The only thing better than boating is boating with a killer soundtrack and a packed cooler. We can’t provide the cooler, but the playlist is the click of a button away. Scouring Spotify for the perfect boating music, we found trusted classics from the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, and Kenny Chesney, and a couple surprises from Sheryl Crow, a Saturday Night Live parody group, Calvin Harris, and more. Listen to the selections below, and save the playlist for your summer boating adventures.
“Kokomo” by the Beach Boys
You don’t have to be “off the Florida Keys”—any body of water will do!—for this song to melt away your stress. From the second the Caribbean steel drums kick in, you know it’s time to forget about the problems that await on land and enjoy riding the waves.
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett
Is it so early in the day that you might feel too guilty about cracking open that beer or pouring “something tall and strong” that you’ve been craving under the sun? Allow buddies Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett to influence you to just treat yourself already...so long as you’re not the captain today!
“I’m on a Boat” by The Lonely Island and T-Pain
Sure, this is a Saturday Night Live parody of every excessive music video you’ve ever seen, but there’s something about shouting “I’m on a boat!” that really helps you get the party started.
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” by Jimmy Buffett
It’s a chill slow jam, no doubt, and that’s good if you need a minute to let the icon’s message about the joys of travel and laugher sink in. “So many nights I just dream of the ocean,” Buffett sings, but you’re actually in it.
“Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Harry Belafonte
Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte made this infectious ditty about dock workers a hit in 1956, and now it’s impossible to hear it without getting tropical vibes (and “day-o!” stuck in your head).
“Soak Up The Sun” by Sheryl Crow
When there’s not a cloud in the sky, slather on some sunscreen and turn up the volume on this summer anthem from 2002. And just in case the water doesn’t get everyone in your crew to relax, sing lounder when Sheryl Crow tells “everyone to lighten up.”
“Boats” by Kenny Chesney
Following in the sandy footsteps of Jimmy Buffett, Kenny Chesney has plenty of songs celebrating wind-in-your-face moments, including this peaceful ode to “vessels of freedom.”
“Livin’ On a Prayer” by Bon Jovi
Technically the only line related to boats is “Tommy used to work on the docks,” but this catchy chorus about having a little faith will turn your outing into a karaoke session on the sea. Play it at your midpoint so you can all sing “ohhh, we’re halfway there” together.
“Pontoon” by Little Big Town
This one goes out to everyone lounging on a pontoon boat this season. Little Big Town even includes some relevant instructions: “Step onto the AstroTurf/Get yourself a koozie/Let’s go.”
“(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding
Listen closely, and you’ll hear the waves in the background of this classic by Otis Redding. Recorded in 1968, the soul jam dedicated to the dock is ideal for a sunset ride.
“No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” by Kenny Chesney
Less is more for the country superstar, whose play on the popular “no shirt, no shoes, no service” saying sums up the perfect boat excursion.
“How Deep Is Your Love” by Calvin Harris and Disciples
This upbeat banger sets an intimate mood when Norwegian singer Ina Wroldsen asks, “How deep is your love? Is it like the ocean?”
“If I Had a Boat” by Lyle Lovett
When this song plays, you’ll think about life when you didn’t have a boat. You’ll also ask yourself why Lyle Lovett would ever want to ride a pony on a boat.
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” by the Beach Boys
A throwback every American can get behind, the Chuck Berry-penned “Surfin’ U.S.A.” has epitomized summer since the Beach Boys released it in 1963.
“Waves” by Mr. Probz
“I’m slowly drifting/Drifting away/Wave after wave,” sings Dutch musician Mr. Probz on his 2013 smash single. Though the lyrics are melancholy, the up-tempo arrangement—featuring a throbbing beat, piano, and guitar—sounds as beautiful as the sight of water ripples.
“Son of a Son of a Sailor” by Jimmy Buffett
Boats and marine skills are often passed down from generation to generation, and Jimmy Buffett honors that in this heartfelt song released in 1978. He arguably saves the best lines for the end of the song, singing, “The sea's in my veins, my tradition remains.”
“California Gurls feat. Snoop Dogg” by Katy Perry
The chartopper and American Idol judge shows off her knack for fun and flirty lyrics in this celebration of sunny days and beach fashion. Don’t act like you don’t know the “daisy dukes, bikinis on top” part.
“Drive (For Daddy Gene)” by Alan Jackson
Let’s take a trip to a “little lake across the Alabama line” in Alan Jackson’s 2002 tune about a boat “built out of love.” The country great calls it a “piece of my childhood that’ll never be forgotten.”
“The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” by Billy Joel
The music legend takes on the role of a down-on-his-luck Long Island fisherman in his 1990 boating track. Shout-outs to Montauk and Nantucket make it a must-listen song in the North East.
“Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
How do you get over a breakup? Boating, according to Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose 1982 song explores how sailing in the Southern Cross, a popular constellation, can soothe post-split frustrations.
“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
We challenge you to listen to Van Morrison’s heavenly melody and colorful lyrics—“Smell the sea and feel the sky/Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic”—and not feel like you’re in a movie about boating.
“Boat Drinks” by Jimmy Buffett
You’d think a song called “Boat Drinks” would be about sipping cocktails on a boat, right? Nope. Jimmy Buffett is actually singing about people ordering drinks in a cold climate he must escape. As Buffett sings, “I gotta go where it's warm.”
“Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles
As the story goes, the song isn’t trying to tell a specific story, but the Fab 5’s lyrics about blue skies, a sea of green, and a yellow submarine make it the closest thing to a Beatles boating song we’ll get.
“Sailing” by Christopher Cross
“And if the wind is right you can sail away and find serenity,” sings Grammy winner Christopher Cross in this yacht rock gem from 1980. “Oh, the canvas can do miracles/Just you wait and see/Believe me.” Oh, we believe you!
Be sure to check out our boats.com Official "25 of the Best Boating Songs" Playlist below on Spotify, and don't forget to keep the party going by reading our feature, How to Party on a Boat.