For the past nine years, my friends and I have gathered for an annual cabin getaway. Last year our usual cabin in the Cariboo became unavailable and we decided to try out houseboating on Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island. It was so much fun cruising the enormous lake that we decided to do it again.
In comparison to Shuswap Lake, upon whose shores sits the town of Sicamous, the “Houseboat Capital of Canada”, Sproat Lake is relatively quiet. This year we went the second weekend in September and the lake was even less busy than usual, our only company seemingly the locals, who waved as they passed us in their fishing boats, and the enormous Martin Mars plane, that lives on the lake when not dumping water on forest fires.
We rented our houseboat from Fish and Duck, a short drive from Port Alberni, where we stocked up on groceries and drinks. We rented a CruiseCraft, which came with a fully equipped kitchen, including two fridges, a stove and oven and a BBQ. There was also plenty of sleeping space, with three bedrooms, a sleeping loft and a pull-out couch.
The best part about houseboating is the freedom that comes with staying in what is essentially a moving cabin. The houseboat has to be beached at night, so every day we cruised the lake in search of the perfect camping spot. We stopped along the way to sample various swimming spots and sun dappled beaches or simply let the houseboat drift gently in the centre of the lake while we swam alongside or reclined on the upper deck. Once we settled at a nice beach for the night, a fire would be built for potential campfire games (our favourite is Werewolf).
We loved exploring the shores of Sproat Lake, discovering mossy groves and tiny lakes or sun bleached logs strewn on rocky beaches. When the sun shone, we blasted mixes of bad top 40 hits and danced and drank cold beer on the upper deck. Cloudy weather meant the temperatures dropped a bit, so we took advantage of the hot tub or gathered around the big booth downstairs and played board games and drank countless cups of coffee. Camping can be so reliant on the weather; it was nice to have a variety of things to do on the houseboat rain or shine.
A highlight this year was the incredible rope swing we spotted while cruising the lake. It hung over a rocky beach and with a bit of a running start, flung its rider out over the crystal clear water. Going with the natural houseboat theme of “Cruises”, my friends and I had brought fancy clothing for a Formal Night and the rope swing became the perfect accessory for photos, posed mid-air in ties and full-length gowns, the serene lake as backdrop.
The grand finale to our houseboating adventure was the last evening, when the lake lit up with the blazing colours of a neon pink and orange sunset. We drank champagne and watched the colours intensify and fade, a dramatic end to our four nights on Sproat Lake. Houseboating turned out to be a perfect end to the summer, and, with leaves just hinting at changing colours on the trees, a great way to usher in the fall.
Sproat Lake is about an hour and 30 minute drive from Nanaimo (and the BC Ferries connection to the mainland). For houseboating, it’s best to book ahead a few months in advance, especially for the busy summer weekends.