keys." For the ultimate in luxury, rent the Florida Keys Houseboat and Island 38-foot Houseboat, docked at the private Charlie's Island, with both boat and island available for your exclusive use all week, even including a free shuttle boat.

Houseboat rental costs depend on factors such as boat size, time of year, number of people, and the amenities you desire. They average from $650 to $5,000 per week or partial week, with most requiring a three-day minimum. The more expensive models generally are all-inclusive, but less expensive rentals may include additional add-on costs such as insurance, air conditioning at dockside, dock fees, portable generators charged by the hour and optional activities such as ski-boat rental, water-taxis or parasailing. Most operators require a deposit to reserve the boat, and it's a good idea to reserve nine to 12 months in advance, but be sure to ask for details about cancellation policies and hurricane evacuations.