Voyageurs National Park is a watery, wilderness wonderland amid the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and is best explored via a houseboat rental. In this post, I will answer an array of questions I’ve recently received from my audience. I wish to help prepare you for navigating these waters; for camping out under the stars; for exploring and working your way through this utterly unique park the best I can. Thus, I will shed light on all I’ve learned throughout my two times voyaging these waters with our Voyagaire Houseboat rental. I hope to inspire you to visit this highly underrated park. I ensure you: you’ll have the time of your life!
- Frequently asked questions and answers
- Must-go/must-visit places in the park
- Voyageurs National Park & Voyagaire Houseboat Video
- Best Day Ever in Voyageurs National Park blog post
VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK HOUSEBOAT ADVENTURE
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Q: Where do you rent a houseboat?
A: I cannot recommend renting your houseboat from Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboats more! Not only are their houseboats extremely well-equipped and great functioning, but their employees are the best. They’re super helpful, kind and generous – an utter blast to be around. They’re located on Crane Lake, address: 7576 Gold Coast Rd, Crane Lake, Minnesota 55725.
Q: What all is included in their houseboats?
A: There are many different sizes with varying amenities available, but we’ve voyaged on their Sunseeker 540 both times we’ve gone. This particular boat is equipped with: a full kitchen; a sizable bathroom (larger than any RV bathroom I’ve been in); multiple sleeping options (sleeps 10-12 people) with 3 double beds, pull-out couches and 2 single beds; an 8-person hot tub on the upper deck along with a waterslide, a wrap-around booth and table for dining, a lower “porch” with chairs and a grill…it had everything and then some! For a full list of the included amenities (such as kitchen appliances and kitchenware, etc), click here.
Q: How much does it cost to rent the Sunseeker 540 houseboat?
A: The weekly rate is $4,395.00 and the daily rate is $875.00. A $600.00 deposit is required upon booking. Now it may sound pricy to some but, if you split the cost between 10 friends or multiple families, it can be much more affordable. Also, please note that there’s a $30 per day insurance fee and you have to pay for the amount of fuel you use upon your return (we spent between $500-600 on fuel during our time there). Kayaks are available to rent as well for an additional $30 per day.
Q: Do you need a boating permit?
A: Short and sweet, the answer is no.
Q: Do you need an overnight permit for the national park?
A: Yes, a houseboat permit is required when staying overnight in Voyageurs National Park. They’re only $40 / week and can be purchased here: recreation.gov. Furthermore, there are no limits to the number of houseboat permits issued for any one day or season and you can purchase them up to the last minute. Just be sure to bring the printed permit along with you on your boat.
Q: How do you find places to camp/ “dock” your boat at night?
A: A giant map is provided and marked with various symbols. The black dots symbolize places for houseboats to stay for the night and most have campfire pits. You are not permitted to dock the boat at tenting sites – those are reserved for tent campers only! Even more, the sites are all first come, first serve and do not require any reservations. We always decided what area we wanted to play in at the beginning of each day, and would make our way there. If one was taken, we’d simply seek out another site nearby. Personally, I opted for sites that were more remote and away from other visitors. Not to mention, Doug preferred sites facing east, away from the setting sun, so he was better able to capture the dark and starry night skies. Later in this post I will list some of my favorite campsites and must-go places in the park.
Q: How do you navigate the boundary waters on your houseboat?
A: Let me begin this answer by saying: the employees of Voyagaire do a phenomenal job at explaining all this to you before setting you off on your journey. However, the main rule of thumb when following the buoy system is “Red Right Return“. So, red equals left side and green equals right side on your way there and, on your way back, red equals right (as you return) and green equals left. Furthermore, there are numbered markers throughout the waterways that coincide with the circled numbers on the map (above). In total, there are three very large maps provided in your houseboat – use these 1000% when navigating. The maps contain many symbols to look out for such as asterisks which identify rocks you absolutely need to stay away from. I highly recommend bringing along a pair of binoculars to aid in buoy and marker identification from a distance.
Q: How do you “dock” your houseboat at the campsites?
A: This will take practice and will, undoubtedly, be difficult at first so be patient. To dock your houseboat at a beach site or rock site, two members of your crew must jump off (there’s a plank available to assist if need be) with the large ropes from each side of the boat in hand. Then, they’ll tie and knot the ropes off at a 45 degree angle on both sides to a nearby tree (or hook if provided at the site). The ropes need to be as tight as possible with minimal to zero slack. All the while, it’s the captain’s responsibility to safely and slowly guide the boat into the position needed to properly tie off at. Once again, this is something the employees with go over with you prior to departure.
Q: What if we forget something or need assistance while we’re out in the middle of nowhere on our houseboat?
