Ontario Houseboating Guide

Kingston is already a festive place during the summertime and with Canada celebrating 150 years, Kingston will definitely be a happening place with more events happening this year. For those visiting Kingston from another city in the province, out of province or even out of the country, there is so much to do in Kingston as well as outside of it. Kingston is a unique city that’s on Lake Ontario where the lake turns into the St. Lawrence river. Surrounding Kingston you have a a lot of parks, forests, rivers and lakes. This area has remained a hidden secret from Torontonians although it’s reputation is growing. If you are a local then you already know what you have in your own backyard.


(If you want to keep updated on houseboat possibilities, be sure to check out this great houseboat magazine.)

The 1000 Islands is a beautiful area that is truly unique and you probably won’t find anything like it anywhere in the world yet for all those traveling between Toronto and Montreal, they pass by it not knowing how spectacular the area is.

If the idea of houseboating hasn’t crossed your mind, in 20 mins you could head to Gananoque and rent one. For those that haven’t done houseboating, the idea of it might intrigue a lot of people but many wouldn’t be sure if they would like it. Well there isn’t much not to like about sitting in the sun with a cold drink, going for a swim, fishing, hanging out with friends or family. For those that have tried houseboating, usually they like it a lot and look forward to the next trip. Houseboating is simply awesome and once you do one trip, you’ll be hooked. In fact most people that rent houseboats are returning customers.

In terms of houseboating options there are 4 main houseboat rentals that are relatively close by. They are located in Gananoque, Brockville, Smiths Falls and on the Big Rideau lake. If you drive down the 401 towards Toronto you can make a right, head past Peterborough and on to Bobcaygeon where you can houseboat on the Kawarthas and go through all of the locks, towns and more. Being on a houseboat is a great way to have a vacation, or rather a staycation if you are looking for something to do without leaving the country. Houseboating is great if you like to fish, otherwise you can swim every day and in a new location.

In Ontario there are over 20 houseboat rental companies and near Kingston there are 4 houseboat rental companies with Gananoque being the closest just 20km down the road.

Houseboat Holidays in Gananoque (1000 Islands)

The 1000 Islands area is a popular destination with many tourists on the water. The area is really unique as there are many national parks that you can dock at and for free too. Every island is different and a week is not enough to see the 20+ national park islands that are there. Every day you can go to another island.


Happy Days Houseboats in Bobcaygeon (Kawarthas)


Bobcaygeon is a good 2.5 hours drive from Kingston but definitely well worth the trip. Although it’s a popular area, it’s not too crowded with the as many Torontonians head up to the Muskokas. In this area you have a lot of large open lakes, waterfalls and plenty of locks. One of the companies called Happy Days Houseboats has a large number of houseboats ranging in sizes that sleep 6 people, up to 12 people and more with their luxury houseboats.

Happy Days Houseboats is one of 3 companies on the Trent-Severn waterway but they are pet friendly and have a wide range of houseboats, some with slides and they have a few luxury models.



Frequently Asked Questions about Houseboating

Do you need a boating license to ride one?

Surprisingly not. As far as we know most or all of the houseboating companies give you a document or temporary license that lasts for the duration of your trip and they provide a quick crash course on driving the boats and will assist you in leaving the marina.

Learning to dock a houseboat

Driving a houseboat is extremely easy but learning to dock is probably where you’ll face your biggest challenge. Your challenges of docking are from any river or water current combined with any wind. If the wind is coming sideways to the houseboat then your boat surface acts like a big sail and will push in the direction of the wind. Docking looks very easy but this is the only challenging part of your vacation.

If you are tying up at an actual dock and not an island or a piece of land, aside from going in slow, you’ll want to secure the front rope to the dock first and once you secure it, the driver can then put the boat in reverse and turn towards the dock which will pull the backend of the boat right up to the dock so you can tie the back part of the boat. That is turn the wheel towards the dock, this works really well and inexperienced boaters can sometimes panic but when you know what to do, it helps a lot.

Houseboating Tips

  1. It should go without saying but never drink and boat. Doing so is not only dangerous but is a criminal offense so be smart and responsible. This should include your passengers as well as if you need their help at any point, you want sober help, not drunken idiots. When you are docked for the day and night then that’s when you can relax and have a beer.
  2. Always have 1 person navigating. Whether you are at 1000 Islands, Rideau canal or in the Kawarthas, you’ll want someone looking out for buoys and landmarks so you know where you are 100% of the time but also you want to check your sea maps that show the water depth and you don’t want to ever end up in shoal or hit the rocks. For 1000 Islands in particular, all the buoys are marked with numbers like J22 for example and there will be only 1 of these on the map, every buoy whether red or green or a shoal market will have it’s own code and number. Once you figure this out, it becomes nearly impossible to get lost but if you don’t pay attention, you could end up in a spot far away.
  3. Always monitor your gas. Not only should you know how much gas you have left, be prepared to refuel if you need to and always know where your gas stations are. You don’t want to be in a position where you run out of gas so this requires careful planning and of course you can ask for tips from any houseboat company and they’ll give you their advice for planning.
  4. Plan your meals and drinks and stock up. If you are doing your first trip, you might underestimate what food you need and think you can just stop somewhere and pick up more food. At 1000 Islands, you are very limited in what you can pick up as there is a gas station that does have a meat freezer and some basic foods but you don’t ever want to run out of food or have to rely on what you can get in a limited corner store. If you can prepare foods in advance, you can make your life a lot easier like some salads that can last a few days or have meat marinated ready to cook for your first day out. If you are a foodie and like to cook then you’ll want to plan your recipes in advance and for powdered ingredients you can bring what you need in a ziplock bag already measured out.
  5. Using the electricity on the boat. When you are driving, that is the best time to recharge anything you have like phones or computers but when you are idle, you don’t want to make the mistake of draining your battery so try not to do this too much. Bring rechargeable phone batteries if you can so you have extra battery sources to make use of.
  6. Enduring the mosquitoes. If you are boating in an area that has a lot of lakes or the area has had more rain than normal, then prepare for the evil mosquitoes. Bug spray can help a bit but really, when the sun sets, it’s game over and bug spray won’t stop them. So all those things you think you can buy are almost useless. You might want some pants and a long sleeved shirt and a hat to try to minimize the damage but when the sun is down, the bugs will be out in full force and stay inside and keep the doors shut.
  7. Sunblock and aloe. Out on the water, you will absorb more sun than you are used to unless you are an avid boater. Make use of sunblock, wear a hat and try to not fry your skin on the first day. Bring some aloe gel in case you do get a nasty sunburn. Even if it’s cloudy out, you can still get a bit of a burn on.
  8. Securing a spot for the night. If you are at the 1000 Islands, the docks can fill up quickly and people tend to leave their spot from 10am to noon so if you want a spot, you want to have it secured by 2pm most of the time unless it’s a slow weekday. The later you wait, the more likely you’ll not have luck finding a good dock let alone the best spot. In the case of not finding a dock you can always find a cove and simply anchor. In the Kawarthas, you can dock at some of the locks so timing is key and you’ll want to know when the last lock closes so you want to leave yourself plenty of time.

Any other questions you have or want to learn about all the houseboat rentals that exist in Canada, visit www.canadahouseboating.ca. There are 37 houseboat rental companies all across Canada located in British Columbia. Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and even in New Brunswick. Houseboating is a great way to experience Canada whether you live here or are planning a trip.