Who doesn’t love being on a boat? The warm sunshine, invigorating breeze, and cool water zipping by—not to mention the occasional spray to the face—is the ultimate way to shed your daily worries and feel completely relaxed and carefree.
You’re with your friends, the cooler is full, and your rod and reel are ready; the only other thing you need is great music. Here is the ultimate list of songs about boats and boating to make it a perfect day on the water.
1. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet
It’s no surprise that Jimmy Buffet was in Key West, Florida, when he wrote this iconic song from 1977. The ultimate homage to a lazy life in the tropics, from boiling shrimp to wondering how you got a tattoo of a cute Mexican senorita, everyone sings along whenever Margaritaville comes on.
2. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river” are words etched into the American consciousness, and the song that went to #2 in 1969 is as recognizable today as it was then. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic song about a Mississippi riverboat has been covered by countless groups and singers, but the original is still the best.
3. Buy Me a Boat – Chris Janson
Buy Me A Boat is the quintessential working-man-who-wants-a-boat song, and as Chris Janson says, if you’ve got a truck to pull it and a Yeti 110 cooler, well, you don’t need more than that to be happy. The driving beat and simple, relatable lyrics make this track from 2015 a must for your day on the water.
4. Pontoon – Little Big Town
The opening four notes of Pontoon are instantly recognizable, and it’s hard to not dance to this song that went all the way to #1 in 2012. With a toe-tapping beat and lyrics like, “Party in slow motion, Out here in the open, Mmmmmmm motorboating,” this one is sure to get everyone up and moving.
5. Kokomo – The Beach Boys
The group that is inextricably tied to images of beaches, surfing, and girls in bikinis racked up nearly forty Top 40 hits. Featured in the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, Kokomo is about a fictitious tropical paradise where you can get away from it all. The song reached the top of the charts in 1988—a full 24 years after the group’s first #1 hit.
6. Red Solo Cup – Toby Keith
It’s a safe bet you’ll have beverages on the boat, and chances are you’ll be drinking them from a red solo cup. Toby Keith’s hilarious tribute to the ubiquitous disposable drinking vessel reached #9 on the country charts in 2011. The singer described it as both “the stupidest song that I have ever heard in my life” and “freakin’ awesome.” Proceed to party!
7. Two Pina Coladas – Garth Brooks
Everyone loves a good sing-along, and when it’s about a coconut-y adult beverage, even better. This #1 hit from 1998 is simple, fun, and evokes a beachy, carefree feeling that goes perfectly with blue sky, sunshine, and water stretching to the horizon.
8. If I Had a Boat – Lyle Lovett
Singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett burst onto the national scene in the mid-80s, and this song from 1987 is still a favorite among concertgoers. The line, “Well, kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I’m going out to sea,” always elicits loud cheers and applause from the audience.
9. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
An anthem to happiness if there ever was one, this hit from 1988 was the first a cappella song to reach #1 on the Billboard Top 100 Chart. The whistled melody in the intro leads into “Here’s a little song I wrote,” and by then, everyone is already grooving to the gentle reggae beat.
10. Day O (Banana Boat Song) – Harry Belafonte
Also known as Banana Boat Song, Day O came out in 1956, and everyone seems to still know it. The simple tune about dock workers loading bananas onto ships contains the often-repeated refrain “Daylight come and we want go home.” The calypso beat and call-and-response make this a favorite in any crowd.
11. It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere – Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet
The ultimate wishing-you-weren’t-at-work song is perfect for the boat because, well, you’re not at work! This track from 2003 goes, “Pour me something tall and strong, Make it a hurricane, before I go insane,” and there’s no reason why you can’t when you’re basking in the sunshine and looking out at the sparkling water.
12. Come Sail Away – Styx
One of the top rock bands of the 70s, Styx released this song in 1977, and it went all the way to #8 on the charts. The references to sailing on a virgin sea and searching for tomorrow on every shore are clearly metaphorical, but it’s a positive message about never giving up on your dreams.
13. Soak Up the Sun – Sheryl Crow
The message in this stay-positive-even-though-your-life’s-not-perfect song is epitomized by the line, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Sheryl Crow is determined to soak up the sun, which is exactly what you’ll be doing when this hit from 2002 comes on.
14. Boats – Kenny Chesney
There’s probably not a better song in the world to describe the feeling of freedom on a boat than Boats, a Kenny Chesney song from 2008. Nothing complex here. It’s just about how awesome it is to be on a boat. The simple chorus goes, “Boats, Vessels of freedom, Harbors of healing, Boats.” What more needs to be said?
15. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
Anyone who doesn’t know this hit from 1969 must have been living under a rock for the past few decades. It’s a favorite at sporting events and karaoke venues everywhere, and it’s guaranteed to get people up and singing. Good times never felt so good!
16. I’m Gonna Miss Her – Brad Paisley
Singer-songwriter Brad Paisley infuses this song with his unique sense of humor, and anyone who loves fishing can relate. This #1 hit from 2001 is sure to bring a smile to your face, especially when you can say “Oh, lookie there, I’ve got a bite.”
17. Redneck Yacht Club – Craig Morgan
Singer Craig Morton put his own special spin on boating life in this witty song from 2005. Bass trackers, Bayliners, and a party barge make up the titular organization, and of course, there are tank top tans, flip flops, and beer drinking before 10 am. Just “Regular Joes rockin’ the boat.” Yee haw.
18. Toes – Zac Brown Band
Another song that was inspired by the Florida Keys, the message of Toes is pretty simple: a beach vacation with your “toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand.” The next line just makes sense: “Life is good today.” This track from 2006 is the perfect song for a day on the water!
19. Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Will Smith brings his funky rap style to this song released way back in 1991. The chill beat and lyrics are straight out of the 90s, and it’s a fun, retro ode to cruising and checking out girls, new sneakers, basketball, grilling, and dancing.
20. Happy – Pharrell Williams
Remember in Despicable Me 2 when Gru dances through the streets because he’s in love? The song is Happy, which shot to #1 in more than 20 countries and is considered the most successful song in the world for 2014. If optimism had a theme song, this is it. A perfect match when you’re in the best place on earth—a boat on the water.
21. I Love Rock ‘N Roll – Joan Jett And the Blackhearts
This cover of a track originally recorded by the Arrows has become one of the most successful and popular rock songs of all time. It was #1 on the charts for seven weeks in 1981 and catapulted 23-year-old Joan Jett to national stardom. Heads will be banging when this comes on, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby.
22. The Booze Cruise – Blackjack Billy
Nothing says party on a pontoon boat like this country jam, where drinks, tunes, and girls are the star attractions. One of the biggest hits of the year in 2013, it’s impossible not to get into the spirit—or spirits, as the case may be—when you find out a redneck margarita is just, well, straight tequila.
23. California Girls – The Beach Boys
Surfing, cars, and girls were The Beach Boys’ favorite subjects, and this song from 1965 celebrates beautiful women from all over the United States and the wish that they all lived in sunny California. If there’s a track that’s the very embodiment of summertime, this has to be it.
24. Red Red Wine – UB40
With a smooth reggae beat, this 1983 cover by UB40 made it to #1 in both the UK and US. There’s no hidden message here. It’s just about how wine can help you forget your worries for a little while. That’s it. So get your groove on with a glass of vino—just make sure it’s red!
25. Where the Boat Leaves From – Zac Brown Band
You can’t help but be in a good mood when this toe-tapping tune comes on. It’s about how being on a boat helps you forget your worries—you just “drop them in the blue ocean” and go to a place where there is sand, tanned ladies, piña coladas, banana trees, and Bob Marley songs playing. Yes, please.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.