With some 55,000 acres of surface area and 1,150 miles of coastline—more than California—the Lake of the Ozarks is one big body of waterway that winds its ways through the hills of Central Missouri. But those are facts that any fool with an Internet connection and even a passing knowledge of Google searches can pick up. The real trick for a performance-boat owner or fan who wants to explore the best of lake during the boating season is knowing where to be and when.
Don’t worry, help is on the way. As a writer who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1994, I’ve logged dozens of days exploring the Lake of the Ozarks, on and off the water. Of course, that doesn’t mean I know everything about the area—I just know what I like about it. But I have seen and experienced a lot of what the lake has to offer for folks who dig the go-fast powerboating world.
So here are my top picks for places and events—in each category but no particular order—you don’t want to miss if you’re headed there this summer.
Places to Visit on the Lake
Performance Boat Center/Redhead Lakeside Grill and Yacht Club
Nestled in a secluded cove in Osage Beach, Performance Boat Center is the lake’s premiere multi-brand, full-service high-performance powerboat dealership carrying the Cigarette Racing Team, MTI, Sunsation and Wright Performance Brands. You easily could spend the morning ogling the big-buck hardware in Performance Boat Center’s showroom, but when it comes time for lunch the Red Head Yacht Club restaurant is just a three-minute walk away. The place has good food and a relaxed atmosphere including a poolside bar. You can come by boat or car as the dealership has plenty of dockage and parking. Either way, a lunch trip is a must for anyone who hasn’t experienced the entire place.
Big Dick’s Halfway Inn
OK, I confess, part of the purely adolescent appeal of stopping by this waterside Gravois Mills bar and grill is being able to say you did. And if you’re a real gamer, you’ll try something a little fishy as the place bills itself as the “home of the minnow shot,” a high-octane adult beverage involving a tiny live fish you get to swallow whole. But beyond that, Big Dick’s is a great place to grab a burger and a cold drink on a hot day, meaning pretty much every day from mid-June through early September. And just in case no one believe you went there and washed down your lunch with a baitfish cocktail, the place has its own store loaded with Big Dick’s branded shirts and hats.
Big Thunder Marine
A Baja, Fountain and Fountain dealer in Gravois Mills, Big Thunder Marine completed a stunning new showroom last year, and while it isn’t on the water it’s definitely worth a stop when you’re in the area. As the premiere dealership for those Iconic Marine Group brands, Big Thunder debuted the spectacular Donzi 41 GT and the Fountain 32 Thunder Cat. So it’s a safe bet that future Baja, Donzi and Fountain releases—and plenty are planned this year—will be unveiled at the immaculate Lake of the Ozarks facility.
Support Our Troops Poker Run
Entering its 12th year, the Support Our Troops Poker Run is an excellent way to start your season—for a great cause, as you can glean from the name of the event—on the water. This year’s run is set for June 29 and is organized by the folks at Performance Boat Center and MidwestBoatParty.com a most-definite go-to website for go-fast powerboat enthusiasts wanting to keep up with what’s happening at the lake. In 2018, the event raised $35,000 for the H.E.R.O.E.S. Care program and the organizers are hoping to do even better this year.
The Lake of the Ozarks Shootout
An aquatic top-speed contest beyond compare, the 31st annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout is set for Aug. 24-25 this year. But truth be told, the competition is just part of a full week of events that includes the Bob Morgan Memorial Shootout Hall of Fame Induction Dinner on Tuesday night, the Waves And Wheels-sponsored Shootout On The Strip exotic boat and car show Wednesday evening on Bagnell Dam and the massive, open-to-the-public Performance Boat Center Party the following night. Last year, the Shootout, which is headquartered at the always entertaining Captain Ron’s Bar & Grill in Sunrise Beach, raised $300,000 for local charities. So in addition to having a good time at this incredible event, you can feel good about it.
Super Cat Fest
Running concurrently with the Lake of the Ozarks, the Aug. 23-24 Super Cat Fest event at the Camden On The Lake Resort in Lake Ozark is arguably the best boat show on the planet for folks who appreciate speed on the water. For two full days, the best of the best from builders including DCB Performance Boats, Mystic Powerboats, MTI, Skater Powerboats occupy the docks behind the venue. After dark activities include and bikini contest Friday night and the fundraising Shootout auction and dinner the following night. But be advised: If you want showcase your catamaran at Super Cat Fest, you need to commit and register early. But space is limited—and it fills quickly.
You can catch the Lake of the Ozarks in our 10 Best Party Coves in America feature, and if you'd like to find out even more about the local crowd you'll meet while visiting, we suggest you read the Best Moments from the 2018 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and the Best Go-Fast Boating Events of 2018.
Be sure to check out all our high performance powerboat listings on boats.com.