Living on the Water: Top 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Seattle, with its stunning waterfront views and bustling city life, is the perfect place to experience living on a houseboat. But before you start planning your vacation, it’s important to note that only long-term rentals are permitted for houseboats in Seattle.

So, if you’re looking for a unique and unconventional way to live, work, or retire, a Seattle houseboat might be the perfect fit for you. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of Seattle’s best long-term houseboat rentals and what you can expect from living on the water.

Charming Long-Term Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Sleepless in Seattle Houseboat

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Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 2 guests
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

This houseboat in Seattle has been voted as one of the Top 10 coolest AirBnB rentals by Curbed Magazine! It boasts an incredible location, beautiful interior, and free use of a kayak to explore Lake Union. The rooftop deck has recently been completed, offering amazing views and a perfect spot for relaxing or entertaining guests while enjoying the scenery. Checking off “staying on a houseboat in Seattle” from your bucket list is a must-do, and for stays of two months or longer, there is an additional discount available upon inquiry.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The space is incredibly relaxing, with custom bamboo flooring and a fully equipped kitchen. Heaters are provided to keep the houseboat warm, and entertainment options include a 40-inch mounted TV with Netflix accounts and WiFi. One of the best perks of staying here is the ability to take the kayak out from your deck and explore Lake Union, which is home to many restaurants, parks, and other fun destinations.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

This is a great, simple houseboat that offers stunning views of the Space Needle and the lake from the rooftop deck. While it does not offer the amenities of a hotel like the 4 Seasons, it provides a unique and unforgettable experience that can’t be found anywhere else. If you’re looking for something different from a traditional hotel, this houseboat is the perfect choice.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests will have access to the entire houseboat during their stay, and the license number is STR-OPLI-19-002024.

Unique Seattle Experience Houseboat

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 2 guests
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

For an unforgettable vacation, consider staying on the historic 1927 75 ft tugboat, Tugboat Sally S, which has been renovated to include all modern conveniences. Located in the Magnolia/Ballard neighborhood, just 10 minutes from Downtown Seattle, the tugboat is close to everything yet feels far away.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The main cabin of the boat has recently been renovated and restored by the owners themselves. It features a King/Queen (custom size) tempurpedic mattress, a TV with Apple TV, and ample storage space. The head has been updated to include a large custom walk-in shower, which is very spacious.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The main salon boasts an L-shaped couch, doors on each side that open to the outdoors, a small dining area, and a large open kitchen with a pass-through porthole window to the back deck. The deck has a dining table, a BBQ, and a prep table perfect for meals al fresco. At the bow of the boat, guests can find a stairway to the wheelhouse, which features a daybed and offers a step back in time.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests will have access to the entire boat, except for the engine room. The main cabin, back deck, and wheelhouse are perfect for relaxing and enjoying the unique experience of staying on a 1927 tugboat. The marina is a small, tight-knit community with several neighbors living aboard their boats, so guests are asked to be respectful of their neighbors.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

While the boat has many windows and doors, which is one of its best features, it can mean early sunrises in the summer months since not all windows and portholes have blinds. Guests may want to consider bringing a sleep mask if they are sensitive to early morning light.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Additionally, during the winter months, the boat may leak a bit during the first few rains of the year due to the nature of wooden boats. However, the leaks are predictable and not in a location that will affect sleeping.

The license number for this property is STR-OPLI-19-015385.

Modern Sleepless in Seattle Houseboat Dream

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 1000 square feet
  • 3 bedrooms
  • 5 guests
  • 2.5 bathrooms

This houseboat rental has a 30-day minimum stay requirement, meaning guests must book for at least 30 days. The property has been featured on Discovery Channel’s show “Ultimate Homes” and offers 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and has been completely remodeled.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

With 1000 sq ft of space, there are multiple decks to enjoy, as well as moorage for a boat, a hot tub, high-speed internet, cable TV, and all utilities included. A residential parking permit is also provided. The designer houseboat is located in a prime location at the end of the dock, offering stunning views.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The dining room can be converted into a dance floor or yoga studio, and the dining room table folds into a buffet table for added versatility.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The kitchen features stainless steel counters and a cool coral aquarium over the sink. Guests can enjoy a variety of water toys, including paddle boarding, sunfishing, kayaking, windsurfing, and canoeing.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Overall, this houseboat rental offers a unique and luxurious experience for guests looking to enjoy all that Seattle has to offer for an extended period of time.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle
Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Having lived in Seattle for 25 years, it has always been my dream to experience that “Sleepless in Seattle” lifestyle. With my 2 teen boys graduating from high school soon, I thought the absolute perfect last Spring Break for them would be to enjoy our city like a tourist. As it turned out, my stay ended up being more of an almost nightly gathering of beloved friends who also live in Seattle.

