Rain or shine, never fret! There are always things to do on the water when there’s a pontoon involved.
With players of one or more, and for kids of all ages—since we’re all kids at heart—here’s a list of 16 fun games to can play on your pontoon boat.
With or without getting wet, you can hold a summer pontoon party and invite friends and neighbors over for match or two. My crazy family’s favorite combines jousting and water chicken. (Play at your own risk!)
Games to Play on Your Pontoon Boat
On hotter summer days, it’s to keep refreshed by staying in the cool waters. But for those of us who need a bit more than just lazing about on floats and climbing up and down pontoon water slides, here are five games for more entertaining water sports.
Leave your sneakers on land for this basketball game. Versahoop Basketball Hoop (check price on Amazon) is made to be hooked on a pontoon’s gunwale railings and create marine courts.
Although it may be hard to tell players apart if there are two teams of skins, be sure to get close, VIP courtside seats on your pontoon’s benches and root for them.
One really smart feature of this basketball hoop is the ability to remove the hoop and lay it out flat for compact storage. And when not using it on your pontoon, the hoop can be clamped on anywhere!
This Intex Pool Volleyball Net (check price on Amazon) can be used for more than a pool. If you’re a competitive volleyball player, you might be annoyed there aren’t exactly rules for “ball out” in the middle of open waters. But for the sake of an easy game, this is a lot of fun.
And I know what you’re thinking: You’ll probably have to tie it up with a line to your pontoon because it’s inflatable, but you’d be happy to know the pole bases come with anchor weights. Even if the weights are far above the water’s depth, it will still prevent the inflatable from being blown downstream by the wind.
Well, luckily Airhead’s Lob the Blob Inflatable Cornhole game (check price on Amazon) is just for us. Unlike the volleyball net, I don’t believe it comes with weights so you might need to rig your own. And don’t take the point system too seriously—the floating cornhole bags will bounce more than slide.
4. Noodle Joust
This one is easy if you already own foam noodles, as most boaters do. Of course, if you need more, you can always buy a whole bunch on Amazon. Only a two-player game, it’s perfect if you don’t have enough players—or people willing to get wet—for team sports.
Step One: Mount your steed. On land, take a PFD life vest—which you already require on board—and place your legs where arms normally go. (Yes, it should appear like you’re wearing a diaper. Sorry). Now grab a noodle and hop in the water.
Step Two: Now joust! Once in the water, face off with your opponent. Each knight/player straightens their noodle—as best they can, mind you—and swims toward each other—aiming to knock the other sideways into the water.
Don’t be super aggressive with this game! I can tell you from experience these foam noodles can really hurt when you’re smacked in the face. Aim for the chest instead, or somebody will come away with red cheeks—and it won’t be from sunburn!
5. Water Chicken
Most are familiar with this classic water sport. In fact, it only really works in water because, well, that’s a long fall for the person sitting on someone else’s shoulders.
Water chicken is a team player game of four or more players. Breaking off into multiple teams of two, one teammate sits on the shoulders of the other going head to head and neck to neck with the opposing team, attempting to knock them over. Whoever’s still standing wins!
Now, it’s possible to do more than two teams of two, but don’t go too crazy.
Board Games to Play on Deck
If you find yourself taking cover and waiting out a rainstorm or even pontoon camping, grab a board game to beat boredom. Just gather around beneath the bimini or pontoon enclosure and pass the time till the sun is out again!
6. Checkers Rug
This oversized checkers rug (check price on Amazon) is great for storing on your pontoon all year round! With a two-foot by two-foot reversible woven rug, you fold it away for a rainy day along with the giant black and red chess pieces. And if checkers is a bit advanced for youngsters—no worries! Flip it over for a game of tic-tac-toe.
I had a very similar style checkers rug growing up and we carried it everywhere: Picnics, camping, the beach. And since it’s cloth, you can shake out the sand after use. Easy cleanup!
You sunk my battleship!
