Family On the Road

Houseboat Adventures at Voyageurs National Park

A few years back while sitting around a bonfire in the Adirondacks, Luke and I were deep in conversation about setting goals for our family and future. Where do we want to live, what do we want to see, what values are important for us to instill in our kids? We tossed around the idea of moving to the ADK for good until we came back down to reality and thought about the schools, distance from family, and that small detail of careers and finances. Eventually, the conversation looped around to wanting to take our kids to amazing places – to teach them a little bit about history and a lot about the value of nature, and to fill their minds with the best possible memories of childhood.

Eventually we settled on a goal of visiting as many of the U.S. National Parks as time (and money) would allow before the kids graduate high school. Three years later, we’ve checked 9 of the 59 (or 61, depending on who’s counting) parks off our list. This summer, our first excursion was to head up to Northern Minnesota to experience Voyageurs National Park.

Voyageurs NP fast facts:

• 40% of the park consists of interconnected “water highways”
• Voyageurs is named after early explorers, thought to have first explored the area in 1688.
• Voyageurs is one of the only places in North America where you can see rocks half the age of the Earth

We left for the 17.5 hour drive on the first day of summer break, stopping half-way in Indiana (and making a pit stop at Indiana Dunes NP) on our way up to Minnesota. Our kids have accompanied us on road trips since they were old enough to hold their own bottles, so long distances in the car usually aren’t a big deal to them, thankfully! We made it to Voyageurs on a Monday afternoon and picked up our houseboat from Ebel’s, a wonderful family-owned company.

The next four days were spent swimming, relaxing, exploring the lakes, and swatting approximately 1 trillion bugs. We made our way to Ellsworth Rock Gardens and Kettle Falls, took plenty of photos, and all enjoyed some serious R&R. Although we had never stayed on a houseboat before, it all felt fairly familiar – since it’s basically a floating camper. We had all the amenities we needed, and the water slide off the top of the boat was an added bonus!

We ended up mooring the boat at two different sites, each of which gave us an entire island to ourselves. (I’ll be honest, the isolation was a bit eerie at times!) With no cell phone service or internet availability, no light pollution, and no schedules or deadlines, it was the perfect week to unwind after a hectic few months.

Luke and I both agreed that this trip was well worth the miles it took to get there. Voyageurs was truly a unique experience and one we won’t soon forget. And we’d love to head back for another week on a houseboat some day – although next time, we might even splurge for the version with a rooftop hot tub!

After we returned the houseboat on Thursday morning, we packed up the car and made our way across the state and over to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to get ready to embark on our next adventure. Stay tuned!

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