What makes Neil‘s floating home so special? The western sunsets over the lake, the active boating and people watching, and thoughtful and comfortable touches throughout the home: fully stocked kitchen, super comfortable beds, clever “hidden” TV to not impede views, and the fun fish tank over the kitchen sink. It was a very mentally restorative month spent on Lake Union. I hope to repeat the experience next year and beyond. Thank you, Neil & Denise! (Denise as property manager was attentive and accessible.)

April R., VRBO guest

Unique Waterfront Rental in Wallingford

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 584 square feet
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 guests
  • 1 bathroom

This is a unique opportunity to rent a beautiful houseboat in an amazing location, but it requires the perfect match. The houseboat, named Grace, is located at the end of a dock and offers stunning views.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Living on the lake provides a chance for adventure, community, simplicity, and a love of nature. The houseboat features high-energy efficient appliances, classic finishes and details, and a quality build that sets the bar for houseboats.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The upper level of the houseboat includes one generous bedroom and a beautifully finished bathroom. There is also a large deck off the owner’s suite. The main level of the houseboat is surprisingly spacious within its 12.5 x 32.5 dimensions, and features a designer layout. The houseboat is located in a wonderful community with easy street parking next to the Burke Gilman trail at the base of Wallingford.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Overall, this is a fantastic opportunity for those looking for a unique and luxurious living experience on the lake.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Living on Grace for the month of August was a dream come true. There is nothing like living right on the water–not close–not ‘waterfront’ but ON THE WATER.

You can paddleboard, kayak, swim, and go sightseeing if you have your own boat. The lifestyle is what everyone is looking for in the Northwest because it’s so darn nice–especially in warm sunny weather.

The views of Seattle are spectacular in the morning–at night–or even during a cloudy day.

It’s a beautiful way to vacation.

And the host Suzie was really accomodating–highly recommended.

Peter S., VRBO guest

Classic Houseboat on Lake Union

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Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 2 guest
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

The classic houseboat, named the Manatee, is a Cruise A Home that offers a unique and cool place to stay. The houseboat boasts an amazing location, an upper deck, 2 kayaks to explore Lake Union, and much more. Special Winter Rates are available at 60% off the Summer rates.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The houseboat features centralized heating, a free parking pass for parking, 2 kayaks, free high-speed Wi-Fi, a 32-inch Smart TV, a fridge/freezer, a shower with hot water, a toilet, a microwave, a bed, a sofa, and a table with 4 chairs.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The space is a great place to relax on the water and offers a unique experience for those looking to get away from traditional hotels. While the houseboat doesn’t have all the amenities of a hotel, it offers trade-offs such as relaxing or hanging out on the rooftop deck while enjoying a meal or drink.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests can watch the seaplanes land and take off, take the kayaks out for a spin, and more. The marina where the houseboat is located is one of the best on the lake, offering a quiet atmosphere with friendly neighbors.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests will have complete access to the houseboat during their stay. However, large parties or pets are not allowed. The owner doesn’t mind if guests have a friend or two over, but any other amount should be checked with the owner first. The license number for this property is STR-OPLI-20-000986.

Seattle Houseboat With Fireplace

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Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 2 guests
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live on a houseboat? Well, now you can experience it for yourself! Fall asleep to the gentle waves as the all-wooden boat rocks you to sleep. It’s the only way to truly experience Seattle. The houseboat is conveniently located in Ballard/Fremont, allowing guests to walk, kayak, or bike to everything!

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The space features a comfy foam queen mattress, a Smart TV, Wi-Fi, a cozy single person sleeping nook, a stocked Keurig, a back deck with a grill, and a woodstove in the cozy living room. The houseboat comfortably sleeps 2-3 people, but it’s also a great space for work stays (versus a hotel) near companies like Amazon, Adobe, and Tableau.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests have access to a grill, a bathroom with a shower, a kitchen, and extra showers and a washer/dryer on the dock. Overall, this is a unique and cozy experience for those looking to try something new in Seattle.

I had an extended stay on “Maggie” the house boat and couldn’t be happier with the experience. I was able to work remotely with good internet access, plenty of room for myself, and an unforgettable time.

Jeremy, Airbnb guest

Iconic Paddlewheeler Houseboat – Banjo

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 4 guests
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 beds
  • 1.5 baths

If you’ve ever boated, paddled, or hot-tubbed on Lake Union, you’ve probably noticed the iconic paddlewheeler houseboat Banjo. The houseboat is located on one of the outer slips, parallel to the shore, offering 180-degree lake views from inside and 360-degree views from the roof (including the Seattle skyline!). The rooftop patio is perfect for grilling and sunbathing.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Inside, Banjo has been completely renovated while keeping its funky charm. The houseboat features modern updates to the kitchen and bathrooms, a home office, high-speed internet, and more.

