“Babes. Bikinis. Bands. Boats. Beer. We think we’ve got it covered!” That’s the loaded promise that greets visitors to Blarney Island’s website. Each of the B-words pops up next to an empty square, which is promptly filled in with a large, exaggerated check mark as calypso music blares. Naturally, the checklist sits next to a heavily airbrushed photo of a scantily clad blonde caressing a black guitar.
An enticing vision of Blarney Island is quick to emerge, and this alliterative list seems to contain all of the necessary components for a good time. It looks like they actually do have it covered. But there’s really only one way to know for sure . . . I must take a trip to Blarney Island.
Blarney Island is located in Grass Lake off the coast of Antioch, Illinois, part of the fabled Chain O’Lakes. It sits one mile offshore, resulting in the tagline “a mile away from reality.” And it’s a bar. The entire “island” is just one giant bar.
Blarney is surrounded by a network of docks, so boaters from all over Illinois and Wisconsin can float up for a drink. (This of course turns all the surrounding water into a brownish oil slick.) But if you don’t own a vessel, there’s no need to worry; a shuttle can take you out to the island. You can board every hour at the bar’s mainland satellite location, Port o’ Blarney.
Legend has it that Blarney Island started out as a houseboat of vice that floated on the Fox River in the early 1900s. Over the past 100 years, Blarney transformed into a tropical-themed destination for boaters and partyers. It’s even been voted the greatest boating bar in the world by Extreme Boats Magazine.
I’m not a boat owner, so on my trip to Blarney Island I had to take the shuttle out. I met a nice lady on the shuttle named V., who explained to me that she’d been waiting her entire life to go to the island. Some people wait their entire life to take a backpacking trip through Europe or maybe even see Disneyland, but V. had lived her entire existence in anticipation of coming to Blarney Island.
When I stepped off the shuttle onto the island itself, I came face-to-face with Mellencougar, a startlingly spot-on John Mellencamp tribute act. The sun was way high and everyone around me was top-volume and wasted. Loud boats came and went nonstop. I had a couple of five-dollar Bud Light talls and engaged in some top-notch people watching. Shirtless dudes with barbed wire tattoos drank lime-flavored beer and ate nachos. One of the urinals in the men’s bathroom was hooked up to a complex electronic device that measured the length and velocity of your stream. I saw a middle-aged woman in a skimpy bikini with a Corvette tramp stamp. The website was right: They did have it covered.
A mere 90-minute drive from the city, Blarney just opened for the summer on May 14. That means you already missed this year’s opening-day party—but you still have plenty of time to make it to Pimp and Ho Night.