In recent years there has been an increase in demand for hybrid pontoon boats you can sleep on, with a few manufacturers now releasing models that come with cabins and sleeping quarters.
That’s not to say that a hybrid pontoon boat with an enclosed cabin is a new thing. Since the advent of pontooning, people have made their own custom modifications to add enclosures, as well as cabin kits being available to buy.
They aren’t common though, as pontoon boats gained popularity due to the large open deck that allows for leisure, fishing, and fun on the water. Having a cabin defeats a lot of the benefits to having a pontoon boat – which are often compared to floating patios!
In this guide I am going to show you what the options are if you did want to opt for a modern hybrid pontoon boat with a cabin (yes, they are expensive!). I’ve also included some details on how people can create their own custom-made cabins to sit on their pontoons using cabin kits.
Pontoon boats with sleeping quarters
My family and I have occasionally beached our pontoon and camped out on the shore. On other occasions we have slept on the deck covered by an enclosure. But to date, we’ve never been on a pontoon boat that has been designed for sleeping on.
The examples below let you do just that, with their manufactured and cleverly-designed cabin spaces.
Southland HRV Liberty hybrid recreational vehicle
- Release date: 2011
- Sleeps: 4
- Cabin features: Kitchen diner (converts to bed), shower, toilet, bedroom
- Website: southlandpontoonboats.com
The most luxurious and feature-led of the hybrid pontoon boats we know today is the Southland HRV Liberty from 2011.
It debuted at boat shows in the latter part of 2011 to huge fanfares everywhere it was seen. Yves Paquette, General Manager of the Maritime Association of Quebec, said this in advance of the Montreal Boat and Water Sports Show:
“Boat show attendees will be blown away when they see the Southland HRV Liberty Pontoon Boat. HRV stands for Hybrid Recreational Vessel. It is one cool looking pontoon boat from Southland which literally consists in a 3-seasons Boat House featuring notably solar panels and a wind turbine.”
When released, Southland Pontoons pitched their new pontoon boat with cabin for sale as being ideal for those wanting to spend extended periods of time out on the water, but without spending a fortune. That’s not strictly true, as this particular boat was ridiculously expensive – but worth the money…
It was truly unique, in so far that nobody had ever manufactured a pontoon boat quite like it, with the target market aimed at buyers who wanted a boat, but perhaps couldn’t stretch to also owning a waterfront property.
This is what Southland Pontoons said about the Liberty HRV in a press release:
“Southland have come up with a practical economical solution that allows owners to feel completely autonomous with solar and wind power sources and all the amenities needed to experience life on the water without interruption. The scarcity of waterfront property, the prohibitive cost of buying, maintenance, taxes and services are all the more reason to see the HRV as the economical practical alternative.”
They went on to say that this hybrid recreational vehicle was ideal as it only cost a quarter of what it might cost to buy a waterfront property; therefore, offering an inexpensive alternative. Here’s what you would get:
- Overall length: 34 feet (10.36 meters)
- Floor length: 32 feet (9.75 meters)
- Cabin length: 16 feet (4.87 meters)
- Width: 8 foot 6 inches (2.6 meters)
- Approximate weight: 6,800 pounds (3,091 kg)
- Maximum capacity passengers: 10
- Maximum capacity passengers on the upper deck: 4
- Maximum capacity weight: 3,500 lbs (1,587 kg)
- Maximum HP capacity: 150 horse power / 112 kw
What’s in the cabin?
As you can see from the photos, you get a lot of space inside the cabin, with features you would never normally associate with a pontoon boat.
Walking in from the deck (which incidentally also comes with an enclosure for even more coverage), the first thing you see is the kitchen diner.
You have a sink, fully functional taps, fridge freezer, cooker and then a dining table just large enough for two. The dining table can collapse down, with the bench seating then pulling down to form a bed for two people. It’s small, but you can sleep on it.
But that’s not the only sleeping space.
What makes this truly the best of all the pontoon boats you can sleep on is the main bedroom area. That’s right, there’s another bed area for even more passengers to sleep in!
