The Ultimate Lake of the Ozarks Pub Crawl

You may or may not have heard of the Lake of the Ozarks until the recent popular Netflix special, but this has been a popular touristy spot in Missouri, known locally as just ‘The Lake’ for decades. It seems to be the Midwest’s not so secret, yet best kept secret.

The Lake really booms over the summer, and welcomes thousands of local tourists every year, as well as a few tourists from afar. I was lucky enough to discover this gem since my partner’s family has been visiting the Ozarks every summer, from Australia, for over 20 years. I would hear stories of their heyday at Party Cove and just knew I had to experience the fun.

The Lake offers the perfect summer escape to work on your tan, hang out with your friends and most importantly… get your drink on! The only way to truly appreciate all that the Lake of the Ozarks has to offer, is to partake in AT LEAST one pub crawl (or 2, or 3… or 10!)

The only way to properly do a Lake of the Ozarks pub crawl is by boat… it can be done by car, but you just won’t get the same vibe as you will on a boat! Bar hopping by boat offers you a chance to get the wind in your hair, pull up at the docks like a boss and really get the local experience.

Remember, this is a tourist area so every bar will be inundated with hen’s parties and 21st parties. It all adds to the ambience and is almost like a chilled out Midwestern version of Vegas - you just have to appreciate it for what it is



How to get around:

Again, we were lucky enough to have a few friends in the area to jump on their boat, but if you are just visiting there are plenty of ways you can get your ultimate pub crawl kicks at Lake of the Ozarks:

Hire a boat:

Ozarks speedboat

If you have a boat license and just want to stick with your crew for the time you’re at the lake, you can hire a boat locally. Iguana Water Sports and Bridgeport Boat Rental are both local companies that you can contact to not only hire a boat, but a pontoon, jet ski or various other watercraft… You can even hire purpose made ‘party boats’ with slides and all kinds of features depending on your budget. The prices seem to range from about the $800 - $1,000 mark for a day so you will definitely want to split the costs between a few friends.

Having a boat can be good fun too just to find a private cove along the lake system, anchor down and have a few drinks out of the cooler and go for a swim. After you’ve paid so much for a boat for the day it may be handy to save a bit of money by buying your own drinks.

Bar hop cruise:

If you want to take all the worry out of your holiday, and don’t have a designated captain, you can pay to jump on a professionally organised bar hop. This is a great idea too if you’re travelling solo, or in a small group to make some new friends and create some memories. Playin’ Hooky runs weekend bar hops starting from $35 a person, or a basic water taxi service too if you just need to get from A to B.


Where to eat/drink:

There seems to be an infinite amount of bars to choose from, but some are definitely of a higher calibre than others. If you’re doing a few days of pub crawls, you may want to plan out your route by map, as some of these bars can be a fair distance from each other. I have ordered the bars from my most favourite to least recommended:

Coconuts Caribbean Beach Bar And Grill

This place can get hectic! Probably my personal favourite, there are some cool swings to sit on at the bars, dancing atop the pool bars, a live DJ, and the most entertaining MC at the lake! The MC would have a costume change, into different jump-suits, every half-hour or so and he really knows how to get the crowd pumping. Coconuts also has a volleyball net on a man-made bit of beach and plenty of pool parties and activities happening every day of the week.

Try one of their CocoRice Bowls if you’re after something refreshing to soak up some of that alcohol!

Backwater Jacks

Backwater Jacks is arguably the most popular bar in the Ozarks at the moment, so make sure this place gets a prime spot on your pub crawl! Everybody revolves around the pool bar and enjoys the pumping live music. There is as much of a party going on at the docks as there is in the establishment itself. The dock seems to be the spot to show off how big your boat is, socialise, pump your own music and have a few pre-drinks before jumping into the pools. Make some friends, get the shots flowing and enjoy yourself!

This is a great place to grab a bite if you’re getting hungry as there are two different eateries, one specialising in Asian food and Sushi, the other combines the flavours of traditional Midwestern food with a flair of the Caribbean.

Make sure to hit up Backwater Jacks for Crab leg Mondays if you like seafood!

The Fish and Company

The Fishing Co. definitely has the most friendly vibe at the lake. It will give you a different feel than Coconuts or Backwater Jacks, which are definitely more of a young-people’s party place. The Fishing Co. isn’t a dive, but it doesn’t have a pool bar. You’ll end up partying with people young and old, but definitely will always feel safe and have good fun. The co-owner, Dale Blue - the barefoot entertainer, personally gets up and performs live music every afternoon. Dale will definitely get you up on stage to rock a tambourine or the triangle so make sure you’re full of liquid courage! The day we visited, it poured with rain, but the party never stopped! We danced in the rain, and celebrated just as hard when the sun came out. SURVEY SAYS…. SLAM ‘EM!


Good place for a beer!

Dog Days: 

Dog Days is huge! In the last few years this place has continued to expand with the growing number of tourists. There is a couple of pools, flowing frozen cocktails and an awesome view to watch the boats go by. People-watching is a must here, and if a boat speeds by to show-off, you better believe that everybody stops what they’re doing to pay attention. It’s a prime location to watch the day go by or catch a sunset, but I think as it has expanded it may have lost a bit of what it once was by the sounds of it. I didn’t feel as much of a party vibe here as I did in the aforementioned bars.

Make sure to order a Pain in the ass - a lake invented frozen cocktail creation - half Rum Runner/half Pina Colada, you can get this cocktail anywhere at the lake for an average price of $8 but Dog Days does it especially well! Get a floater, which is an extra $2 shot and this cocktail really will kick your ass!

