Shasta Lake PR agencies have named the lake “the houseboating capital of the world.” That bold statement may or may not be true, but Shasta Lake certainly is California’s most popular houseboating destination. It’s quite difficult to find a houseboat that sleeps fewer than 10 people (most sleep 14-18) and a few true leviathans can hold more than 20 partiers. The beds aren’t big, and private bedrooms are few, so for true comfort it’s best to pile in no more than half to two-thirds the recommended number of overnight guests.

Lake Shasta. Photo © Maislam/Dreamstime.

Shasta Lake’s “fingers” are dotted with marinas offering boat rentals. Photo © Maislam/Dreamstime.

Many Shasta houseboats come with upper-deck hot tubs, waterslides, barbecues, satellite TV, and high-end entertainment systems.You can rent a houseboat at almost any marina on the lake. No special boating knowledge is required to rent a houseboat, though you may be required to provide a valid driver’s license. Most marina websites post photos and price lists; for example, (877/468-7326), which works with the Jones Valley Resort at Shasta Lake, includes blogs, photos, and information about the lake while you shop online. Whichever marina you rent from, expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 per weekend for a small minimal craft to $9,100 per weekend for a huge luxury boat. Weekly rates, which include one weekend, are often a bargain at double or less the cost of a single weekend.

Expect to find a fair amount of luxury; many Shasta houseboats come with upper-deck hot tubs, waterslides, barbecues, satellite TV, and high-end entertainment systems. Your houseboat will also come with some necessities—most have fully equipped kitchens, basic cleaning supplies, and basic sanitary supplies (meaning toilet paper). But you’ll need to bring a bunch of your own stuff too, such as pillows, towels, sheets, paper towels, folding chairs, ski-quality life jackets, and first-aid kits—as well as food and booze, of course. Talk to your rental company about the full list of supplies they recommend to bring.

Piloting a mammoth houseboat on the waters of Shasta Lake is a bit like driving a big RV up I-5. Take it slow, carefully follow all the instructions you’re given at the marina, and you’ll do fine. Most Shasta houseboaters pull their craft into small inlets and moor them for the night. Your marina staff can advise you on how to maneuver your houseboat safely toward shore in the evening and back out again the next morning.

Many Shasta houseboats have the equipment to tow smaller watercraft along behind them. If you choose, you can rent a ski boat, personal watercraft, or fishing boat and bring it along with you as you explore Shasta Lake.

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.