Voyageurs National Park may not be the most widely-known of national parks, but in my opinion, it is right up there as one of the most beautiful. And the best way to experience it? On a houseboat! The memories you’ll create on this trip are sure to last a lifetime.
Did you know Voyageurs is America’s youngest and only water-based national park?
Covering more than 340 square miles in north central Minnesota on the Canadian border with Ontario, Voyageurs features pristine lakes that are essentially interconnected waterways.
Where to rent a houseboat
The largest fleet of houseboat rentals is at Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats on Crane Lake.
They offer 5 different houseboat types – from basic to luxury – that accommodate up to 12 people. Some even have huge hot tubs on the roofs, and waterslides off the back.
So, yeah, I guess those features would definitely put this in the “glamping” category. Well, that and the air conditioning, running water, bathroom, full kitchen, and comfy beds, too!
The minimum rental length is 3 nights, which is what my group went with. I think 4 to 5 would be ideal though.
The best part, I think, about renting from Voyagaire is they provide 24/7 boat-lodge radio communication. So, if you run out of food, pop, ice, bait or gas they’ll make deliveries (for a one-time fee)!
The Voyagaire staff is a wealth of knowledge for the hottest fishing spots. Additionally, they provide a map that shows the color-coded and numbered buoys of the park to help you navigate. Plus, downloading something like the Navionics Boating Marine & Lakes app is a must for your adventure.
If Voyagaire’s boats are all booked, there are a handful of other rental places in Voyageurs like Ebel’s, Rainy Lake Houseboats, and Northernaire.
A smaller boat needed too
Per Coast Guard rules, you need to tow another smaller boat with a motor behind the houseboat. You can bring your own boat or rent one from Voyagaire.
The extra boat – whether it is a fishing boat, runabout or pontoon – is actually a nice thing to have, too, because it allows you to cruise around to find fishing spots quicker and into small, secluded bays. Plus, you can more quickly locate an ideal spot to pull up your houseboat to camp each night.
Voyageurs houseboat trip camping tips
Houseboat campsites in Voyageurs are on a first come, first serve basis. Ideally, you’ll probably want to claim your campsite late afternoon each day, especially in the prime summer season. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time cruising around trying to find an open site.
Voyageurs is made up of four large lakes and more than two dozen smaller ones. There are also hundreds of uninhabited islands. So, I think choosing a different campsite each night you’re in the park is a fun way to go. Or, return to the same one each night if you find one you love. Note: All tent campsites, however, within Voyageurs National Park require a reservation fee and nightly amenity fees.
Memorable places to stop
The Kettle Falls Hotel is the only lodging in Voyageurs and is a unique place to pull in to visit. It’s only accessible by boat or float plane. Built between 1910 and 1913, the hotel has a ton of rich history.
Be sure to grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, or a cold drink at the bar with a very crooked floor!
Another place to stop is one of the many hiking trails in Voyageurs. For example, the Anderson Bay Trail brings you to a rocky cliff with a breathtaking view of Rainy Lake; it is well worth the approx. 2 hour roundtrip hike.
A much shorter, 20-minute hike is on Little American Island. This, too, is an historical spot thanks to gold being discovered there in the 1890s. During a brief tour of the island, you’ll see mine shafts and machinery that still remain there.
What to look out for in Voyageurs
Keep your eyes open for a wide variety of wildlife in Voyageurs including loons, deer, bald eagles, and maybe even black bears and moose.
Thanks to its desolate location, you may be able to see Northern Lights at night. Or, if that’s not spotted, you’ll certainly be able to see the Milky Way, satellites, and shootings stars as you gaze up at the expansive night sky.
“God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”– GENESIS 1:16
Don’t wait to book your Voyageurs houseboat trip!
My advice if you’re thinking you’d like to experience the amazing wonders of Voyageurs on a houseboat is to book NOW! Reservations fill up fast, sometimes well over a year in advance.
This is likely because the number of boats are limited, and the season is short. For example, on average the water is only warm enough to swim in from mid-June to Labor Day.
I hope you get to experience a Voyageurs house boat vacation at least once in your life. You’ll never forget it!
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What do YOU recommend? Please include your Voyageurs tips in the comments section below!
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All tent campsites within Voyageurs National Park require a reservation fee and nightly amenity fees.
Thanks for the info! I’ll add that to my post!
That is such a great way to explore this park. It would be amazing to sleep in a new bay each night and explore new shorelines.
I hope you get an opportunity to try it out during your travels!
“Voyageurs is America’s youngest and only water-based national park..” THAT is a super-interesting fact – thanks for enlightening! This looks like such an amazing and unique experience. AND there’s a possibility of seeing Northern Lights??? BONUS!
Yes! I love that fun fact too! Plus, seeing Northern Lights is indeed something you just have to see at least once in your life! SO neat!
What spectacular scenery! How great that they have designated this area a National Park. A houseboat looks like the perfect way to explore, and it’s lovely that you are able to moor up and go walking as well.
A National Park unlike any other when you explore it via houseboat! Hope you get a chance to try it sometime!
I’ve never done a houseboat stay and it’s something that now intrigues me. The idea of being able to just up anchor and sail wherever you want to is appealing. The solitude among the wildlife scenes would be so peaceful too.
It truly is an experience unlike any other. The solitude and beauty of the area is second to none too. I especially loved the hot tub on the roof of our houseboat! 🙂
Voyageurs is on my NP bucket list but this makes me want to go even more! I’m assuming you need a boating license? Also, extra props for calling it pop lol
No boating license needed, Paul, as an adult. Just a valid driver’s license. Yeah, “pop” is the Midwesterner coming out in me! 🙂
House boat never knew that was a thing, but they look really cool.
It’s the coolest. Grab some friends and book a trip! You’ll love it. Lake Powell or a few lakes in the Ozarks are popular for houseboats too.
This sounds like such a cool national park to visit and rent a houseboat. It really should be more known, because this sounds like a cool experience and place to visit overall.