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Kentucky Houseboating
by Paris Permenter & John Bigley

For all its urban areas, much of Kentucky remains rural, perfect for romantic getaways. The Highlands and Waterways Region, tucked deep in Southern Kentucky, is best known as the capital of the houseboating world.

Kentucky ranks as the houseboat capital of the world, building more craft than any other destination. Most are constructed within a few miles of the shoreline of Lake Cumberland.

Today this area is often called the "Detroit of Houseboats," turning out high-end craft of special interest to couples who would like their own floating home away from home for a few days. Houseboats include options such as holographic fireplaces, satellite TV on big screens, Jacuzzi tubs, water slides, pool tables, and more.

Houseboats range from simple to luxurious.
Cumberland State Park

Once on board, travelers can chart their own course, literally exploring the 63,000 acres of water and over 1260 miles of shoreline on Lake Cumberland. When it's time to get out and explore, nearby Cumberland State Park is home of what's called the Niagara Falls of the South. At 125 feet wide with a 65-foot drop, these mammoth falls boast one of only two “Moonbows” found in the world. Like a nighttime rainbow, the only other location of this natural occurrence is Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. Nearby, the DuPont Lodge, built in 1941, serves as a popular stop and often a wedding venue.

Nicknamed the “Gateway to the Cumberlands," the town of Williamsburg is an easy stop for groups headed to Lake Cumberland on north-south Interstate 75. Just seconds from the highways stands a property well known among romantic travelers: the Cumberland Inn. Operated by Cumberland College and largely staffed by students, the two-story inn stands in regal colonial style.

Another lake that's top with houseboaters (and scuba divers) is Dale Hollow. Also well-known for its birding and bald eagle population, Dale Hollow is a favorite with anglers, holding the world record for smallmouth bass fishing.

For groups that don't want to overnight on a houseboat, Dale Hollow State Resort Park is perched at the edge of the 28,000-acre lake.

Along with watersports and area hiking, couples find diversions such as visits to the Barthell Coal Mining Camp, a ghost town populated from 1902 to 1948 by coal miners and their families. Today the former camp can be reached by car or, for the most scenic arrival, by the Big South Fork Scenic Railway. The camp is open daily from April through December and visitors have the chance to stroll through the buildings formerly used as a barber shop, bath house, machine shop, and restaurant.

For more information:

  • contact the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association
  • call 877.868.7735 or 877.TOUR.SEKY
  • fax 606.677.6059
  • visit www.tourseky.com