Lake Ozark, Missouri (And Party Cove) For Dummies

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The NY Times calls it the “Oldest established permanent floating bacchanal in the country.” Nicknamed “The Dragon” because of its unusual serpentine shape, Missouri’s Lake Of The Ozark (not to be confused with the town of Lake Ozark) is one of the most popular lake party destinations in America. Other popular lakes are Lake Travis in Austin, Tx. (Devil’s Cove), Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Az. (Copper Canyon) and Lake Lewisville in Dallas, Tx. (the other Party Cove).

The hot bed of this cool area is the Anderson Hollow Cove better known by its nickname Party Cove. It’s located at about the 4 mile marker of the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake a mile south of the Grand Glaize Bridge. It’s stretches for about a mile long, 200 yards wide and when the weather gets warm it’s the place to be in central Missouri. On the weekends it’s common to see as many as 8,000 people partying on the 3,000 boats on the lake.

At the cove it all starts with the boats lining up in two rows. And make no mistake, here size does matter! In the past boats used to be small little 20 footers, pontoons and Bass fishing boats. Now 30 plus footers are becoming as much the norm as the others.

About 18 officers patrol the lake and attempts were made to stop the practice of tying the boats together. They do however crack down on things like wake restrictions, boat driving violations and (bwi) boating while intoxicated.

Newcomers to the Cove (as long as they’re female) are sprayed with water cannons and taunted to take off their clothes. Although women are allowed to be topless at the cove, the state announced plans to crack down on full nudity, public sex acts and the drugs.


The best time to go:

Without a doubt the best time (and the most common time) to go to any lake is the weekend and the Ozarks is no exception. Day-to-day weekends are incredible but holiday weekends are pure insanity! The big 3 holiday weekends are Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day. During these weekend events the crowds are at their biggest and the craziness is at its zenith. This is the best time to go. This is also the most expensive time to go as hotels and boat rental prices are at their highest.


Party Cove etiquette:

It’s B.Y.O.B. (bring your own boat) to Lake Ozark however boats can rented if you don’t own one. Popular sizes are 22′ 8-passenger speed boats, 24′ 10-passenger speed boats, 24′ deluxe 10-passenger speed boats, 10-passenger pontoons, deluxe 10-passenger pontoons, 4-passenger fishing boats and jet skis. Skis, kneeboards, wakeboards, tubes and parasails are also popular. Always be sure to get insurance in case of an accident or damage to the boat and ensure that there are enough life jackets for everyone on the boat.


Things to do:

Depinding on your age and your taste in entertainment you’ll either want to party on land or head for the lake. For most people, the real purpose to come here is to take in the water theme and to drink and be merry, but there are many other things available.

Boating is the first on the list and there are lots of water sports on the lake like jet skiing and speed boating. Swimming and going to the beach are obvious ones, but you’ll have to look hard to find a public beach as most of the beaches are private.

If all else fails or none of this holds interest for you, you can also go fishing in the quiet inlets away from the crowds. Lake Ozark has over 11 miles of shoreline which could make for a lot of places for venturing. There’s many inlets and channels so you can easily find the perfect area to satisfy your individual need.

(Caution) Going out in the main channel can be dangerous. Waves can tip small boats and pontoons so always be mindful of your surroundings.

If you’re staying on land the main tour strip is Hwy 54. The popular towns are Osage Beach and Lake Ozark. Shopping is a popular past time for a lot of families who go the the Osage Beach Outlet Mall. They have 110 stores, lots of parking and discounts to the retail shops are available.

There’s also the Bagnell Dam Strip that takes you back in time to about 1950. You can still get the fudge, candy and taffy, mocassions, leather goods, rings/necklaces, and many other cheap goods (made in China, of course) but as American as you can hope for.

It was developed for shopping, games and rides and the shops haven’t changed much over the years. It also has ice cream shops and kids can ride rides and enjoy the small animal petting area. There’s also boat rides around the lake for 1-2 hours.

If you’re into walking there’s caves nearby that are fun to take a tour in. The Ozark Caverns in the Lake of the Ozark State Park, Bridal Cave by Camdenton at the south of the lake and Jacob’s Cave by Gravois Mills area to the west of the lake.

Jacob’s Cave has a 1-hour tour for a $12 adult price and it’s open 9-5. It’s on State Rd TT off Mo. Hwy #5 and you can check out their website at

Ozark Caverns costs $6 and is open year round for a one hour tour and is open 9-6 daily. It’s 9 miles Northeast of Camdenton in the Missouri State park.