Walk past the diner and you get to the sleeping quarters with a bed in place, again big enough to sleep two people. So, all in all, you could get 4 people sleeping on this pontoon boat.
And I didn’t mention the shower room and toilet. Pontoon boats usually don’t have bathrooms, but this one does.
There is a small toilet and bathroom in-between the sleeping quarters and dining area meaning you get the best of the outdoors without the need to sacrifice anything in the comfort of daily living: eating, sleeping, having fun.
It is an amazing pontoon boat.
But the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed it actually has 3 pontoons, rather than 2. So, the reality is, it’s actually a tritoon with a cabin you can sleep on – click here to find out the difference between pontoons and tritoon boats.
Those 3 pontoons help stabilize all the weight and give you the power needed to motor along with all these insane features.
But what about deck space?
This is where you might not be entirely happy.
For obvious reasons, the deck space is hugely compromised due to the cabin, dining area, and sleeping quarters.
You are only going to get half as much space on deck as you would with a typical pontoon boat, but that gets outweighed in many respects by the cabin features.
It all depends on what you want from your pontoon boat (read this buyer’s guide if you need some more help).
The deck is further compromised in space by the captain’s console position plus the luxurious seating. It’s a boat for luxury for sure and looks beautiful. Certainly not one for those who want to do water sports or fishing though!
The Southland HRV Liberty offers even more coverage from the elements on deck for those that want to travel and sleep on board, with a collapsible enclosure that can be erected in minutes. As you can see from the photos, this completely encloses the deck too – meaning on a hot summer’s night, you might have other guests sleeping down on deck!
This half boat, half cruiser has a lot of features which are going to require more battery power than standard. To cope with that the manufacturers have built it to use three different energy sources; electric, propane, and green.
It has a 110-volt shore power inlet that you can re-charge electric batteries from when docked, then propane gas for the fridge and stove, plus solar panels and a wind turbine to offer more back up power for the multiple appliances.
Premier Marine Encounter
- Release date: 2015
- Sleeps: 2
- Cabin features: Dining table, refrigerator, and bed
- Website: pontoons.com
After the Southland Liberty HRV was released, Premier Marine also decided to enter this specialist market with their own take on the pontoon boat with cabin hybrid offering sleeping and living quarters.
It’s not as large and luxurious as the Liberty, and the cost reflects that. But if you want a pontoon boat you can sleep on, it makes for a great cheaper alternative. Still expensive though!
The president of Premier Marine had this to say about the Encounter in 2015:
“We saw a need to design a boat that had the stability and luxury of a pontoon with the convenience and comfort of a cabin cruiser. This model performs like no other pontoon and features a very spacious interior cabin; it will satisfy our customers who like to spend as much time as possible on the water. Any boat lover has had those days when they can’t bear to say goodnight to a perfect sunset on the lake. This model lets boaters expand their summers with a place to sleep, lounge, or just get away from it all.”
This cabin pontoon comes in two different models, the 290 and 310. But unlike the Liberty, it’s a center-cabin model, and you actually walk down into the sleeping quarters.
It’s nowhere near as well equipped as the Liberty HRV, with no toilet, cooking, or shower facilities, instead just having a small seating and dining table, with a two-person bed in the cabin.
It’s great for sleeping in, but you won’t be able to set off for a week without setting foot back on land with this one.
- Overall length: 33 feet (10.05 meters)
- Floor length: 33 feet (10.05 meters)
- Width: 10 foot 2 inches (3.17 meters)
- Approximate weight: 4,000 pounds (1,814 kg)
- Maximum capacity passengers: 16
- Maximum capacity weight: 5,400 lbs (2,449 kg)
- Maximum HP capacity: 400 horse power / 298.5 kw
What’s in the cabin?
The cabin is designed to almost be hidden. If you were pulling near to this pontoon boat on the lake, you might not even realise that it has a cabin under the raised helm.
The cabin is accessed beneath a sun pad and forward-facing couch, with a small bi-fold door that opens up to reveal the living and sleeping area below.
Inside you benefit from a plush sleeper that fits two people, a custom mattress, and built-in marine speakers in the headboard.
