Difference Between a Pontoon Boat and a Party Barge

Pontoon boats and party barges are both popular choices for recreational boating, especially for groups of people looking to enjoy time on the water. While they share some similarities, there are also notable differences between the two. To help you decide whether you need to rent a pontoon boat or a party barge we have listed the differences below:

What is a pontoon boat?

A pontoon boat is a flat-bodied vessel distinguished by its stability and shallow draft, courtesy of the large flotation devices known as pontoons that support it. Engineered for versatility and comfort, pontoon boats are the ideal choice for a wide range of leisure activities on the water. Whether it’s for fishing, swimming, watersports like tubing or skiing, or merely cruising to enjoy the scenic views, these boats offer a relaxed and accessible means for smaller groups to navigate lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. Their open deck layout and generous seating capacity make them perfect for family outings, small bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthday parties, etc. providing a safe and pleasurable experience for individuals of all ages.

What is a party barge?

A party barge stands as a vast, floating platform of entertainment, specifically designed to accommodate large gatherings for events and celebrations on the water. Diverging from pontoon boats, party barges are tailored for entertaining larger groups, boasting entertainment amenities that transform any occasion into a memorable festivity. They typically have features such as more deck space, multiple levels, and amenities such as lounging areas, bars, grills, and sometimes even dance floors and restrooms. They are the ideal setting for birthdays, weddings, and corporate events. With a focus on comfort, space, and onboard luxuries, party barges ensure an unforgettable experience for guests, set against the captivating scenery of the aquatic environment.

Key differences between a pontoon boat and a party barge

The key differences between a pontoon boat and a party barge revolve around their size and capacity, intended use, and the amenities and features they offer. Pontoon boats are typically more compact, crafted for leisure pursuits like fishing, watersports, swimming, and sightseeing, making them ideal for smaller groups in search of a serene water experience. They provide a flexible and maneuverable platform that suits family outings or intimate gatherings. In contrast, party barges stand out for their larger size, designed to accommodate bigger groups with amenities tailored for entertainment, including bar areas, grills, and dance floors. These vessels are specifically geared towards hosting events and parties, offering the perfect backdrop for celebrations such as birthdays, weddings, and corporate gatherings, where the focus is on social engagement and festivity. Grasping these distinctions is essential when selecting the appropriate vessel to align with the event’s scale and nature, ensuring an enjoyable and memorable time on the water.

Size and capacity

The size and capacity difference is a key factor in choosing between a pontoon boat and a party barge. Pontoon boats are crafted for smaller groups, providing a cozy space for up to a dozen passengers, ideal for intimate gatherings or family outings. In contrast, party barges cater to larger groups, with the capacity to host dozens of guests, making them the preferred option for large-scale events and celebrations.

Intended use

Intended use distinguishes these vessels significantly. Pontoon boats are the epitome of versatility, perfect for a range of leisure activities including fishing, swimming, and sightseeing. They cater to those hosting small bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday parties, or desiring a tranquil day on the water with friends. Party barges, however, are designed with entertainment in mind, equipped to facilitate larger gatherings and celebrations such as weddings, and corporate events, focusing on social interaction and enjoyment.

Amenities and features

The amenities and features onboard each type of vessel offer distinct experiences. Pontoon boats are equipped with comfortable seating, a sunshade, and sometimes slides, prioritizing relaxation and comfort. Party barges, on the other hand, are outfitted with enhanced amenities for entertainment, including bar areas, slides, and sometimes restrooms and dance floors, ensuring a vibrant and memorable party atmosphere on the water.

