Pristine Island, a Splash Park, & Cabins: Lake Hartwell at Big Water Marina

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Have you been to Big Water Marina? Lake Hartwell is home to this combination aqua park, campground, restaurant, and watersport hub! It is just an hour from Greenville, SC, and has tons of family-friendly entertainment, food, water options, and even beautiful cabins. So stay for a day, a weekend, or a week! Media tickets were provided to Splash Island for this review.

I came to the Big Water Marina at Lake Hartwell for Splash Island but stayed for the relaxing island vibe and really wish I could have ended our day watching the sunset from the restaurant, J.R. Cash’s, but had to get back home – which, thankfully, was only an hour drive back to Greenville. There are some pretty intense Margaritaville vibes happening here, which truly will leave you relaxed and happy and wanting to return.

It’s not just the amazing Splash Island waterpark with a floating obstacle course that shines here. It’s the tiny cabins, the delicious cuisine at the restaurant, the hammocks on the beach, the chill pirate ship playground right next to the restaurant, and the staff that make this place so cool. I’m here to tell you all about it.

Giant aqua park at Splash Island in Anderson, South Carolina

About the Big Water Marina: Lake Hartwell

The family-friendly atmosphere is immediately apparent at the marina and campground and once I met one of the owners, Trey Boggs, a fifth-generation Anderson, SC resident, who has three daughters of his own, it was easy to figure out why. He spoke my language immediately as he explained how his kids just love the aqua park so much and get so worn out while the parents chill on the beach in the sand – or join in on the fun if they want.

“If the kids aren’t having fun, they are going to whine about leaving and parents won’t have any fun either,” Trey said.

Isn’t that the truth? There’s no danger of that happening at the Big Water Marina thankfully. Trey and his brother bought the marina back in 2017 and gradually added more acreage as time went on so that today, the marina is now about 200 acres in total and an island unto itself with multiple RV slots, boat slips, Splash Island, a restaurant, and shop.

Kristina riding a hydrobike

Ever the entrepreneur, Trey, and his brother are planning a lot of new builds in the near future, including treehouses, yurts, more cabins (more on those in a bit), adding to Splash Island, more RV pads, and beach tent camping.

Splash Island Waterpark

Splash Island is an interlocking floating obstacle course on Lake Hartwell at the Big Water Marina. Wibit is a German company that manufactures the actual parts of the obstacle course and they are moveable to create new routes or add onto existing obstacles. This is the second Wibit course I’ve run (well, tried to run, more like slipped around) and it’s so much fun!

The course as they have it set up now is more than 80 feet long and is in deep enough water where you can safely jump off the highest obstacles and into the nice, warm water. They have monkey bars and running obstacles similar to the show, Wipeout, which I love to watch and laugh at all the people falling into the water. Now that I’ve done it myself, people are laughing at me falling into the water after failing to make it across some obstacle.

Splash Island aqua park
About to wipeout

My kids had such a blast and time just flew by. We were on the course for about two hours but it didn’t even feel that long except that we were completely and utterly exhausted. That thing is a major workout! Kids need to be 46 inches tall to do it by themselves. Kids under that height can still do it but they will need to have a parent or guardian with them on the course.

There was always a staff member on the course paying close attention to the kids – and adults – running it and just making sure everyone was safe. You have to wear lifejackets to do the course as well, which are provided. Tickets are $15/hour or $25/two hours. Splash Island opened for their 2023 season May 11, 2023.

The Beach & Other Water Rentals

There’s a good size beach with sand at Big Water Marina in front of Splash Island. And they have chairs and hammocks and strung lights and picnic tables and I never wanted to leave. It was so relaxing. You don’t need to be doing the water obstacle course in order to use the beach and there is no charge to park or to be admitted to the sandy space on the lake. Pets can be there but they must be leashed and owners must clean up after them.

Big Water Marina Beach

Big Water Marina at Lake Hartwell also rents paddleboards, kayaks, hydrobikes, and pontoon boats. I didn’t know what a hydrobike was and the good people at the marina let me try one. They are fun! You basically just work it like you’re riding a bike, super easy but also a little tiring. You have to wear a lifejacket and kids ages 8+ who can reach the pedals can ride one. They are $25/hour but also are available for day and weekly rentals.

If a hydrobike isn’t up your alley, give a paddleboard or a kayak a try. I personally love paddleboarding and find it to be an excellent water activity. Those are $25/hour and kids must be age 13+. With kayaks, you can rent a single ($25/hour) or a tandem ($35/hour) and you can bring a smaller child with you on a tandem.

Pontoon boat rentals, which can fit up to 13 people, start at $330 for a half day (four hours). You can rent by half day, full day, sunset cruise, or a weekly rental.

