There are plenty of waterside hotels and resorts along the New England coastline, but few accommodations put guests as close to the water as The Houseboats at Newburyport.
Guests here actually stay on the water, not beside it.
This new boutique floating development in the heart of Newburyport is moored on two marinas: Harbor Marina and Hilton’s Marina, right where the Merrimack River meets the harbor.
“We have had bookings from people from all over the world, but even locals have been curious to try a night or two on the water,” said Matt Kirk, general manager. “We’ve had people come from a block and a half away to experience it. It is a unique staycation for locals.”
The houseboats are self-catering and have a living room and a kitchen equipped for basic, yet comfortable, cooking. Each houseboat is air-conditioned and has one bedroom with a queen-sized bed, a bathroom that includes a shower, and a small sleeping loft.
Perhaps best of all: Two outdoor decks offer an enviable position for relaxing and taking in both the harbor and city views.
Even with the amount of sheltered estuaries up and down the Massachusetts coastline, houseboat rentals are curiously scarce.
“Actually, I don’t know of any around here,” Kirk said. “It is a pretty unique experience. We did have one person with a houseboat in Boston come and stay while they rented theirs out.”
It’s a different way to experience a port city, but small, historic Newburyport lends itself well to sleeping at the docks: “Everything is right there on the doorstep,” Kirk said. “I’ve lived in this beautiful city for 15 years, and it’s a perfect place to walk around, and enjoy the shops and restaurants.”
Kirk doesn’t anticipate any problems from summer storms because the marinas are tucked far enough away from the open ocean, he said.
“It is sheltered from other boats, too, so the wake won’t disturb anyone,” he added.
But, because this part of the Merrimack is tidal and can freeze in winter, the houseboats are only open seasonally. They’ll be in storage next to Michael’s Harborside through the winter.
The houseboats come from New England Development, which owns and operates shops and restaurants in Newburyport, including Michael’s, as well as luxury hotels The Wauwinet and the White Elephant on Nantucket.
The Houseboats at Newburyport, though a small project compared to others in the company’s portfolio, were a couple of years in development. The first houseboat opened for business in May 2017 to test the water, so to speak, both in outfitting the interiors correctly and comfortably, and also gauging popularity.
“It was a slow process getting them ready and outfitting them, and word spread slowly at first because we didn’t advertise them at all,” Kirk said. “But this year they have really taken off.”
The Houseboats at Newburyport, 51R Water St., Newburyport; available through October 16.