Boating: Home, Home on the Lake

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Boating: Home, Home on the Lake
By Debra Shore

You take your kids out of one house and plunk them down in another that just happens to be mobile. What could be simpler? The best part about houseboating is that even novice skippers can manage these crafts, since on-board training and a ship-to-shore radio are part of the deal. But you don't want to take your family on the water equivalent of the Pasadena Freeway, or set off in a boat that's less than seaworthy. Stick with these houseboat companies and you'll be in good hands.

Waterway Houseboat Vacations Sicamous, B.C.
Picture a poorly-scrawled "H" with about 620 miles of shoreline and you have houseboat heaven: Shuswap Lake. Head up quiet Anstey Arm and send the kids searching for Indian pictographs around Marble Point. Or try cliff-diving at Copper Island on Shuswap Arm. You can moor just about anywhere at nightfall; much of the lakeshore has been designated a provincial park. Choose among Waterway's 56 boats (six different models) that sleep 10 to 18; all boats include water slides, gas barbecue, and steering from the bridge. Cost: $1,029- $3,468 per week. Phone: 800-663-4022.

Voyagaire Houseboats Crane Lake, Minnesota
Embark near the southeast corner of Voyageurs National Park, about an hour and a half from International Falls. The lakes of Voyageurs offer dozens of nooks and crannies, island beaches, and secret coves. Head through Namakan Narrows and up Namakan Lake to the Wolf Pack Islands where your kids can scout for a family of otters. Then cruise to Kettle Falls, dine at the historic hotel, and hike to the dam-tender's cabin, one of just two places in the continental U.S. where you can look south into Ca-nada. You need to tie up on shore at night but the park makes it easy with dozens of designated campsites (look for the houseboat icon). You have a choice of 30 boats (eight models) sleeping 6 to 12, some with water slides, hot tubs, and upper deck command bridges. Cost: $975- $3,850 per week. Phone: 800-882-6287.

D O - I T - A L L   S A M P L E R   T R I P S
If life for your family works best when it flits from activity to activity like an MTV video, booking a "sampler" trip may make you a hero. This way, if one kid is screaming to go rafting and the other is set on mountain biking, you can be the great compromiser and make everyone happy. Herewith, a summer's worth of multisport trips.

On Escape the City Streets's five-day hike/bike trip, you'll pedal through Utah's remote Red Canyon crossing a meandering stream exactly 44 times. While that particular day should appeal to any kid who likes serious mud, other days are just as good--biking through the red sandstone rocks around Bryce Canyon, hiking up the famously claustrophobic walls of the Zion Narrows, and cliff-jumping into the Virgin River. Outfitter: Escape the City Streets, 800-596-2953. Cost: $655-$855 per person. Family deals: Kids under 16 (one child per adult), half price; students, 15 percent off. Departures: July 7, August 18, September 8.

Backroads's new six-day family trip through Puget Sound employs so many modes of transport your kids will be too winded to whine "Are we there yet?": They'll bike through the tulip beds of Skagit Valley, ferry between the San Juan Islands, hike through forests of Douglas fir, and kayak along coastal inlets where orcas hang out. Stay at a variety of secluded inns, or opt for a camping trip. Outfitter: Backroads, 800-462-2848. Cost: $1,698 inn-to-inn, $798 for campers. Family deals: Kids six and under, 40 percent off; 7-12, 20 percent off; 13-17, ten percent. Departures: Inn-to-inn, July 13; camping, July 27.

The ideal ten-day turf and surf combo begins at Idaho's Hayden Creek Ranch with four days of horseback riding, fly fishing, mountain biking, and hiking through the Lemhi Mountains of Salmon National Forest. Then you head downstream to the Salmon River for five days of shooting Class III rapids. There's also a river-bluff rappelling lesson. Outfitter: Wilderness River Outfitters and Trail Expeditions, 800-252-6581. Cost: $1,700 per person. Family deals: 30 percent discount for children 12 and under. Departures: July 4 and 12.

For kids who prefer paddling their own boats, thank you, Coastal Adventures runs a six-day backpacking/sea kayaking tour of Nova Scotia's coastal archipelago. Sea kayaks are the stealthiest way to slide up behind seals, and spot the eider ducks, osprey, and cormorants that nest here. On shore you can explore the abandoned settlements and graveyards left behind in the last centuries by European fishermen. Outfitter: Coastal Adventures, 902-772-2774. Cost: $660 per person. Family deals: Ten percent discount for families of four or more. Departures: June 29, August 7.

Once you set up camp at Madeline Island's Big Bay State Park, the hub of Trek and Trail's five-day family exploration of Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, your kids can pedal along Madeline's paved roads, or paddle kayaks to hikes on Lake Superior's most secluded islands. Outfitter: Trek and Trail, 800-354-8735. Cost: $469 per person. Family deals: Half price for kids under 12. Departures: Every Sunday from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

If you have any doubts that a multisport trip could please every member of your clan, The Road Less Traveled can customize a trip for groups of eight or more that can include everything from kayaking Utah's Green River to hiking past Anasazi ruins to climbing the Grand Teton--variety that ensures even the most quarrelsome siblings will find something to agree on. Prices vary; call 312-348-4100.

--Laura Billings

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