Okay, now I know in today’s modern age you can just download and play this game on electronic devices, but I’m old enough to remember the classic battleship game (check price on Amazon) with the red and white pegs you have to press down manually (instead of tap a screen).
So if you’re a parent who refuses to let their kid stare at a screen all day or just need to save your battery for more important things—like finding fish or navigating your way back home—consider this old-school game. With portable cases, you’ll never lose the pegs or ships. Alternatively, you can opt for the magnetic version of Battleship (check price on Amazon), free of tiny pegs.
Although not boating-related, Scattergories (check price on Amazon) is one of my all-time favorite board games. It’s mostly about writing in notebooks, so there aren’t many pieces you can lose overboard.
The idea is to roll a dice with letters on it and come up with most unique item beginning with that letter. For example, if it lands on “S”, you set the timer and each player tries to come up with unique items on a set list: Ice cream flavor? Strawberry cheesecake. Type of bird? Seagull.
To make it a more nautical-themed game, you can create your own lists like fish, boat part and body of water, for example.
9. Yahtzee (or Yacht-Sea)
You might be familiar with the standard Yahtzee game, but have you ever heard of Yacht-Sea? This play on words is the perfect substitute for rolling dice games on deck. It’s just like Yahtzee but with added maritime-themed rules.
Just keep a few extra dice on board in case some roll overboard during an exciting round.
10. Merchants & Marauders
I’ve not played the Merchants and Marauders (check price on Amazon) game myself, but it’s sure to please kids who love anything pirate-themed. The game is set in the Caribbean and you find fortunes as pirates would once have—mostly through plundering—to build impressive tallship vessels and be able to fend off your enemies and add ship crew.
Fair warning: This game says it takes about three hours to play. So tie up your pontoon, get comfortable for the long haul and grab some fruit snacks to stave off scurvy.
If you’ve ever played a card game outdoors, you know the wind is your enemy as much as the opposing poker-faced players around you. But did you know there’s such a thing as magnetic playing cards (check price on Amazon)?
Once you’ve got those secured, here are several card games you can play solo or with multiple players.
If you’re like me and sometimes enjoy a little peace and quiet down on the pontoon dock, you can always play a game of solitaire. Most card players know how to play solitaire, but there are actually several versions out there. Find your favorite card layout!
12. Go Fish / UNO
This one’s for the anglers: A game of Go Fish (go figure). Most know this game. You can play with a simple deck of cards or get yourself a waterproof set of UNO cards (check price on Amazon) and make it more interesting between the four colors and Wild, Draw Two’s and Reverse cards.
Rummy is considered one of the great classic card games. Click here for a good explanation of how to play. It’s the perfect game for multiple players and uses a standard deck of cards.
14. Marco Polo Blind Tag
Any kid who’s learned to swim has played the game of Marco Polo. The designated Marco yells “Marco!” and everyone else responds “Polo!” But the catch is that the Marco player closes his eyes or uses a blindfold, trying to catch fellow swimmers by using only the sounds of splashes and their voices.
15. Cannonball Contests
Contest or no contest, cannonballs are quintessential to water living. But add a long dock runway or pier to it, and you can make a much bigger splash. Pontoons can be great for this, with the proper safety precautions.
Gain a longer running pad and crash those waters hard! Of course, you need judges—but make sure they’re okay with getting drenched.
16. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts can be played both onboard your pontoon deck and in the water. Just find some common objects onboard like sunglasses, sandals and soft fishing lures (hookless, of course) and hide them in nooks and crannies around the boat. Make sure to remember where you hid the items, or make a map!
If you’re ordering board games online, check to see how many players they suggest and if the whole family can join in on the fun.
And if you have very young children, please be sure to check the age-appropriate levels, as some can have very small pieces which can become choking hazards. I should add if you’re playing in the water, maybe avoid sharp edges and pontoon engines.
Don’t get overly competitive. Remember: It’s just a game.
And have a good time!