Waheap Marina is the most popular location for houseboat rentals, powerboat, and water toy rentals on Lake Powell. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Based on the memories I had of camping at Lake Powell has a teenager, I knew my family would enjoy our houseboat vacation. What I didn't realize was just how much we would love it! From sunrise walks along the ridge above our private cove campsite to hours of tubing on Lake Powell's azure waters to crackling campfires under a sky filled with stars, it was truly one of those vacations that exceeded all of my expectations. The water was a perfect 80 degrees which complemented those 100-degree August days. The scenery was Grand Canyon meets Zion, but filled with clear blue water. We hiked, hunted geodes, tubed, slid down the water slide, floated lazily in the water, marveled at the spectacular Lake Powell sunsets, and watched shooting stars leave trails across the sky. For those four nights, we had our own slice of desert paradise.
Lake Powell is in the remote Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which straddles the Arizona/Utah border. The most common way to get to Lake Powell is by driving. The closest major airport is in Las Vegas. There is a small airport in Page, AZ with flights to Phoenix. My husband used this airport to fly home after our houseboat trip while the kids and I continued our road trip in the Southwestern US.
I was very impressed with the staff at Wahweap Marina. They were friendly, patient, and thorough when going over all of the paperwork and instruction on how to operate the houseboat and power boat we were renting. Porters are available to help move all of your gear from your cars over to the houseboat. Definitely take advantage of this free service (but don't forget to tip!). Be sure to ask plenty of questions if it is your first time operating a houseboat. They aren't hard to operate but there is a bit of a learning curve. Also, take advantage of the free service where the staff at the marina will back the houseboat out of the stalls and take you to the edge of the marina so you don't have to navigate those tight spaces on your own. Once you get out into open water the boats are pretty easy to maneuver. One day our generator stopped working so we had to call the marina and request someone come out and look at it. The repairman arrived within the promised amount of time, was very friendly, and quickly changed out our boat's battery so it could be back up and running in no time.
Note: The marina's website is a fantastic resource for planning your first houseboat trip. Details about the houseboats, included supplies, suggested packing lists, and frequently asked questions can all be found there. Definitely check out LakePowell.com.
We rented the 48" Navigator Houseboat. It is listed in the deluxe category of the Wahweap Marina website. The Navigator is supposed to sleep up to 10 people which the exact number of people we had. We actually found it to be a great size for 10 people. The kids ended up sleeping up on the top deck every night so we didn't even have to convert the table or the couch into a bed. If you ask the kids, the best part of the boat was the water slide. I enjoyed the deck, the well-stocked kitchen, and the sound system which allowed us to blast all our favorite CDs from our college days. Oh, and the air conditioning and dvd player came in handy when we were taking a break from the intense mid-day sun.
When we originally booked our houseboat vacation it was just going to be for our family of four. I am SO GLAD we changed our plans and turned it into a multi-family getaway. Docking the boat would have been difficult it were just myself and my husband doing all the work. Ideally, you want at least four able-bodied adults to do the job. First, we had a couple people go out on the power boat to scout the coves and find a spot that was deep enough for the houseboat, had a good beach, and offered the privacy we were craving. Lake Powell is massive at (nearly 100 miles long) and has dozens of coves so privacy was easy to find. We actually found THE most perfect campsite of all time with very little effort. The real effort began when it came time to bring the houseboat in. The process involves having something at the helm steering the boat as well as a couple people to hold the two anchor ropes while a third person digs in a spot on land for the two anchors. Don't get me wrong, it isn't hard to anchor the houseboat. It just takes a couple people and some time. I think the entire process took us about 30-45 minutes.
I could create a list of what to pack for your houseboat trip but I think LakePowell.com already did a pretty fantastic job at that. http://www.lakepowell.com/houseboating/houseboating-vacation-planning/ I would probably skip the 5 gallon water jug on the list because a large tank of drinking water is included on the boat. The extra jugs of water we brought were really not needed. I would add plenty of inflatable rafts and toys to your packing list. We spent most of the daylight hours in the water. Also, if you plan on sleeping on the deck, the sleeping bags will come in handy. If you plan on sleeping in the boat, you can skip them since pillows and linens are provided. Fridge space was surprisingly ample, but the freezers were small and didn't do the best job at keeping things truly frozen. The only piece missing from the kitchen supplies was a cookie sheet so bring that if your meal plan requires one.
19-inch powerboats are available for rent out of the Wahweap Marina for $400 per day (2015 pricing). These powerboats seat up to 8 people and are great for tubing, water skiing, or exploring the many coves of Lake Powell. If you are renting a houseboat, I HIGHLY recommend renting a powerboat to go alongside your houseboat because the houseboats move too slow, eat up too much gas, and take too much time and effort to anchor to be used to explore the lake every day. Power boats are also very useful for scouting a campsite. Renting water craft such as jet skis is another that could work but the nice thing about power boats is that they can hold multiple people at the same time. Our kids absolutely loved going out on the boat every day to go tubing. The boat was also very useful for our big trek up the lake to Rainbow Bridge, the world's largest natural bridge. TIP: Make your powerboat reservations well in advance during the warm summer months. I saw several people walk in and attempt to rent a boat only to be disappointed to discover everything was already sold out.
We were one day into our houseboat vacation before my friend turned to me and said "we have to make this an annual tradition". That is how great our house boat experience was. It was a time for kids to be kids and for adults to catch up while floating on rafts together. It was a chance to spend technology-free time hanging out with the people we love and really enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. I truly hope this trip was the beginning of our new tradition.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary houseboat and powerboat rental from Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas for the purposes of this unbiased review and a feature on houseboating for Trekaroo. Their hospitality was appreciated but all opinions are my own.