A Traveler’s Guide to Crab Island, FL

Contrary to its name, Crab Island is neither an island nor full of crustaceans. But it is one of the most popular day-trip destinations off the coast of Destin, Florida!

The calm tropical waters of the Gulf call for travelers (and locals) with watercraft to hit the sandbar just north of the Destin Bridge and spend the day in the Florida sun. Once out on the water, you’ll be greeted by fellow beachgoers relishing the sun and local vendors selling food, drinks, and iconic souvenirs.

Legacy Vacation rentals on the sugar white sands of Fort Walton Beach are just a stone’s throw away from the Destin Harbor and the submerged sandbar of Crab Island. For those planning to visit Crab Island on their next trip to the Emerald Coast, this is everything you need to know.

A Brief History of Crab Island

At one time, this little spit of submerged sand was indeed an island. Back in the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the depths of the Destin Pass for sand and plopped it in Choctawhatchee Bay, creating an island— then nicknamed Crab Island. This was all done to stabilize the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, this island is little more than a scenic sandbar after years of erosion and the sporadic hurricane sped its degradation.

Visits to this undersea sandbar have been so popular throughout the years that overcrowding and irresponsible behavior started to damage the oceanic environment. Since then, the National Park Service has gotten involved, and new rules and regulations are regularly introduced.

What to Do on Crab Island, Florida

When planning your fun day in the bay, knowing what exactly there is to do on Crab Island off Destin can be helpful. Here’s a glimpse of the possibilities.

1. Spot Marine Life

Photo Credit: gillmar

While humans are by far the most numerous lifeforms near the island during the day, you can also spot sea critters like dolphins, hermit crabs, and lots of fish if you plan your visit during the week or a less crowded time of year.

2. Play Frisbee or Volleyball

Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia

This is a great place to play some active water sports games while keeping cool in the shallow water. Be sure to bring your own equipment, as there is no place to rent or buy once you’ve reached the island.

3. Soak up the Sun

Photo Credit: vectorfusionart

Work on your tan in the Florida sun here. Just be sure to layer on sunscreen and use hats and sunglasses for protection because the tropical rays are intense.

4. Drink some Brews With Your Friends

Photo Credit: Meesiri

Join the party and drink homemade cocktails and beer while you hang out with your group. This is one of the most popular things for locals and tourists alike on Crab Island to do.

While there are no open-container laws in the waters of Florida, be sure to designate a boat driver and always drink responsibly.

5. Enjoy the Floating Restaurants and Food Vendors

The vendors are quite possibly the best part of Crab Island. While they vary every year, you can usually expect ice cream, seafood sandwiches, and Mexican cuisine. While you should always pack your own snacks just in case, if there are vendors operating, it’s always a good idea to support the local businesses.

6. Try Your Hand at Fishing

Whether you’ve rented a fishing charter or simply brought along a pole (not a good idea with the crowds), you can fish around the edges of Crab Island! Just be sure you have the proper fishing license.

7. Water Sports

Photo Credit: idreamphoto

While the old obstacle course and water trampolines of the floating water park are gone, there is ample room for exploration by kayak and paddleboard. Just be sure to bring your own rentals.

8. Snorkeling

Photo Credit: idreamphoto

Snorkeling and marine life may be limited in the 3-foot shallows when the crowds descend on the island, but the edges are still brimming with life. Due to the changing currents and increased depth, you should be a proficient swimmer and not consume alcohol if you plan to snorkel off the island.

Current Crab Island Rules for Visitors

  1. No Overnight Anchoring
  2. A restroom is required on commercial passenger vessels over 21′.
  3. Boaters can buy BYOB, but there is no commercial sale or distribution of alcohol.
  4. Shuttle services can no longer drop people off on Crab Island and leave them there. This puts an end to the water taxis.

Best Time to Visit Crab Island

If you want to avoid the crowds, you can always visit Crab Island during the off-season. But the information below outlines the most pleasant and popular times to visit.

Spring to Fall

Spring through fall, specifically March to October, is definitely the best time to plan your trip to Destin, Florida. During this time of year, both the water and the air will be a welcoming temperature for a day spent in the waters of the Gulf.


While the summer months bring a slightly increased risk of hurricanes, they are also the most popular time to visit Crab Island for the quintessential experience.

High Tide

The best time of day to visit Crab Island is high tide, when the water is at its clearest turquoise blue. Be sure to check the local tide charts on the day of your visit.

