Explore Crab Island, Destin, Florida (Ultimate Visitor’s Guide)

If you plan a trip to the Florida Panhandle, Crab Island in Destin, Florida, is a fun little slice of paradise to explore. Crab Island is located north of Destin’s bridge (Marler Bridge). The emerald green waters and beautiful weather make this a special place to catch some rays.

Below we’ll explore everything you need to know about Crab Island to ensure you have a fantastic time.

What Is Crab Island?

Although Crab Island is little more than a raised sand bar, it’s super popular with locals and tourists. But, at one time, it WAS an actual island. Years ago, the US Army Corps of Engineers dredged Destin Pass and put the sand in Choctawhatchee Bay and viola. Crab Island was born.

Over the years, the sand eroded and what’s left today is an underwater sandbar which is a popular spot for hanging out. The sandbar is, on average, a few feet deep, perfect for floating, wading, and otherwise having a splashing good time. 

How to Get to Crab Island

Crab Island is only accessible by water. However, rental companies like Destin Vacation Boat Rentals can hook you up if you don’t have a boat or other watercraft. A boat ride to the sandbar is just about 5 minutes, so it’s easy. 

Pontoon boats are the most popular method to reach Crab Island. Many rental shops also have a shuttle boat. In addition, visitors can rent a kayak or paddle board, with a pontoon boat rental, so you can paddle around once you reach the sandbar. It’s not recommended to paddle a kayak or SUP to the sandbar because the currents can be very strong.

However you plan to reach the sandbar, make your reservation in advance. Rental shops can fill up quickly during certain times of the year.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Crab Island?

Rates vary depending on the service or the boat you rent. For example, expect to spend about $300 for 12 people for a half day if you rent a pontoon boat. That works out to $25/per person. Not bad compared to other attractions in the area.

Is Crab Island worth a visit?

Crab Island is absolutely worth visiting. It’s a fun way to spend a day. Yes, there are more people during holiday weekends, peak vacation times, spring break, etc., but don’t let that deter you from having fun.

Crab Island is a big party on sparkling emerald waters. What’s not to like? The area is pretty well protected from the currents of the Gulf of Mexico, making the water pretty calm. Because Crab Island is near shops and waterfront restaurants, it’s a match made in heaven.

What to Do at Crab Island

Crab Island is a fun spot to spend some time, whether you spend a day or half a day. The atmosphere is a fun, energetic vibe. So many people are chilling on the water on boats, wading, paddling, inflatables, etc. 

Expect a lot of music and socializing, games, etc. It’s a fun spot. Yes, people are drinking, partying, grilling, and generally having a great time. Most people are friendly, so that’s a great aspect. 

There is a lot of marine life in Choctawhatchee Bay, so keep an eye out and see what you can see.

Stand up paddle boarding, swimming, and snorkeling are all fun activities. Just watch out for the boat traffic. Finally, mobile food boats offer all kinds of local fare. 

Things to Do Near Crab Island

The Destin Fort Walton area is jam-packed with various activities, and taking them all in is hard. However, we’ll hit on a few highlights to get the juices flowing.

Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park

As the name suggests, Big Kahunas is a waterpark and an Adventure park. The waterpark side is a great way to cool off during the hot summer months, and it’s a great place to go if you have kids. Or if you are a kid at heart, LOL. 

The waterpark has various rides depending on your thrill level. There is a lazy river, too, if you want to kick back and relax. The adventure park has attractions like mini golf and a Sky Coaster. So if you want an excellent spot for some family fun, this is the place. 

Note: The park is open seasonally.

Fishing Trips

Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” so fishing is engrained in the culture here. As a result, there are plenty of opportunities to drop a line and reel in a big fish. Charter fishing trips are a great way to go. Depending on your time and budget, you can go out for a whole or half day.

I recommend choosing a charter company that knows the area well, such as Always Tight Fishing Charter Destin.

