Vacation on Florida Waterways in a Private Houseboat

A houseboat in Silver Glen Springs, just off L...
A houseboat in Silver Glen Springs, just off Lake George (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever considered renting a houseboat to explore the real side of Florida?  Many tourists miss out on seeing Florida’s natural beauty when they spend all their time at Disney World.

It would really be worth your trouble to do something more relaxing that the kids would love just as much as Mickey Mouse.

I remember many years ago when I lived nearby, we went to see some houseboats for rent on the St. John’s River, and came close to renting one for a few days. I don’t remember why we didn’t, except that between work, finding a pet sitter, and all that fun stuff, maybe we just couldn’t find the time.  Or, more likely it could have been the cost, because it’s not cheap.

If you love being out on the water and also like to travel, imagine spending each day lounging on the deck of your own big boat as it navigates the river and slowly takes you to the next destination – or nowhere in particular.

The long and winding St. John’s River in Florida will take you from Indian River County to Jacksonville, but the northern most part of the river is the place to go boating since the lower part of the river can be very shallow.  It is one of the few rivers in the country that runs north.  Also the northern part of the river is fed by beautiful springs, which is where you would want to swim.  The water in the St. John’s River is nasty looking and dark in color because of the Cyprus trees, but at the location of the springs, the water is crystal clear, as in the picture above.   Remember that river water in Florida contains alligators and water moccasins.  I would never swim in the river, but the fishing is outstanding.

A few places in the Deland area (north of Orlando) have boats for rent.  Holly Bluff Marina is the one we visited, I believe.  The houseboats are big and comfortable.  Some of them have slides which the kids (big and small) would enjoy.  You pay for the fuel yourself, and these days I imagine you could spend quite a bit on that if you planned to travel very far.

But you wouldn’t have to do much traveling.  Being on a houseboat is like camping on the water.  Nearby Blue Springs is fun to explore and has a swimming area.  If you go at the cooler time of year you may even see manatees congregating at the Springs.   Even if not, you will most likely encounter them on the river.   And Lake George is just a bit north and it is a big lake which would be fun to explore. (I think that is where the picture I used here was taken.)

Renting a houseboat gives you a whole new look at the real Florida up close.  Some of the bigger boats sleep 8-10 people and you could cut costs by sharing the vacation with friends. Remember to bring the bug spray, fishing poles (get a license) and camera!

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