What Food Should I Bring on a Boat?

Recreational boating trips are typically daylong adventures, and we really shouldn’t have to tell you this, but that means you and your crew are eventually going to get hungry.

What food to bring on a boat

Boating and swimming brings on the munchies, and you want to be prepared to feed yourself, and your passengers and crew for a day on the water. After all, if you’re going to be on a boat all day, one way to ruin your fun is to have grumpy people onboard because they’re hungry and don't have enough to eat. With that in mind, here are some tips for grilling on your boat, as well as what foods to bring (and avoid).

Buy gas boat grill

Buy boat grill mount

Eat Before You Go Boating

Before you take off, make sure you’ve eaten something that won’t make you seasick later. Avoid highly acidic and/or spicy foods like hot-sauce covered fried breakfasts. And we hate to say it because not all of us are morning people, but coffee is something else you want to avoid before boating, as it can give you headaches, dehydration and diarrhea. 

Eat breakfast before you go boating

Any foods that are heavy, greasy or spicy will make you feel full and lethargic, and can make you hurl if you’re prone to motion sickness. And while greasy foods make great hangover meals, you should avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours before boating. Eat a healthy, light breakfast like eggs and toast, and keep the grease to a minimum. 

Grilling on a Boat

A cookout is a fun boating day activity, and preparing meals on a boat grill can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience when those boating munchies kick in. 

Grilling food on a boat

Pretty standard fare here, but the following foods are easy meals to cook on a boat grill: 

  • Hot dogs
  • Bratwursts
  • Burgers
  • Chicken
  • Fish 
  • Shrimp
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and veg kabobs

Depending on your boat’s grill type, don’t forget to have plenty of what it runs on, whether that means charcoal, gas or electricity. And of course, don’t forget the grilling tools and supplies like spatulas, buns, napkins, cutlery and condiments.

Boat Grilling Safety Tips

Never use a grill while the boat is in motion. Wait until it’s anchored or docked, as having a lit grill on a moving boat is extremely hazardous to everyone on board.

Boat grilling safety

Here are some ways to grill safely on a boat:

  • Position the grill at a safe distance away from flammable materials
  • Never leave the grill unattended while it’s in use 
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill
  • Turn the grill off immediately after you’re done cooking
  • Allow the grill to cool down before the boat takes off again

If you’re using a propane grill, check all of the gas connections before lighting it. And while charcoal grills aren’t recommended for use on boats, if you insist on using one, place it in a safe position where no embers or lit charcoal will land near people or flammable materials. Also, never dump charcoal or ashes overboard after grilling. Wait until you get on land before disposing of charcoal waste. 

Boat Snacking and Packing

Besides the aforementioned cutlery, grilling tools and whatnot, bring plates, cups, plenty of ice and clean-up supplies like paper towels and garbage bags.

What food to bring on a boat

Pack boat-friendly foods that are easy to clean up and don’t take up too much cooler space. If you don’t have a lot of room in the cooler(s), leave any foods that can spoil in the heat behind. Also, avoid bringing glass bottles onboard. Stick to beverages that come in cans or plastic containers. When using trash bags, make sure they’re secured to the boat and heavy enough to not fly off the in the wind. 

Avoid Bringing Messy Food and Drinks on Boats

Don’t bring messy foods onboard such as chocolate, ice cream, or anything else that melts. Sticky foods in particular can do a number on boat seats. As for drinks, leave behind any dark-tinted beverages like red wine, colas and juices that can spill and ruin both the upholstery and the carpet.

Foods to avoid bringing on a boat ice cream

Best Snacks to Bring on a Boat

Pre-sliced Fruits & Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables like watermelon slices and celery sticks are not only a great healthy food alternative, but they also help keep you hydrated on a hot day. Cut up some fruits and veggies before you go boating, and refrigerate them in zip-lock bags. 

Boat food watermelons

Frozen grapes are the perfect snack for a hot day of boating. Mango, pineapple and orange slices are also great choices. Just don’t bring bananas on board! Not only is there a boating myth that bananas are bad luck, but banana peels on a slippery boat deck are hazardous.

If you’re going to bring dips for you fruits and vegetables, pack the kind that don’t melt or spoil easily in the sun. Stick with thicker dips like hummus and guacamole instead of messy, watery dips like salsa or sticky candy apple dips. 

Buy a boat cooler mounting kit

Buy a boat table

Grab-and-Go Snacks

Snack-size bags of chips, pretzels, trail mix or crackers are great options you can pick up at any food store on your way to the dock. These types of snacks don’t need to be refrigerated, so they won’t take up cooler space. They’re also great for taming the munchies of hungry passengers waiting for food from the grill. 

Sandwiches and Wraps

Premade handheld foods like cold-cut sandwiches and wraps are excellent boat-friendly lunches. When packing handheld foods, wrap each one individually, then place it in a sturdy ziplock bag to keep it from getting wet and soggy, and toss them in the cooler. Keeping the vegetables and condiments for your sandwiches in separate containers also prevents sandwiches from getting soggy.

Boating food sandwiches

Pre-Cut Cheeses and Meats

“Charcuterie” is a word many find annoying, but nevertheless, an assortment of meats and cheeses paired with fruit, jams and nuts makes the perfect snack for a day of boating. However, you should only bring meats and cheeses onboard if there’s space in the cooler, as these foods go bad quickly in the sun. 

Boat lunch meats and cheeses

Prepared Salads

Pre-made salads make a great lunch, especially pasta salads, which are popular among boaters. Avoid bringing pre-made salads made with mayonnaise or dairy-based dressings like ranch or blue cheese, which can spoil easily in the heat. Stick with oil-based dressings instead. 


Any type of jerky makes a great boating snack. Whether it’s beef, chicken, salmon, pork or turkey, jerky is high in protein and holds up in the heat. Pick your favorite kind and pack it in your boating bag. 


Pack plenty of water and fluids to stay hydrated throughout your boating day. Make sure you pack enough water for the kids and dog(s) if they’re coming along. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also a good choice, as well as homemade iced tea in mason jars. Steer clear of alcohol and sugary juices and sodas if possible, as these can cause dehydration. 

Boat food and drinks water



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