Guests can walk to restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, Gas Works Park, and the Burke Gilman Trail. If staying on Banjo isn’t at the top of your list of highlights for the year, then the owners haven’t done their job right!

The houseboat has a 30-day rental minimum, with some flexibility on start and stop dates. However, Banjo is only appropriate for older, responsible kids, and discussion is required prior to booking.

Overall, Banjo offers a unique and charming experience for those looking to stay on a houseboat in Seattle. Please note that there are no exceptions to the 30-day minimum rental requirement.

Lindsay’s Lake Union Houseboat

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 3 guests
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

Living on a boat is the best life! Wake up to the sound of ducks chirping or the crew team rowing by. The houseboat is 42 ft x 14 feet and has stairs inside. There is one official bedroom and one bathroom with an enclosed shower and a heated lamp. The kitchen is equipped with a full-sized fridge, a microwave, a stove, and an oven. The kitchen table folds down to a bed.

The boat does not have an engine, but the steering column has been converted into a standing desk with a large monitor. The bow is another room, measuring 51 sq ft but only 36″ tall, and is cushioned for comfort. The boat also has excellent Wi-Fi.

Please note that there is a 30-day minimum stay requirement for this houseboat. Overall, this is a unique and cozy experience for those looking to try something new in Seattle.

Cute Lake Union Houseboat

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 3 guests
  • 1 bedroom
  • 1 bed
  • 1 bath

Experience the iconic adventure of staying on a houseboat in Seattle! The houseboat is located on Lake Union, right in the heart of Seattle. It’s situated on a walking/biking path and is close to South Lake Union and Downtown.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The space features a living room area and an open lofted bed area for sleeping. During the nice weather months, there is also an outdoor area available for use.

However, staying on a houseboat can come with some challenges:

  • There is limited power available, which may require turning off a heater while using a microwave or hair dryer in the winter months.
  • The space is smaller and cozy, so guests should be okay with that.
  • In the winter, the temperature may be lower than a traditional house.
  • The bathroom uses a holding tank that gets pumped out once a week. However, guests will have keys to a traditional bathroom located a short walk away if they prefer to use it.
  • If guests are looking for luxury, this may not be the right fit. Living on a boat is more like “glamping,” and those who are not “go with the flow” types may not enjoy their stay.

Overall, staying on a houseboat is a unique and exciting experience for those looking to try something new in Seattle.

Unforgettable Stay & Sail – Bainbridge Island (Near Seattle)

Website

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Details:

  • 6 guests
  • 1 bedroom
  • 6 beds
  • 1/2 bath

Guests can enjoy a charming and romantic stay aboard a 44ft classic sailboat anchored in Bainbridge Island’s scenic Eagle Harbor. A light breakfast is included in the stay.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Please note that this booking requires a 2-hour sunset sail at an additional cost, which is not included in the Airbnb stay pricing. The sail is required in order to stay on the boat. Guests can opt for a special 2-hour sail for anchor out guests at a discounted rate of $385, which needs to be paid separately after reserving the boat for the night on Airbnb.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

The boat is a 44ft 1965 Pearson Countess ketch, designed by the legendary John Alden, and features an elegant build-out below decks for guests to relax and unplug.

After the evening sail, the boat will be put at anchor in the harbor without access to shore until the following morning. A light breakfast of fresh pastries, juice, yogurt, oatmeal, coffee, and tea is included.

The boat can sleep up to 6 guests but is most comfortable with a maximum of 4. There is one cabin with a king V-berth for 2 persons, a midships full galley berth for 2 persons, a single galley bunk for 1 person, and a single captain’s berth for 1 person in the pilot house. The boat is fully equipped with a kitchen, including a fridge, stove, flatware, pans, and dishes.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle

Guests can enjoy lounging on the deck, reclining in the cockpit, and cooking their own meals down below. The hosts are just a short row away in the harbor and available 24-hours by phone for emergencies or concerns.

Living on the Water: 10 Houseboat Rentals in Seattle
Captain Ben, United States Coast Guard Licensed Operator

Please note that each guest will need to sign a liability waiver upon arrival, and the boat is only available for stays from April 1 to October 31.

The Rise of Airbnb and VRBO Houseboat Rentals

In recent years, Seattle has seen a surge in the popularity of short-term houseboat rentals, particularly on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. These rentals offer a unique and picturesque accommodation experience, with many situated on Lake Union and offering stunning views of the city. However, this growing trend has raised concerns about safety and the legality of such practices.

Code Compliance and City Regulations

In response to the increase in short-term houseboat rentals, the city of Seattle has enforced stricter regulations to ensure the safety and compliance of these floating homes. Floating-On-Water Residences (FOWRs) must meet specific requirements and be legally recognized by the city. However, many houseboats missed the window for certification or failed to receive the necessary approval, rendering them in violation of the city code.

