Crab Island 2020
This post contains old information. A new post has been written to reflect new changes for 2021 and 2022. Find the updated posts about Crab Island 2021 and Crab Island 2022 here.
If you’ve been following the news about the changes Crab Island is facing in 2020, you likely have a few questions about how the new laws will affect your vacation plans. The goal of this post is to clarify any questions you may have about Crab Island 2020. Contrary to some rumors, Crab Island isn’t being shut down. Instead, new rules have been put in place to make the sandbar a safer place for all of of us. If you have a question not answered here, leave a comment below and we will respond as best we are able. (Keep in mind that laws are always changing. We will do our best to update this post with any new changes, should there be any, during the course of 2020.)
If you are looking for specific information about Crab Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.
History Behind the Changes
Crab Island Destin has always been a local hot spot and fun area to bring your boat for some fun in the sun. Many years ago, when I was growing up, it was a quiet slice of paradise in the middle of the water and was frequented mainly by locals and the occasional rental boat. About 12 years or so ago, floating businesses started making their way out to Crab Island, including blow-up water parks, bars, floating restaurants, t-shirt vendors, paddleboard and kayak rental services, and other vendors. This gave people more of a reason to go there and so…more people started going.
Over the past decade, Crab Island has grown from a quiet little hangout spot to a miniature floating city with 31 different businesses, some as large as houses, attracting thousands of visitors from near and far each day. Local governments started to become concerned about the safety of that number of people in the water.
Then some vendors started getting a little out of control… Some started giving away “free” alcohol with the purchase of a “virgin” daiquiri to skirt state liquor laws. Others started freely using public lands to taxi visitors to Crab Island and drop them off in the middle of the water with no plans for return and no way to get them off the sandbar quickly in the case of an emergency. Some people drowned. The sea grass beds started to recede. The list goes on. As they say, a few bad apples spoiled the barrel…
New Rules at Crab Island for 2020
New rules on alcohol: This isn’t actually a new law, but it was one of the first changes made to the Crab Island ordinance a few years ago and people still call us asking about alcohol laws, so it seems worthy of repeating here. In 2018, the County decided to start making some changes. They banned the sale or distribution of alcohol at Crab Island. Crab Island visitors can still bring their own alcohol to the sandbar, but they can no longer purchase it there (so pack accordingly and designate a driver-or join a captained tour– if you would like to enjoy alcoholic beverages at Crab Island). 2020 will be the third summer since alcohol sales were banned by law from the sandbar, and there has been little effect on the number of people going to Crab Island, or the fun being had. In fact, Crab Island has continued to grow each year.
Overnight anchoring restriction: The County Commission also decided to impose limitations on overnight anchoring, to be enforced beginning in 2020. So starting this year, no businesses will be allowed to set up at Crab Island and leave their business anchored overnight. Instead they will have to drive out to the sandbar each day and drive back to a commercial marina or dock each evening. This will mostly affect only the largest of the floating structures and the 2 water parks that set up each Spring and take down each Fall. The floating restaurant WaterWorld will not be returning in 2020. Reef Burger (our favorite floating burger place), however, will return this season. We know that at least one of those inflatable parks is hoping to be able to build a barge to facilitate daily set up and take down of their inflatable water park, so there may still be inflatables to play on at some point, though the scale of the entire operation may be smaller (update: as of mid-September 2020, there are still no inflatables at Crab Island. There is an option for a Crab Island excursion that includes inflatables (pictured below) as part of the trip for those who are looking for both inflatables and the Crab Island experience. Click here for information on the Crab Island Adventure Tour.
No more dropping people off at Crab Island: Taxi boats are no longer allowed to take customers to Crab Island and leave them there (which is good, because that isn’t safe practice anyway). In addition, they must pick customers up from a private commercial facility. For your safety, all Crab Island shuttle and excursion boats must stay with their customers at Crab Island for the duration of each tour. Most tours last 2-4 hours. If you’d like to spend a longer time at Crab Island, you will have to rent a boat instead.
Crab Island Outlook for 2020
Other than the overnight anchoring restriction, Crab Island remains largely the same. There will still be plenty of mobile food vendors cruising around the sandbar selling ice cream, hot boiled peanuts, t-shirts, and more. Floating restaurants will still set up daily, though they may be a little smaller in size. The beautiful water will remain as beautiful as always. And there will still be plenty of Crab Island excursions and boat rentals available to get you there.