Bridal Cave costs $15 for adults and $7 for kids and is open 9-6 daily. The tour takes about one hour and is famous for the weddings that take place inside. It’s on Lake Road 5-88, off Mo. Hwy 5. Their website is

In addition to all of this there’s many acres to go hiking and camping in the area. The Lake of the Ozarks State Park is 17,441 acres and there are 12 primary trails to follow through the forests and see the variety of nature and vegetation.

Last, but not least you can check out the Go Carts. They’re a blast to drive and with 8 or 9 tracks at the lake, they’re great for all ages as most tracks will have a small track for the little guys to enjoy.


The best bars:

The party doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. In fact, it’s only round two. And while the Lake Of The Ozarks isn’t a diverse metropolitan nightlife hub, there are 1 or 2 noteworthy entertainment venues in the area.

The Horny Toad complex on Toad Cove is the most popular on the lake. It attracts the 25-35 crowd. It’s a nightclub and an entertainment venue with a stage that many famous acts perform on each year. It has 3 levels:

The lower level is mostly outside seating (and some inside) with a large stage for live music. The middle level is more like a club often described as a Martini bar. And the upper level (which is where you enter from the parking lot) has a restaurant and a large sports bar with a small stage for some live music.

Despite its lack of diversity, the sports bar, classic rock, small town, mid-America feel is in full force at the Horny Toad which makes it a great place to get liquored up and act silly.

A few other bars worth mentioning are The Misty Club at the Lodge of Four Seasons, Eddies and Shady Gators (which is a favorite hangout of the locals). Shady Gators is kind of sleazy with tacky signs and it sits across from the Horny Toad. The beer’s a little cheaper although not by much so I guess that makes it the local dive bar.


If Jersey Shore had a Midwest version called Ozark Shore, you’d might find your cast at Topsider…. (Not Topsiders) is a multi level venue that pretty much has it all. An indoor nightclub, an indoor bar area, top deck seating, poop deck seating & a bar that’s covered, a pool bar and a waterfront tiki lounge with the option of covered or uncovered seating.

The atmosphere’s much like that of a beach club. Water by day and party at night! There’s a large swimming pool that’s open to the public (including children with adult supervision) during the daytime and the party goes on at night. It’s spacious with a creative layout and a fun light show with an outdoor patio with little waterfalls overlooking the lake.

Food is served during the day only and their Tuna Melt is highly recommended. The house DJ plays the typical Top 40 and rap variety of popular music geared mostly for the 20 something crowd plus there‘s live music in the Tiki Lounge some nights.

On nights when they have a cover charge it’s reasonable but keep in mind that there’s a $20 minimum on credit/debit cards. There‘s also always plenty of parking. And though leaving your car for days is not recommended, it‘s safe to park overnight as they don‘t make a practice of towing.

There’s plenty of boat slips available and sometimes you may catch a party on the dock just as big as the one inside. So come rain or shine, the party carries on at Topsider.



The sparkling blue water, the sun on your skin, the cool breeze off the surface. Every year millions of people flock to the thousands of lakes in America. And though lake safety may seem obvious, every year there are thousands of boating accidents and fatalities. Don’t become one of them.

First and foremost, use common sense. Never mix boating and/or swimming and alcohol. Be courteous and aware of other people, boats or whatever else is around you. Don’t horseplay and don’t be a daredevil and always use life jackets.

Choose a good quality, waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply it every two hours or as recommended on the label.

Cover up with a lightweight shirt with sleeves, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses for further protection. Believe it or not, even the eyes and scalp can get sun burnt. And drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

To reduce the chance of accidents you and everyone in your group should know how to swim and stay clear of areas with murky water, drop-offs, and underwater plant life as these can be dangerous. Avoid diving. Enter the water feet first. It’s much safer.


Party Cove Galleries

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Party Cove: Gallery 2

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Lake Ozark, Missouri (And Party Cove) For Dummies


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Author:The Man About Town

The Man About Town is an avid traveler and good time thrill seeker. A long haul trucker and the founder of, The Clique For Men network and the entire World Clique Movement, his cross country hauls were the inspiration for this website. When he's not writing or running his company, you can find him circling the globe in search of new adventures to report on.

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