Furthermore, Seattle’s Shoreline Code prohibits lodging activities in certain areas, explicitly disallowing short-term rentals in RVs, tents, boats, and floating on-water residences. This means that even if a houseboat has been certified, renting it out short-term is still considered illegal under the city’s land use code.

Fines and Violations

Penalties can be significant for houseboat owners found violating the land use code or operating an illegal short-term rental. Houseboat owners are subject to fines and must correct the violation to regain compliance. Seattle residents and neighbors are urged to report suspected violations via the Seattle Services Portal, which allows them to submit a report directly to the city’s code compliance team for investigation.

In conclusion, while short-term houseboat rentals may be a unique and appealing accommodation option for tourists, it is essential for both floating homeowners and potential renters to be aware of the current legal landscape surrounding this industry in Seattle. With stringent regulations and potential fines for non-compliance, respecting and adhering to the city’s land use codes and guidelines is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.

Impacts on the Houseboat Community

Safety Concerns

The ban on short-term houseboat rentals in Seattle arose partly to address safety concerns within the community. The city regulations aim to ensure a stable and secure environment for long-term Seattle houseboat residents. With the constant influx of temporary occupants to neighboring houseboats, the risks associated with lacking familiarity and understanding of boat safety protocols increased. Moreover, the transient nature of short-term rentals hindered the establishment of collective care and watchfulness for safety issues.

Privacy and Neighbor Issues

Implementing restrictions on short-term rentals served to preserve the privacy and peacefulness of Seattle houseboat communities. Constant turnover of renters in an area concentrated with lodging options creates disturbances in daily living, such as increased noise levels and possible invasions of privacy. In some instances, short-term renters unaware of houseboat etiquette and neighborhood norms might cause conflicts or misunderstandings with long-term neighbors.

The ban on short-term rentals allows for the creation of a cohesive community. Long-term neighbors, particularly those living in Seattle houseboats anchored near popular attractions like the Space Needle or with rooftop deck views, can better establish a sense of privacy and security within their neighborhood. The restriction of boat rentals also reduces the frequency of neighbors having to communicate and negotiate issues related to space, shared facilities, and expectations.

In conclusion, the ban on short-term houseboat rentals in Seattle aims to maintain a safe, peaceful, and cohesive community while addressing the concerns voiced by long-term residents. By focusing on the importance of safety and privacy rights, city regulations prioritize stability while promoting harmonious relations within the houseboat community.

Ways You Can Still Enjoy Living in a Seattle Houseboat

Long-term Renting

Although short-term houseboat rentals are illegal in Seattle due to the city’s shoreline code, you can still enjoy the experience of living in a houseboat through long-term renting. Many houseboats in Seattle’s urban residential shoreline environment are available for one month or longer lease periods. Long-term renting provides the unique opportunity to experience houseboat living without the consequences of violating city regulations like SMC 23.60A.540, which governs short-term rentals. Be aware, though, that the rental cost may be higher than traditional apartments, depending on the location and features of the houseboat.

Floating Home Purchasing

If you are considering a more permanent lifestyle change and have the necessary income, purchasing a floating home in Seattle might be another option. Floating homes offer many of the amenities and benefits of living in a houseboat, while still abiding by the city’s regulations. These floating residences often come equipped with utilities like water, electricity, and sewer connections, and provide a unique alternative to traditional urban living. It is essential to understand the zoning laws and guidelines in the city before deciding to purchase a floating home.

Other Lodging Options

Beyond long-term renting and home purchasing, there are additional lodging options in Seattle for those looking to taste the houseboat lifestyle. Some onsite alternatives include:

  • Residential marinas: Marinas often provide liveaboard slips with the proper documentation and permits for boat owners. They can offer a similar experience to houseboat living, with added community amenities and access to the city.
  • Hotel boatels: Although not houseboats, some hotels in Seattle offer boat-themed accommodations as a part of their entertainment uses. These hotel boatels provide a maritime-inspired experience for those looking to enjoy the atmosphere of life on the water without committing to a long-term rental or purchase.
  • The Edgewater Hotel: The Edgewater Hotel is the only hotel in Seattle over the water. It is located on Pier 67 and offers breathtaking views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

In summary, while short-term houseboat rentals are restricted in Seattle, you can still enjoy the experience through long-term renting, floating home purchasing, or considering alternative options like residential marinas and hotel boatels. Just be sure to comply with local regulations and thoroughly research your options before making any decisions.

About the author

My name is April, and I’m a Seattle-based writer, traveler, and foodie. I started this travel guide blog to share my passion for Seattle with fellow travelers and locals alike.

Whether you’re looking for the best coffee shops, the trendiest restaurants, or the most scenic hiking trails, I’ve got you covered.

When I’m not writing or exploring Seattle, you can find me watching movies with my husband, reading, or gardening with my dog in the backyard.

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