Essential Crab Island Packing List

Here’s a quick breakdown of the items you should throw in your boat before heading off to Crab Island.

  • Some beach towels
  • High SPF Reef-Safe lotion sunscreen
  • Sunglasses and a hat for sun protection
  • Cash and Cards. While many vendors accept cards out on Crab Island, it’s always a good idea to bring along some cash just in case.
  • Cooler with ice, water, snacks, and lunch. Once out on the water, you’ll be limited to the vendors who happen to be there during your visit. It’s better to come fully self-sufficient and prepared just in case.
  • Boating and Fishing Licenses. (If applicable) This is for travelers renting or bringing their own vessel.
  • Speakers, inflatables, Frisbees, and other forms of merriment. This is the optional gear meant to keep you and the family entertained once on the island.

Getting to Crab Island

Cruising down scenic Highway 98 across the Destin Bridge, you can see Crab Island in all its glory. But how exactly can you reach it? By boat! You cannot swim, walk, or drive to Crab Island.

Because of the seeming proximity to Destin Beach, many people die every year trying to swim to Crab Island. The currents in the areas of deeper water are strong and variable. They should not be underestimated.

Rent a Boat

To reach the sand, you can find pontoon rentals, kayaks, jet skis, or any other small watercraft rentals in Destin. This is the best option for groups and those who want to make the most of their time and spend a full day out on the sandbar.

If you do happen to go the boat rental route, be sure to designate a driver and have the proper licenses for whatever watercraft you put into the East Pass. Keep in mind, that you’ll be navigating in some shallow water.

Charter a Boat

For those of you who may be questioning your qualifications to drive said boats – a charter may be a better route for your group. This option allows you to “rent” a pontoon boat, Duffy boat, floating tiki bar boat, catamaran, or yacht that comes with a boat captain.

Travelers interested in fishing along the Gulf Coast can also charter a fishing boat for the day and easily add a stop on Crab Island to their itinerary. You can charter a boat through many companies, but one of the most reputable is Crab Island Cruises.

Join an Excursion

If you are a small group, couple, or family hoping to visit Crab Island, the most economical option will likely be to join an already planned excursion or boat tour of Crab Island. You’ll share the boat ride with other tourists and split the costs. This option is also the only one that has restrooms on board!

Crab Island Shuttle Boat

This is the cheapest and most popular excursion company to Crab Island. Round-trip tickets cost between $45 to $55 depending on the duration of your stay on the island, and you will simply float out through the clear water to the sandbar, spend a few hours enjoying it, and return to Destin.

Crab Island Adventure Tour

This tour, however, is a jam-packed, adrenaline-filled itinerary of snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, shelling, dolphin-spotting, watersports, and more. You’ll also get to experience Crab Island. This tour is great for families or people looking to get the full Destin water experience. Prices range from $69-$85 per person, depending on the duration of the trip.

What to Know Before You Go

Can You Stay Overnight on Crab Island?

No. The closest you can get to an overnight stay on Crab Island is overnight docking your private boat off the shores of Crab Island out in the deeper water.

Is Crab Island Family-Friendly?

Yes! Lots of families take to the idyllic green waters for a myriad of activities. The Adventure Tour I mentioned above is especially popular for visiting families with pre-teen and teen children.

Do keep in mind that Crab Island is a popular destination for festive beverage celebrations, and there will likely be lively crowds and the music that comes with them.

Where to Stay Near Crab Island

Crab Island is the perfect addition to your Destin vacation. Most visitors to the scenic sandbar will be coming from the town of Destin. While there are many neighborhoods you could base yourself on, our favorite is Fort Walton Beach near Okaloosa Island.

This small Florida panhandle city is within 10 minutes of the harbor and offers a plethora of unique attractions and activities to keep you busy during your stay. Not to mention, it’s also home to the best beaches in the area. Think soft white sand and emerald green waters.

Can’t Miss Local Events

While actual hosted events on Crab Island aren’t numerous, a handful draw some crowds. Every summer, the Crab Island Boat Party fills the water with boats. The 4th of July, Memorial Day, and other national holidays are always a crowd favorite.

Whether these events are social gatherings to plan your trip around or crowded events to avoid is up to you.

Stay With Us in Fort Walton Beach!

After a blistering day in the Florida sun, you’ll want a comfortable, quiet beachfront rental to rest in. Browse our group-friendly properties or cozier stays for a romantic getaway when planning your trip to Destin. Just a 20-minute transit from Crab Island, you’ll be perfectly situated for all kinds of beachfront adventures.