There’s a well-known hangout in Steuben County that’s like no other. From a distance it looks like a rag-tag armada has assembled on Lake James. The Sandbar, well-known to locals, is one of those something-for- everyone kind of places. Think tailgating meets three and a half feet of water in a good way. Okay sometimes it’s a little deeper depending on where you park. But the point is, it’s a huge party all summer long.
Best of all it’s free, you’ll always find friends (whether you bring them with you or make them there), and best of all it’s open just about any time and any day of the week-- though weekends are the best of all.
In between the dogs in life jackets, jet skis, and barrage of foam floats, you can find everyone from bikini-clad co-eds partying it up to grandchildren and Papa barbequing on the boat. Packing a cooler before you head for the hotspot is a must. But if you don’t bring your own snacks— it’s not a problem. That’s what The Galley is for. The aquastaurant—a floating drive thru—has all sorts of beachy foods to temp the taste buds from bacon burgers, to chicken, hotdogs, and drinks.
Very often live music plays on a floating stage—but even when the musicians go home there’s always plenty of music blasting.
The best way to visit is in your own boat or that of a friends’. Barring that (pun intended) you can always rent a boat for the afternoon or better yet the whole day. The Corner Landing rents pontoons and fishing boats. Potawatomi Inn Beach also has a few pontoon rentals. Worse case scenario, there paddleboats for rent too. So one could always peddle on over. This is how my son and I first discovered The Sandbar about 10 years ago. Though, doing this is a last resort as rentals are timed could get expensive. But hey, it’s a way to get an up close look and make plans for a longer stay.
As with most lakes, Lake James has several great little sandbars perfect for anchoring and getting out for a swim. But ‘The Sandbar’—the one that gets its own ‘the’ in front of it, is located just west of Pokagon State Park’s Potawatomi Inn Beach east of the public beach at Pokagon State Park. (You must go by water. There is no public route by land.)
Erika Celeste is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio, print, television, and marketing. She owns and operates New Moon Media Group where she’s written several documentaries and books.