So this is our first time traveling with some of our close friends, we decided to go to Destin FL is our kids spring break. This year it lands on different days in march for both families so we decided to split it up in two weeks so we could go together. We have told a couple of other friends but they have been telling us that in march is still a cold month and that we will not have good weather, is that true? we also want to make sure we take the right clothes not to may shorts if its cold and if we need jackets or hoodies. Would like your feed back thank you!!
March is usually pretty warm (low 70s) but there may be a cool breeze. I would pack shorts, t-shirts, and a light jacket or hoodie for layering.
Awesome thank you for the info Heather. This will help us pack according to the weather. We are ready to have a great time and enjoy Destin FL. So will the water trampoline park be open during March 11-18? Those are the days we plan to travel to Destin FL.
The Water Park is a separate business, so we’re not sure what their plans are for opening dates for the 2020 season yet.
Thanks so much for this updated info! If we chartered a captained boat, we would only be able to stay on the island for as long as the boat reservation is for, correct? Also, I’m assuming you pay for the boat to get you out there, but all other activities are additional costs?
Correct. Your boat must remain with you at all times. The vendors at Crab Island are individual businesses, so if you would like to use their services you would have to pay for them.
Also, if you charter a boat, is the cost split among all passengers? For example, I see a rate of $525 for a boat. Is that the total cost of the boat rental? I have a family of 5, so we could fit more on a boat. Thank you!
If you’re looking at a boat rental, the rate is for the boat and the price will be the same whether you have 1 person or the maximum number of persons allowed on the boat at one time. Charters can be a little different and may charge for extra people, depending on the charter company.
First time to Crab Island not Destin. We will have several teenagers. We are planning on renting a pontoon and maybe a jet ski. My two questions are , can you rent a jet ski on crab island if so where do we find rates? Also how much time do you think one needs to enjoy everything? Is 4 hours long enough and 8 hours too much ? Thanks.
It doesn’t sound like there will be any jet ski rentals at Crab Island this year with the new laws; you’ll need to rent one from an upland location. The perfect rental length is very much a matter of personal preference. 4 hours may be plenty for your group. Or it may not be enough. If your only plan is to visit Crab Island you can certainly do that in 4 hours. If you plan to do anything else (National Seashore, Norriego Point, stop for lunch, etc), I would rent for the day…
Is crab island closed due to the covid 19 and if so is there any date on which it is suppose to open back up thanks we have reservations to come memorial day weekend thanks
Crab Island is not closed. Hope that helps!
Heather, thank you for this info! We were there last year and thinking about coming back. Do you know if there are any plans or talk of closing crab island during this COVID19? From comments above, it looks like it was still open a few weeks ago. Thank you!
Crab Island is still open! We wrote a whole post about it here: https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/blog-post/crab-island-boating-covid-19/
Are the floating play grounds open?
When does the activity start at Crab Island? ie the large flotation obstacle course? all the people showing up?
I see that this article was written on Feb 9, 2020. Is the information contained in the article still accurate? I just want to make sure that I am not reading outdated information. We are using the information in this article to determine whether or not to make the trip to Crab Island this summer. Thanks in advance.
We have been updating as changes are made. The last update was on 5/17/2020. Hope that helps!
are there days that crab island and the vendors are closed?
The vendors are generally out 7 days a week during peak season. Hope that helps!
Are the restaurants open?
Reef Burger (floating restaurant) is open and so are some of the smaller boat vendors that sell ice cream, boiled peanuts, etc. Hope that helps!
Is the obstacle course open?
The obstacle course has not set up this year yet. It is unclear with the new laws if they will be able to since they are now required to take down and move every night. We do offer an adventure tour that includes inflatables and a trip to Crab Island: https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/crab-island-adventure-tour/
This is all great and I love crab island but when vacationing $700 for a boat rental for the day is not feasible. That’s way too high.
It’s a good thing most of our boats are way less than $700 then! ;) Check out pricing here: https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/boat-rentals/ . We also have cheaper options, like the Crab Island Shuttle Boat: https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/crab-island-shuttle-boat/ Hope that helps!
Is there access to air that inflates your huge Floats for floating and enjoying the crab island?
Just to check, this isn’t really a place for teenagers, correct? Just younger kids and adults?
There are lots of families that go with kids. Hope that helps.
Can you sleep on your boat overnight at Crab Island?
hello, I wanted to know if crab island is open with all charters, food services ect in September or if they all close down Labor day weekend?
Typically the vendors stay open through fall break in October. Hope that helps!
Is the water park at the island open?