A: Aw, don’t you worry! Voyagaire has got you covered! You simply radio into their base (or another base called “Red Bird” depending on your location) and they’ll send someone out to assist you. For example: during our most recent trip a week ago, our motor for our fishing boat pooped out on us. We were unable to fix it, so we radioed Red Bird and a sweet couple came in no time to fix it. Also, we began running out of breakfast meats our first trip and simply radioed for some food delivery (they’ll deliver just about anything to wherever you happen to be in Voyageurs for a $55 service fee).
Q: How does the generator work?
A: First off, the generator works splendidly. The employees will give you the full rundown on which switches to use when turning it on and off, etc. There’s also a full manual located in the houseboat for you to refer to at any time. The generator powers the hot water, the electricity and many of the appliances and things you’ll like to utilize. However, you must turn it off when you go to sleep at night (and sometimes, even more frequently).
For great safety measures, there are very effective carbon monoxide detectors located in the front and back of the boat’s interior. We had our detectors go off and immediately shut down the generator and opened the windows to let fresh air in. If this happens to you, don’t be alarmed – it’s just letting you know it’s time to power it down. You’re able to keep the generator running for good chunks of time at once so it’s not inconvenient in the slightest.
Q: What do I need to bring with me on my Voyageurs National Park houseboat adventure?
A: This all depends on what you plan on doing, but here’s a list of things I’ve brought each time (you can click on the link or image to find out more info and to purchase if you choose):
I’ve brought my sleeping bag every time because, without the generator at night, it can get a little chilly (nothing intolerable though). Also, they offer a bedding/linen package at an additional cost, if you prefer to go that route.
Of course, you’re going to want a towel for drying off when you go swimming, hot-tubbing or after showering. I love the incredible design of our Pendleton towel and adore the fact that it’s so big! It’s ideal for sunbathing and relaxing on and it is extremely durable with a lifetime warranty.
These are the best, multi-functional shoes for Voyageurs National Park! You can hike in them and swim in them. They even have a heavy-duty toe covering for when walking in rocky waters and such. Without them, I would’ve had a much more difficult time climbing out of the water and up onto the rocky cliffs.
You’ll want to pack waterproof and wind-breaking pants for those mornings and evenings when you’re fishing, kayaking or even hiking. And, of course, they’ll come in handy for exploring on those rainy days.
Another addition to your layers list is this bright and fun windbreaker. Cotopaxi’s Teca is extremely packable (I can fit it in my fanny pack) and weather protective. It’s lightweight but effective.
Next layer you’ll want to bring is a fleece for those cool nights when you’re sitting next to the campfire. I simply love the designs Patagonia’s fleeces offer and their warmth is unmatched. Their spandex bindings at the cuffs and hem lock in your body heat. Did you know that they’re also super eco-friendly?
On top of the obvious swimsuit, you’ll want to pack a rash guard if you plan on climbing up rocks to get out of the water (at rocky sites) and go cliff-jumping – which I highly recommend.
You’ll also want these if you plan on adventuring in the water. Even more, they’re perfect for kayaking and rainy days. They’re quick dry, comfortable and so very practical. Not one day went by in Voyageurs NP that I didn’t wear these.
You’ll absolutely want to capture your amazing memories during your trip, so don’t forget to pack your camera gear. The following are a few of the photography / videoing gear that I personally recommend and use…
Continued list of items to bring on your Voyageurs National Park houseboat adventure:
- Reusable water bottle for filling up and taking on kayaking excursions, fishing outings on the boat etc
- Backpack for hiking, kayaking etc.
- Flashlight / headlamp for nighttime outside of the boat
- bug spray and sunscreen (recommend spraying your clothes with permethrin before coming to fight against mosquitos, biting flies and ticks)
- 100% bring groceries and beverages (stop at a nearby store on your way into Voyagaire Lodge and Houseboat)
- Any floats you may want to lounge around in the water with.
- Portable hammock.
- Fishing poles, tackle box and minnow bucket.
- Here is a list provided with more suggestions: List of things to bring on your houseboat.
Q: Where do I buy my fishing license for my Voyageurs National Park houseboat adventure?
Q: How long does it take to make it from Crane Lake clear up to Kettle Falls?
A: If you drive your boat directly from your starting point at Voyagaire to Kettle Falls, with no stopping or dilly-dallying, it’ll take you roughly 6 hours to make it to Kettle Falls.
VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK HOUSEBOAT ADVENTURE
Where to go and where to camp in Voyageurs National Park?
