Sandbar parties are like any other party— great food, cold drinks, fun people, and good times… EXCEPT it happens to take place on a sandbar (a shallow beach-type spot where boaters can all drop their anchors), making it all the more fun. Never been to a sandbar party? No problem! Here are seven things you can expect at your first one:
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1. New Friends
Nobody takes the boat out to a packed sandbar because they want to sit quietly and work on writing their novel. Boaters head to these sandbars because they want to have some fun. They’re ready to make new friends and have a great time. Bring a happy attitude, and you’ll be just fine.
2. Water Toys Everywhere
Sandbar parties often include families, which almost always means adults and kids alike in the water on floating toys. You’ll see people on paddleboards, rafts, kayaks, fun-shaped inflatables—pretty much anything and everything that floats, sometimes with cupholders attached. Keep an eye out for these folks when you’re approaching the sandbar in your boat.
3. Dueling Speaker Setups
A party isn’t a party without music, and lots of boats crank up the tunes at a sandbar party. It’s almost impossible to keep the soundwaves from colliding, but you can do your best to keep your boat’s volume to a reasonable level. Remember: You’re there to have fun and make friends, not to get into a stereo war with the boat a few spaces over from you.
Got kids? We’ve got a Parent-Child Water Activities Guide!
Boat nuts want to check out other people’s boats. It’s a strong desire that at a sandbar party, total strangers will sometimes approach your boat and ask if they can come aboard for a look around. Maybe they’re in the market for a new boat and are considering one like yours. Maybe they’ve never seen a boat from your builder and are curious about the quality. Either way, these lookie-loos are usually harmless—and they’re usually willing to reciprocate with tours of their boats if you’re interested.
5. AMAZING Food
A sandbar party will always include boaters grilling up something tasty or who cooked in advance and have snacks ready to pass around. It’s not like a potluck where everybody puts the food in the middle and shares, but don’t be surprised if your kid scores a burger on another boat after making a new friend or if you find yourself feeding somebody else’s kid. Also, don’t be surprised to see a “food boat” pull up selling edible delights, just as a food truck might arrive at a festival in a park on the land.
6. Experienced and Inexperienced Boaters
Some people bring their own boats to sandbar parties. They have plenty of experience operating those boats and are good at handling them in a busy waterway. Other people rent boats to bring to sandbar parties—and they may not have as much experience behind the wheel. So, it’s in your best interest to assume that any boater you meet is new at the helm. Be prepared to react to just about anything.
Pro Tip: Pontoons are excellent boats for groups of all sizes looking to do all kinds of things on the water! You can lounge on the deck or hop on a tube attached to the back for some riveting on-water fun.
7. Maritime Authorities
Yes, they’re out there—and they know where the sandbar parties tend to pop up. It’s the maritime authorities’ job to ensure that everyone is safe, that nobody is blocking main channels and that sort of thing. Don’t be concerned if you see a patrol boat lurking around the sandbar. They’re doing their best to help make sure that you and everyone else have a safe, fun time.
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Kim Kavin has been on boats in more than 50 countries and islands, including in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. She grew up learning to steer a ski boat and Hobie Holder at her grandfather’s lake house in New Jersey, and went on to spend time aboard everything from America’s Cup racing sailboats to submarines.
Kim is a PADI-certified scuba diver and animal lover who always enjoys a good, long look around a coral reef. Her award-winning writing and editing regularly appears in national marine magazines and on leading websites. In her early years, she was a Dow Jones editing intern and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not writing, Kim can usually be found hiking northwest New Jersey’s beautiful park trails with her adopted shelter mutt, Ginger.