The Crab Island Water Park is not open due to new county laws preventing overnight anchoring at Crab Island. Check out the Crab Island Adventure Tour, which includes inflatables as part of the excursion. https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/crab-island-adventure-tour/ Hope that helps!
The Crab Island Water Park is not open due to new county restrictions on overnight anchoring at Crab Island. Check out the Crab Island Adventure Tour, which includes inflatables as part of the excursion. https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/crab-island-adventure-tour/ Hope that helps!
Is there a least crowded day to visit Crab Island?
Yes in winter! :)
it’s pretty much always crowded, maybe during the week when there isn’t any big long weekend holiday is a bit more chill.
Is crab Island open right now or has Florida closed it down due to COVID-19
Crab Island is open!
So is “Redneck beach” right under the bridge still accessible like it used to be last year? We parked on that little parking lot by the beach and walked under the bridge and swam right under there.
No, Eglin AFB shut it down this year because businesses were abusing the land by trying to operate there for free. It’s a shame.
That’s what I heard, I was hoping it changed and opened up again :(
Can you access that side of the beach another way, I loved been there since there no waves and water warms up fast ?
I’m coming this weekend with a party of 10. Do I need a reservation?
Yes, especially if you want to get out on Saturday!
What is there to do at Crab island for young kids ages 4-13?
Would you suggest morning or afternoon to visit Crab Island? We plan on renting a pontoon boat for half day, tour the bay. Thank you
Is there a fee to get on Crab Island?
No, there is no fee to enter the sandbar area.
Hey Heather…I live in Pensacola. Right now jellyfish are bad between here and Orange Beach. How are the jellyfish at Crab Island? Thinking about hanging there this weekend to get away from the jellyfish
Heading there next week. Are there floatables open other than on the excursion?
No, the Crab Island Adventure Tour is currently the only option for inflatables on the water by Crab Island.
Was told by a friend that the restrictions in Florida have lifted (Covid-19 related), does this include the anchoring overnight for business?? We are anticipating to enjoy the floating parks. :)
The Water Park was not closed due to Covid, but rather due to a new county restriction on overnight anchoring at Crab Island. So, even though Covid restrictions have been lifted, this does not affect laws passed for other reasons. If you’re interested in doing inflatables, check out the Crab Island Adventure Tour. HTH!
Hello! I’m coming with my Family to Okaloosa Island on December 5th. We were hooing to visit the Crab Island however now im not sure if it’s open during december month… any input on that?
Also, what would you recommend for a family to do/see during December? We are staying for a month hoping the weather will be warm enough to at least try a swim in the ocean for a minute :)
Crab Island is a sandbar so it is always “open”. There will not be any vendors open at that time, though. Vendors must pay the County monthly to operate and there just isn’t enough business in December to justify the fees. Hope that helps.
Where is a good place to stay for 4 couples at crab island?
Will Crab Island sandbar vendors still be operating Nov 7th-12th 2020? When do they close for the season?
I’m about 2.5 hours away in Troy, Alabama. Crab Island is a super fun kayak outing as well. Pack for the day and have a ball. Looks like these new rules won’t affect kayakers too much.
I was wondering if the vendors will be at crab island this spring break (3/26/21-4/5/21) Is this considered off season due to cooler temperatures
Is there a crab Island urber? Where my friend can be dropped off and meet us out there and then picked up qt a certain time as well? Any help will be appreciated.
No one can legally take people out and drop them off at the sandbar and leave them there in the water. We do offer a 3 hour “shuttle boat” excursion that takes people out to Crab island and back, but the boat does stay out there the whole time, as required by law. https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/crab-island-shuttle-boat/
Our family is coming in June 2021. Do I understand it right that the food vendors will not be out and about this summer?
That is incorrect. Full details here, on our post about what to expect at Crab Island in 2021: https://www.destinvacationboatrentals.com/blog-post/crab-island-2021/
My family is going to Okaloosa the last week in July. I rented a pontoon and plan on going to crab island or just pontooning around with our 3 and 6 year old boys. We have never been to Florida and my question is: Are there “parking” areas for pontoons to eat at restaurants? Does that make sense?
Too bad the “government “, supposedly “of and for the people” has decided to ruin a great spot. I’ve made my last trip to Crab Island….good job city council ! What’s next…you going to ban going to the beaches ?!
What are the closest condos to stay near crab island?
Hello! We will be staying at a condo near crab island, will we be allowed to use paddle boards to get there and back? Also can we use the paddle boards to move around Destin Harbor?