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Houseboating in Kentucky

Kentucky may not be the first destination that springs to mind when considering a getaway for you and your gal pals, and we wouldn't blame you. Kentucky isn't exactly a shopping mecca ... But trust us when we tell you that Kentucky has a sweet something you and girlfriends will happily trade for the shopping, fine dining and shows. Your own private boat (the size of a yacht) complete with bar, hot tubs and ample room for partying.

Your floating hotel on the Cumberland River

Houseboating the Cumberland RiverVegas, New York and Chicago, while sinfully delish, can't always hold a candle to truly getting away - which is what you'll do on the Cumberland River. Imagine a houseboat with 6 private bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and dining room, rooftop hot tub, central heat and air...Sounds sweet, right?

Safe Harbor Rentals operates from Burnside Marina and offers a variety of houseboats ranging from 64 to 80 feet long. Yes, you get to drive the boat and yes, you get to take it as far up the river as you like.

Before you panic, these boats are amazingly easy to operate - if I can do it, anyone can.

Piloting the HouseboatWe rented the Mystic (80' x 18') and after a 20 minute lesson on how to steer and anchor, our instructor set us free. Pulling out of the dock gave me appreciation for what it must have been like to navigate the Titanic. We sailed for a few hours on the (thankfully) wide and mostly quiet river - traveling in spring or fall is the best time to avoid more boats on the river.  

After anchoring in a secluded grotto, we hopped ashore, skipped rocks and explored the area before heading back to our adult beverages cooling onboard. Then we hit the waterslide. Seriously, when's the last time you shot yourself into a lake over and over and over again just for the fun of it?

Rooftop RelaxingOur first evening consisted of grilled fish on the rooftop barbeque followed by a shamelessly long soak in the hot tub. We turned up the tunes for a while but when the sun set, the wildlife on shore came alive and we tuned into that fantastic symphony instead.

There's so much I loved about our little boat (I affectionately named her Queen Mary), but here are a few highlights:

  • Hot Tub - Our upper deck sported a tub big enough for 6 people. Fabulous in the afternoon but uber-fab at night under a blanket of stars uninterrupted by streetlights.
  • Lots of room for sleepingComfortable sleeping for 12 - You may not all fit into the hot tub at the same time, but the sleeping arrangements are ample.
  • 2 bathrooms with showers and an outdoor shower. Perfect.
  • Full kitchen with everything you could possibly want. Except food. And alcohol.
  • Full outdoor bar and grill with everything you'll need. Except the food and alcohol.
  • Big screen TV, satellite channels, full sound system, etc. Partying on a houseboat means cranking up the tunes without worrying about the neighbors...
  • Safety equipment. GPS, ship-to-shore contact, maps - amenities are nice, but it's easier to have fun when you know you're protected if something goes wrong.

Burnside Marina

Burnside Marina is in south central Kentucky, 25 miles from Cumberland State Park. It's a beautiful area to travel through, but be warned, it's also a "moist" county. Meaning you cannot buy alcohol freely there - but can at some local restaurants and bars. If you're flying and use the Lexington airport, we recommend picking up your bliss at the Liquor Barn before leaving town - Tennessee is your next closest option.  And if you land on a Sunday, better bring your own alcohol - where and when you can buy alcohol may be as confusing as which counties are dry, wet and "moist" - so plan your flights accordingly.

Gourmet kitchen on the houseboatThere are a handful of restaurants in Somerset, just a few miles north of Burnside, which are licensed. We stopped at Picasso's before boarding our vessel and had a chance to chat with Steven Morris, part owner, floor manager, and chef. ''You could order a grilled cheese sandwich or filet mignon and have your choice of exactly the right wine to go with it." Like we said, it's not Vegas...

While in Somerset, pick up your supplies for your voyage. Burnside has a small shopping area, but selection may be limited. The kitchen on the boat sports a full size fridge and small coolers outside so don't be shy about buying too much.

Honing in on quality gal-pal time is a challenge and takes a lot of planning. Taking that getaway off the beaten path to a place where you can truly let your hair hang down and just be together - that's priceless.

Want more info on houseboating in Kentucky, get click-happy with the links below:

Got a favorite getaway for you and your girlfriends? Share your story with us here on GoGirlfriend or reach out on Twitter or Facebook - we'd love to hear from you!

To comply with too many regulating bodies to mention and in the interest of transparency, our houseboating adventure was sponsored by Waterway Adventures, but the commentary and perspectives are those of GoGirlfriend.


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I have spent many a week on the lakes and rivers in Kentucky. It surprisingly one of the best ways to spend a vacation!

Great news for Go Girlfriend readers!!! All Liquor Barn locations are open Sunday from 1pm-9pm. Cheers, Emily Goldey

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