From a dining perspective, there’s a convertible dining table and refrigerator, surrounded by enough bench seating for around 6 people to chat and dine in relative comfort.
What about deck space?
The deck is far larger than the Liberty HRV, and definitely more “pontoon-like”.
It comes with a front bench, integrated bow sun lounger and rear wrap-around seating area. These areas can comfortably sit between 14 to 16 passengers, making the layout of this pontoon truly unique.
Other pontoon boats with enclosed cabins
Sun Tracker 18 with cabin
This is the granddaddy of them all, the Sun Tracker 18 with cabin from the mid 1990s. This is a tritoon with cabin, and I’ve deliberately left it the last of the 3 featured here today.
The reason being, it’s just so ugly, and in truth was probably designed way before it’s time.
I’ve included a couple of photos of it below. You can pick them up second hand on used boat websites. If you are considering buying a used pontoon, read these hints and tips.
Pontoon boat with cabin and slide
These are very rare and are more commonly known as double-decker pontoons (see the top 5 double-decker funships you can buy). They give you coverage from the elements, and let you get a slide attached due to the height of the boat.
One of the better ones you can buy on the market for private owners are manufactured by Tahoe Pontoons – see their Vision Funship model – it’s a lot of fun just like the name suggests – but no sleeping area.
You can typically rent them out at holiday locations or pay a vacation company to take you and your party out on them.
You won’t sleep on them, but you will have a hell of a lot of fun.
Pontoon boat cabin kits
There are some companies that sell boat cabin kits. I’ve never seen any in the flesh but did find a website which sells pontoon boat cabin kits. It’s called U-Fab Boats.
It’s a great idea if you want to convert your pontoon into a houseboat, but for me, again these look really ugly in my opinion and hark back to the Sun Tracker 18 look – which I don’t think is a good one. It’s all down to personal preference!
The benefits to a pontoon boat with enclosed cabin
Why would you choose to have a pontoon boat with sleeping quarters or living areas? Well, there’s a number of reasons I can think of including:
- You don’t need to come back to shore at the end of the night
- You can take off for days on end completely interrupted and independently
- You can shelter from the elements
- You can live as a nomad
- You can put the kids to sleep if it gets too late
Other hybrid pontoon boats
Pontoons with cabins aren’t the only hybrids you can buy. There are also new boats on the market which mix the best of pontoons and deck boats, offering a hybrid of speed and comfort.
One of the best on the market right now is the SouthWind 229LC Hybrid deck.
The possible dangers of DIY pontoon cabin projects
And lastly, I wanted to briefly mention DIY cabin projects.
A few years ago, I read a tale on BoatSafe.com by a guy who had accepted a trip on a large 28-foot pontoon boat. The skipper had built his own cabin enclosure using aluminum.
The boat wasn’t overloaded with passengers and was under capacity (see how many people you can carry on a pontoon), and there were enough life jackets for everyone.
The pontoon headed out onto one of North Carolina’s coastal sounds and it quickly became apparent that the open deck at the front might dip under a large swell – due to the heavy custom-made cabin that had been erected over the deck.
The skipper asked all the passenger to try to spread the weight out on the pontoon boat, but in just a couple of minutes the boat hit a swell and dipped into the water. The skipper managed to slow the engine and back up, but not before everyone had a huge fright as the boat heeled in a port direction.
Thankfully they made it back to shore, but it’s a timely reminder that pontoon boats can sink in certain circumstances, particular if they have been over-loaded with weight.
If you are thinking about making your own cabin on your pontoon boat, use lightweight enclosures, rather than building any solid constructions – and most of all, check the pontoon weight capacity calculator I developed.
The last word…
I can really see the appeal of being able to sleep on your pontoon boat, and the two featured crafts I reviewed and featured are amazing vessels that let you just do that.
My family and I have had so many days out on our pontoon which crept into the night, and we didn’t want things to end.
If I had the money, would I buy one though?
For me, the benefits of having a large open deck, my fishing trips, and entertaining in the sun outweigh wanting to be able to settle down overnight on my boat.
But for you, it might be a great idea.
If you need any help in choosing your first or next pontoon boat, have a read of the buyer’s guide I put together.