Crab Island 2020
This post contains old information. A new post has been written to reflect new changes for 2021. Find the updated post about Crab Island 2021 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.