Whether you're drifting through the palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala on a rickety Indian skiff or bobbing on a luxury yacht in the creeks of the Sunshine State, you can rest assured that houseboats offer a trip to remember. Tailor-made for folk who like to make a splash with their travel plans, they come in all shapes and sizes. You'll find beds in cosy barges on backcountry canals, suites on vintage riverboats on winding waterways, and swish 40-footers that can whizz across azure seas at your whim.
If you're the sort who loves a real travel adventure whenever you leave home, houseboat holidays can oblige. Far from bedding down just like everyone else in a traditional hotel, you'll be sleeping to the slosh of lake waters or the rhythm of the ocean. But that's not the best part. Even more beguiling is the fact that many houseboats don't have to remain static. With the unfurling of a sail or the rumble of an engine, you could find yourself skimming over the swells in the company of Floridian dolphins or drifting across open Pacific seas with Tahiti or Hawaii glimmering in the distance.
That makes it really easy to add all sorts of water sports to the itinerary. Fancy wild swimming in the pearly blue waters of the Adriatic Sea? Easy. Want to try your hand at SUP sessions in empty coves on the Cote d'Azur? That can be organised. Prefer some snorkelling with the tropical fish and coloured coral gardens of the Caribbean? It can be done before breakfast on a houseboat holiday.
Of course, that's just one side of the houseboat category. The other side can take a turn for the more luxurious. Following in the footsteps of the grand Kashmiri mansion boats of Srinagar up in the Indian Himalaya, there are many water stays that ooze history and style. They come with gorgeous Victorian or Georgian interiors, or just a dash of elegance with their sumptuous lounges and deck spaces. Some have fine-dining spots onboard, for those romantic meals under the sun. Others – the yachts in particular – will leave you feeling like a real jet setter with their whitewashed decks, tanning terraces and deluxe suites.
More than anything, houseboats offer a unique and unforgettable travel experience that's simply not available when staying in landlubbing hotels. They're regularly run by in-the-know locals with a real passion for the rivers, canals and oceans where they're based. So, whether you're keen on spotting whales or discovering truly secluded beaches, on bedding down in a heritage-rich setting or getting out and about on the water where no 2 trips are ever the same, these could be the perfect pick for you.
We've made it really easy to pinpoint the most amazing houseboats in any given destination. Just enter the dates you're planning on travelling and we'll reveal the top-rated water stays on the menu. You can even make use of our nifty travel map, which lets you zoom in and out to discover hidden houseboat spots that you might not have considered.