To provide a clearer comparison, the following markdown table details the key differences:

FeaturePontoon BoatParty Barge
Average Size18-28 feet (5.5-8.5 meters)30-60 feet (9-18 meters)
Capacity2-25 passengers25-150 passengers
Common ActivitiesFishing, Swimming, Sightseeing, small bachelor and bachelorette parties and birthdaysParties, Weddings, Corporate Events
AmenitiesComfortable Seating, Sunshade, slides, sound systemsBar Areas, Sound Systems, Dance Floors, restrooms
Best Suited ForSmall Groups, Family OutingsLarge Gatherings, Special Occasions

When to rent a pontoon boat

Renting a pontoon boat is the perfect option for those desiring a leisurely experience on the water with smaller groups. Its versatile design is ideal for a range of activities, from fishing and swimming to sightseeing. The pontoon boat’s stable and comfortable platform is especially suitable for family outings, where safety and ease of navigation are key. Whether aiming to catch fish, enjoy a swim, or just take in the beautiful scenery, a pontoon boat offers the flexibility and comfort necessary for a peaceful day away from the daily grind.

Leisure activities

When it comes to leisure activities, pontoon boats stand out for their versatility. They are well-equipped for a laid-back day under the sun, offering the ideal platform for picnics, sunbathing, and light water sports, ensuring a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.


For fishing aficionados, pontoon boats offer a stable platform and ample storage for all fishing gear. Their maneuverability allows anglers to easily reach prime fishing spots, catering to both seasoned fishermen and those new to the sport.


Pontoon boats are ideal for sightseeing, with their open design offering panoramic views of the scenery. Capable of navigating through shallow waters, they allow adventurers to explore hidden natural treasures and get up close with wildlife, enriching the sightseeing experience.

To provide more specific guidance, the following markdown table details activities, fishing specifics, and sightseeing opportunities ideal for pontoon boats:

Activity TypeSpecific ActivitiesDetails
Leisure ActivitiesPicnics, Sunbathing, Water SportsPontoon boats offer spacious decks perfect for picnics, ample sunbathing areas, and the stability needed for light water sports such as paddleboarding.
FishingFreshwater FishingIdeal for catching bass, trout, and catfish in freshwater lakes and rivers. Pontoon boats can navigate shallow waters, reaching secluded fishing spots.
SightseeingScenic Routes & DestinationsExplore scenic waterways like the Florida Keys, Lake Tahoe, or the Mississippi River. Pontoon boats provide a comfortable platform for viewing wildlife and natural landscapes.

When to rent a party barge

Renting a party barge becomes the ideal decision when planning large gatherings or special occasions on the water. These floating venues are specifically designed for entertainment, perfectly suited for hosting birthdays, weddings, and corporate events. Equipped with expansive decks and a variety of amenities such as bar areas, sound systems, and dance floors, party barges offer everything necessary for a vibrant and unforgettable celebration. Whether celebrating a milestone or simply seeking an extraordinary day out with a large group, a party barge combines the beauty of scenic waterways with a lively atmosphere, ensuring a unique and memorable event for all attendees.

Larger groups

Party barges shine when hosting larger groups, with their expansive decks and facilities designed to ensure everyone can partake in the festivities comfortably. Ideal for accommodating big gatherings, they make it possible for all guests to enjoy the event in a spacious setting.

Events and parties

Tailored for events and parties, party barges offer a distinctive and engaging venue. Their specialized layout and amenities are geared towards maximizing group entertainment, creating a vibrant and memorable setting for any social gathering.


A birthday celebration on a party barge transforms the day into an extraordinary event. The combination of a festive environment and stunning water views provides a unique and joyous way to celebrate with loved ones.


Opting for a wedding on a party barge sets the stage for a romantic and unforgettable ceremony. The picturesque water backdrop adds a magical element to the nuptials, ensuring the special day is cherished by the couple and their guests.

Corporate events

For corporate events, party barges present a novel and inviting atmosphere. They facilitate team bonding, networking, and the celebration of company milestones in a relaxed setting, distinct from the traditional office environment.

On-board amenities

The comprehensive on-board amenities of party barges, including bar areas, sound systems, and dance floors, enhance the event experience. These features guarantee that guests have access to top-notch entertainment options, from sipping cocktails to dancing the night away under the stars.