Tiny Cabins

I have a thing for tiny houses. My dream is to live in one somewhere in the woods and read all the books I want. But until I can do that, I’m always on the hunt for awesome tiny cabins to stay in and I’ve finally found the perfect – and I mean, perfect – one at the Big Water Marina campground.

I got a tour of a one bedroom tiny cabin with a double loft (so a loft on both sides of the house), full kitchen, living area, bathroom, and porch and I want it so bad. I wanted to take that little cabin with me to my non-existent plot of land in a forest somewhere. It was so cute and beautiful and decorated with a rustic minimalism. There are ladders that lead to each loft that kids would just love and the master bedroom was gorgeous. They face west so you’ll get to enjoy a glass of wine on the porch and watch a stunning sunset. Trey tells me the sunsets there rival those of Key West. I’m gonna need to test that out.

Inside of a tiny cabin at Big Water Marina in Anderson, South Carolina

There are one bedroom and two bedroom cabins. The one bedroom ones can fit a family of six and the two bedroom cabins can fit up to seven people. Cabins can generally fit between four and seven people comfortably. If a weekend getaway is on your mind or a quick summer family trip, this is the place. You’re saving on gas, you have the water and beach for activities, a restaurant to eat at or a kitchen in your cabin to cook in, and Splash Island to wear the kids out at. Prices vary for the different cabins and seasons.

J.R. Cash’s Grill & Bar

The restaurant on site at the marina, J.R. Cash’s Grill & Bar, has some Margaritaville vibes going on, complete with open air dining overlooking the lake, teal chairs, and strung lights. The food is upscale bar food with burgers, fish platters, chicken tenders, and shrimp, plus a creative cocktail menu.

View of Lake Hartwell

On the suggestion of one of the staff members down at Splash Island, we got an order of the Chicken Tenders and oh my gosh, these chicken tenders were the most tender, flavorful and light chicken tenders I’ve ever had. The honey mustard sauce was really good as well. I may have to go back to this place just for these chicken tenders. We also tried a burger, which was super tasty. But oh, those chicken tenders.

Besides the chicken tenders at J.R. Cash’s, the pirate ship playground really made this place stand out. There is a legit pirate ship that has slides, swinging rings, rope ladders, and even a covered bow. So cool. My kids really loved this and once again, Big Water Marina proved they know what parents want when going out to dinner – a place for the kids to play and them to enjoy their drinks and food. The play area also had a hammock and tire swing for the bigger kids.

Honest Mom Review of Big Water Marina

I’ve been to a lot of neat places in our area but really, really loved this one for a few reasons. I felt that the owners thoughtfully took into consideration the needs of families to have quality time together in a fun and safe environment without having to even leave if they were staying at the campground. Everything they need is right there and it’s set up for maximum enjoyment. I was also so impressed by the staff members. They were attentive and kind and interacted with my kids and were just cool people. You could tell they liked being there.

Play wooden pirate ship
Pirate Ship Playground

I think the biggest shocker for me was that this place was only an hour away from Greenville. An hour! This is easily a day trip or a weekend trip if I can snag one of those tiny homes. I can’t wait to see what Trey and his family does next at the Big Water Marina.

Tips on Visiting the Big Water Marina: Lake Hartwell

There are a few important things to note if you want to visit the marina and Splash Island.

Aeriel view of Big Water Marina
Aerial photo provided by Big Water Marina
  • Splash Island is open Wednesday-Sunday so don’t go on Monday and except to achieve all your Wipeout dreams. Check the schedule before you go. They are open 10 am – 6 pm and may add more hours after Memorial Day weekend. The management has been turned over to Destination Water Sports since we went so the experience may be a little different.
  • Purchase your tickets online to ensure your spot at Splash Island. They have a limit of 55 people per session. The cost for an hour is $15 and for two hours is $25. You’ll have to call to book: (864) 332-9125
  • Height and age restrictions: For adults & children 7+ years old OR 4+ years old and at least 42″+ tall If a participant does not meet the specifications, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.  Please note: children 42″ in height are required to be directly supervised by an approved guardian (18+ years old) at all times while in the Splash Island zone.
  • J.R. Cash’s restaurant is open Thursday-Sunday as well and they don’t open until 3 pm on Thursday so just plan accordingly. We went to Splash Island first and then to eat and it worked out great since we were so hungry after doing the floating obstacle course.
  • You can bring chairs, tents, and coolers to the beach. There’s no admission or parking charge.
  • Bring water and a change of clothes. I hate driving around in a wet bathing suit and it’s hot so you really need to make sure you’re hydrated.
  • Restrooms and showers are available near the restaurant for the public to use.

Are you planning to visit Big Water Marina?

Big Water Marina & Campground
320 Big Water Road, Starr, SC

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About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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