If a charter isn’t in your budget, or you prefer to fish from the pier, there is no better spot than Okaloosa Island Pier. The pier stretches over 1,200 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. If you don’t have your own fishing gear, you can get everything you need on the pier, including a fishing pass. 

Henderson Beach State Park 

Henderson Beach State Park is about 10 minutes east of Crab Island in Destin. If you want to step away from Crab Island and explore, this is the spot to do it. Plenty of watersports, like swimming, surf fishing, paddle boarding, etc., keep people busy. 

If solid ground is more your speed, the state park has nature trails, bike trails, and camping facilities. Henderson Beach is also great for working on your tan, building sand castles, or reading a book. 

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Gulfarium is a unique experience you don’t want to miss if you need a break from lounging at Crab Island. The park is home to marine life, including sea turtles, lions, and dolphins. In addition, Gulfarium is near Fort Walton beach, so it’s easy to get to.

The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island

The boardwalk is a great local spot to enjoy the beautiful views of the Gulf of Mexico. There are plenty of shops and places to eat, so folks can grab a bite after a long day at Crab Island. This is also a great place to watch people.

Best Time to Visit Crab Island

People flock to Crab Island for the environment. It’s one of the area’s top summertime destinations. The best time to visit Crab Island is divided into two categories, the time of day and the time of year.

The best time of day to visit Crab Island, hands down, is at high tide when the water is clear and beautiful. Most of the pictures you see of Crab Island are during high tide.

The best time of year to visit Crab Island depends on your desired vibe. Most of the partying is during the warm weather months, like around spring break time (mid-March) through Labor Day. Weekends are busier than weekdays.

So, if you want to party, weekends during the summer are best. If you want to relax, try weekdays, and off-peak season during the rest of the year. You can also separate from the crowds and do your thing. No matter when you visit, drop an anchor and enjoy yourself. 

FAQ’s

Are There Bathrooms on Crab Island?

Ruh-roh! There are no bathroom facilities once you are on the water at Crab Island. So the best thing to do is use the restroom before you head out. The rental shops have restrooms, so you can go before you hit the water. The rental shops will likely give you a map or tell you where the closest facilities are once you are on the water. 

Can You Swim to Crab Island?

You can’t swim to Crab Island. You can swim once you get there, but don’t try to swim there, for heaven’s sake. The tide can change quickly, and currents can be strong, and swimming to the sandbar is not a good idea with so many boats on the water.

If you spend a day on the water, the last thing you want to do is have to try to swim back to shore. The safe way to get to Crab Island is by boat. Rent a boat, then swim and enjoy the water once you arrive on the sandbar. 

Is There Food on Crab Island?

There are floating food vendors at the sandbar during the busy season and occasionally restaurants. If you want food, it’s best to bring snacks, drinks, etc. You never know what you will have access to on the water. You can’t buy alcohol at the sandbar, either.

Is Crab Island Good for Kids?

Absolutely, especially if your kids enjoy playing beer pong…kidding! Crab Island is family-friendly, and the waste-deep water is a great place to learn to snorkel, paddle board, etc.

Where to Stay Near Crab Island

There are plenty of places to stay near Crab Island in Destin, Florida. Whether you prefer a beautiful waterfront resort or a vacation rental, you will find a great option here.

  • Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort – Pools, beach rentals, and fitness center located right on the waterfront.
  • Beach House by Vacasa – Kitchens, big TVs, dining room, etc.
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Destin – Conveniently located, infinity pool, splash pad for the kiddos

Where to Eat Near Crab Island

There are plenty of fantastic places to eat nearby. I hope you are into seafood. Here are a few of the highly-rated restaurants near Crab Island.

  • Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant
  • AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar
  • Brotula’s Seafood House & Steamer

Conclusion

Crab Island is the perfect place to enjoy sunny Destin, Florida. The sandbar is a blast, the water is perfect, and there are always people enjoying all the area has to offer. So if you are up for an adventure, add Crab Island to your bucket list.

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.