1. Grassy Bay
Grassy bay on Sand Point Lake is home to a few of my favorite campsites along with sheer 125-foot cliffs and dozens of islands. Here is where you’ll find the highest points within the boundaries of Voyaguers National Park so it’s certainly well-worth the visit. It also seems to be one of the quieter areas to camp and explore in. I had a field day kayaking below the gigantic rock walls and amid the many islands – hopping off to explore many of them.
2. Burnt Island
Also located on Sand Point Lake, Burnt Island is the place to go cliff-jumping! We docked our boat (not without hardship) along the island, climbed up and jumped off! I reckon the cliffs are approximately 30-35 feet high (and that’s what my research has told me, too). Despite there always being risk with these sort of adrenaline-pumping activities, the risk isn’t too great – the water below the cliffs are 80-90 feet deep and you have all the room in the world to jump and properly land. This is always one of my favorite islands to visit as my trip wouldn’t be complete without some cliff-jumping.
3. Ashback Beach
This houseboat campsite is on its own, private island in the middle of Lake Namakan and, it’s pretty big compared to some of the others. Ashback Beach was, perhaps, one of my favorite campsites of all because it…had it all! It was utterly remote, had a beach, multiple coves, a fairy-like forest & trails and the best views of the night sky.
4. Wolf Pack Islands
As if the name isn’t rad enough, directly across from the islands on the mainland lies a long stretch of beach where you can pull in and camp for the night. This spot is the sandiest, smoothest place we’ve found for some secluded swimming (great for anyone who prefers sand). Even more, the dense woodlands behind the beach contain a plethora of trails, one even lead up to a cliffside overlook where you can witness a breath-taking sunset. First thing in the morning, before sunrise, I took off in my kayak and roamed Wolf Pack Islands – I was greeted with such serenity. It was the perfect morning.
5. Gable Point
Situated between Lake Namakan and Lake Kabetogama, this rocky site is among the most secluded places we stayed and it was my personal favorite for swimming, sunbathing and water-sliding. Among the other huge perks: it also seemed to have the least bugs/mosquitos (win-win)! Here is where we had the majority of our in-water fun along with throwing a private party. We drank, danced, listened to tunes, had a campfire, skinny dipped, sunbathed and had ourselves a riot of a time. There was no one in sight to tell us to settle down or damper our good time.
6. Kettle Falls
Along with hiking trails and waterfalls, Kettle Falls is home to the only hotel, dating back to the early 1900s, inside the park. Though we did not stay overnight in the hotel (obviously we had our boat), we did pop in to its bar for some afternoon beers. We were greeted by a super friendly bartender who gave us a history lesson on the place and area while showing us old photographs, etc. She also played the antique nickelodeon for us which was an utter delight. She opened it up so we could see it working its century-old magic while listening to it’s music. I was left in awe and the entire experience was incredible! We felt like we walked back in time.
7. Vermillion Gorge
Just outside the park in Superior National Forest, near Crane Lake, lies the enchanting Vermillion Gorge. Here you can hike back a wonderful trail above the rushing waters and along the steep, narrow cliffs as the sounds of rushing water, the sights of dancing rays between the trees and the smell of pines and flowers fill the air around you. This is an impressive place, indeed, and a perfect way to either begin or end your houseboat voyage.
Needless to say, there are endless places to explore in Voyageurs National Park with your houseboat, kayak and own two feet but, the above places are some of my favorite and a fantastic starting point to planning your adventure here!
VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK HOUSEBOAT ADVENTURE
Our video created for Voyagaire
Watch as we explore Voyageurs National Park in our Voyagaire houseboat via our short adventure video. Also, stay tuned for my upcoming Voyageurs National Park video from this most recent trip (to be released soon).
VOYAGEURS NATIONAL PARK HOUSEBOAT ADVENTURE
“Best Day Ever in Voyageurs National Park”
When you ask yourself, “What’s one of the best days I’ve had this year or even in my life?”, you begin to reflect. Upon reflection, certain days immediately come to mind with little to no effort. I know, for me, there are about ten unforgettable days that instantly pop into my mind from recent years. Days that I remember with utmost clarity. Not to say that I’ve only had ten amazing days, because I’ve had SO many more. But, the type of days that I am referring to are the days when you don’t think about the past or the future – they are the days when you are living so completely in the moment that every single fiber of your being feels at peace with the universe. Everything feels RIGHT. Perfect. This day at Voyageurs National Park was precisely one of those days in my life. Read my blog post below to find out all about it (and to see why Voyageurs National Park and the Minnesota Boundary Waters are immensely special to me)
Thank you so much for reading my post and if you have any questions that I may not have covered, whatsoever, feel free to ask away in the comments below. Also, if you’ve been to Voyageurs National Park: how was your experience? Did you fall madly, deeply in love with it like I?
Much love and happy travels,
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