Enjoying @sailorjerry & lemonade...Thank you for your support #dogdaysbarandgrill

A post shared by Tim Burckhardt (@timoburckhardt) on

Redhead Lakeside Grill (Redhead’s)

Unfortunately, I didn’t personally make it out to Redheads but I have heard infinitely good things about the food there, so it is definitely worth a mention. It is a bit of a hike to get to in relation to most of the other bars, at the 21 mile mark on the lake, but has consistently been voted best restaurant on the lake!

Try the lobster mac and cheese! I am so disappointed I didn’t get to try this, my friends were raving about it - If you get there, let me know how it tasted!

Tap and Grill Lakeside Brew Haus

From the outside, Tap and Grill looks like a slightly classier establishment than some of the previously mentioned bars, however when you get inside the party is just as pumping. The pool bar gets rowdy, and tabletop dancing is 100% encouraged. They also had a live DJ and MC, but in all honesty he didn’t compare to the MC at Coconuts. Still a great place to down some shots on your ultimate pub crawl of the lake!


The Skinny Dip cocktail is pretty great here, but be careful, they are way too easy to drink on a hot summer’s day!

Toad Island

Unfortunately this is another bar I didn’t make it to when we were there, but heard great things! Otherwise known as the ‘Horny Toad’, I’ve heard the lighting at night and the party here can really get going!

Franky and Louie’s

One last bar I will mention that I did not personally get to visit is Franky and Louie’s. Advertised as a family bar, but still I have heard some great reviews and recommendations. Again, depending on how many days you have at the lake, check it out and let me know what you thought!

Plan your own itinerary with the map below:

 

Where not to go:

I really don’t enjoy writing these sorts of sections, but unfortunately sometimes you don’t always have a great experience everywhere you go. A lot of these bars still have great ratings so hopefully it was just a bad day and some of these bars might still be worth a try if you have the time, but don’t say I didn’t warn you if they’re not so great.

Ozarks Tap and Grill Pub Crawl

Shorty Pants

This was definitely the worst stop on our pub crawl. We were met with eye-rolls and rude comments from the wait staff when asking for a table for our large crew and then when we were ready for our drink order to be taken, the waitress was nowhere to be seen. We did arrive here right on opening time, so maybe they were just under-staffed and and not prepared for such a big group to rock up first thing. They don’t have a pool. There was either no music, or too quiet to hear from outside. All in all, we just had absolutely no fun here

On the positive, the Mango Moscato Cocktail was divine here!

Docknockers

This was another bar where we arrived with a fairly large crew at about 11am and there was only one bartender on staff. The poor busboy had to help tend bar just to get through all of our drink orders. There’s no pool, the dock is fairly old and run down. All in all, this place is really just a bit of a dive in desperate need of a renovation. I’d say it’s still worth a visit if you after somewhere a bit quieter and more laid back, but make sure you go later in the day when they are prepared to serve you!

Paradise Tropical Restaurant and Bar

A bit of a dying bar by the looks of it, this place is huge and colourful, which is super inviting from the outside but there is just nothing going happening on the inside. We arrived at 6:30pm on a Wednesday night for some drinks, as there was supposed to be live music starting from 6pm, but still there was no musician in sight. The place was basically empty when we arrived and poorly understaffed for our crew of 20+ people. We ended up having one drink and leaving. It is such a shame, as the exterior looks truly awesome with the colourful multi-level bars.

Where to stay:

COMING SOON!!!

Helpful hints:

  • Keep a cooler (esky) in your boat for some pre-drinks and pick-me-ups between bars while you bar hopl! As you may have noticed on the map, some of them can be quite far apart from each other.

  • Every bar has their own clothing line and collectable cups, which make great souvenirs, so make sure to go home with some merchandise to reminisce about your time at the lake, and for some good stories to share with everyone back home about your ultimate pub crawl!

Ozarks Pub Crawl
  • Stay hydrated!

  • Make sure to invest in a waterproof pouch/fanny pack/dry bag or some sort of high-tech ziplock bag to keep your valuables dry around all of the pool bars. This is a great idea just to keep your phone for photos and cash/cards in for the bars - you really don’t need to have anything else on you!

  • Don’t bother with make-up and hair - you’re just going to get drunk and wet anyway and look like a complete mess!

  • Socialise! Chat to everyone at the bar (If you’ve got a good story, or an even better accent you might just score some free shots)

  • Don’t worry if what you’re wearing is too revealing, there will always be someone else with a smaller bikini than you (the cougars love to show off their fake boobies)!

  • YOU HAVE TO TRY A PAIN IN THE ASS - In case you can’t tell, I love this cocktail… and you will too!

  • Beware of the floaters, especially if you are floating in the pool yourself - they will hit you hard!

  • GET OUT OF THE DAMN POOL TO TAKE A PISS! I know everybody else does it, but it’s just gross. No seriously, if you pay close attention, you wont even see 10% of the pool get out for hours upon hours even though they are drinking like fish.

  • Make sure you eat at least one solid meal at one of these bars, nobody likes that guy who is too drunk to function.

  • Be safe, and take care of your friends!

  • Be sure to wander away from the lake too. There are plenty of great things to see and do in the surrounding area of Missouri.





As you can tell, I found it difficult to provide my own photos for this post (Because I was mostly hammered for my entire time at the lake, and it was probably best not to have photographic evidence anyway) - Thank you to all of the instagram legends for sharing your time at the lake and letting me share your photos!


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Ultimate Lake of the Ozarks Pub Crawl