If you’re looking to “strike gold” in your next vacation experience, you might consider a houseboat getaway in California’s Gold Country. New Melones Lake just happens to be situated in a scenic part of the state that is almost like a giant theme park focused on some of California’s most interesting tourist attractions.
Even if you just want to enjoy the peace and relative solitude of the 12,500-acre lake, New Melones will not disappoint. The fifth largest reservoir in California, it has plenty of coves, beaches, trails and scenery to keep you enthralled for the length of your vacation. There are several inns and lodgings throughout this region of the Sierra Nevada foothills, about the same latitude as San Francisco. But for our most recent trip to the area we indulged our passion for boating by renting a luxury houseboat, an experience that proved rewarding for both our family and friends who came along to enjoy a week of sightseeing and relaxation. Renting a houseboat is one of the best ways we can think of to combine the feeling of a complete escape to nature with amenities that, the older we get, the less we want to do without. Gone are the days of tent camping on a pristine lake high in the alpine wilderness, an adventure that we loved when our backs didn’t ache from sleeping on hard ground. Nowadays we’re doing gentler forays into the “wilderness” where we greet each sunny new day after sleeping restfully on a comfortable bed — in this case, in our own private stateroom aboard our houseboat for the week. We did this adventure with one other family, a total of seven people, including three kids. The houseboat company says you can sleep up to 15 people on this boat, but our recommendation is you don’t put more than two small families, or one extended family, on one boat. The houseboats are rented by Houseboats.com, which has operators take your boat in and out of the dock area, thereby eliminating 99% of the potential for serious damage to your boat. Even novice captains will find it easy to beach these boats along broad sandy shorelines with steep drop-offs that keep you from damaging your prop on the lake bottom.