crab island 2021

Crab Island 2021: New Changes

If you’re planning on visiting Crab Island in 2021, you’ve probably heard all kinds of mixed information about what is and isn’t allowed at Crab Island in 2021. Crab Island has undergone many new rule changes in the last several years. It can be challenging each season to know how to plan for the latest round of changes, and there is so much misinformation circulating on social media by well-meaning but often misinformed posters, that we try to do our best by posting a yearly update for our visitors so that you can know exactly what to expect, from the actual people who work at Crab Island and who are in direct contact with the decision-makers.

You can catch up on most of those changes and the history behind them in last year’s post about Crab Island in 2020.

Recap from last year

If you recall, previously there was a limitation placed on vendors that did not allow overnight anchoring, which unfortunately brought everyone’s favorite Crab Island Water Park and most of the big floating restaurants to an end. Mobile food vendors were still allowed at that point, so you could still buy ice cream, boiled peanuts, fresh coconuts and pineapples, t-shirts, etc at Crab Island. A couple of restaurants, like Reef Burger, were able to scale down the size of their operations a bit to be able to remove their set-ups daily per the new requirements. Excursions, captained vessels, and recreational boats of all kinds still made their way out to Crab Island for fun in the sun, and the Crab Island Adventure Tour was born as a (legal) alternative offering for those who still wanted inflatables.

Crab Island 2021 area

Crab Island 2021 Rules

The National Parks Service (federal government), which has officially claimed jurisdiction over Crab Island, hosted 2 virtual meetings in November, where they publicly stated they will implement even more rules and restrictions, most notably: whether or not to allow vendors at Crab Island. This year, they said, starting in March 2021, the National Parks Service would only allow recreational vessels and commercial vessels with a CUA (commercial use authorization) at Crab Island and that they would be putting an end to all vending at the sandbar and surrounding areas under their jurisdiction (this includes on the actual sandbar and at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, marked on the map above). You can listen to the recorded calls from the virtual meetings they hosted in November here, where it is specifically stated that the federal government does not consider concessions and vending at the sandbar to be a “necessary or appropriate use of the park”. The key takeaway from these public meetings at that time was that you would be able to rent or charter boats or take an excursion to the popular Crab Island sandbar to hang out and enjoy the natural beauty of the area, but you would no longer be able to purchase anything while you are there.

Many vendors, understandably, were very upset about this as this decision would effectively put them out of business. But, we got lucky…

Citing delays from COVID and from Hurricane Sally, the National Parks Service announced on February 19, 2021 that they have not been able to meet the March 2021 deadline they had previously set for their Commercial Services Strategy. Because of that delay, they have granted the businesses at Crab Island one more year, with the same restrictions from 2020. This means there will still be mobile food and t-shirt vendors as well as smaller floating restaurants at Crab Island for the 2021 operating season. The Crab Island Shuttle Boat and Crab Island Adventure Tour will also continue to operate as advertised (including the inflatables that are included with the Adventure Tour). Overnight anchoring is still prohibited.

How to Prepare for New Changes at Crab Island in 2021

If you have never been to Crab Island and want to check it out, this may be the last year that you can get the “full experience”. If you go every year and were disappointed that this year was going to be different, you have another year!  Rent a boat or book an excursion and make visiting Crab Island a priority. Book early, because the news is spreading fast!

Confirmed Returning Vendors

Current approved vendors (as of 4/9/21) include Crab Island Boiled Peanuts, Crab Island Grill, Frickin’ Ridiculous BBQ, Sea Cow Ice Cream and Smoothies, Jimmy’s Ice Cream & T-Shirts, and the Crab Island Shuttle Boat and Adventure Tour . These businesses have been granted CUAs for 2021 and are approved to operate at Crab Island by the County. We have heard that Reef Burger and Wild Coconuts plan to also return later this 2021 season. Dates on those still TBD (Reef Burger is hoping to open May 1, but stay tuned). This post will be updated as new vendors get approval and begin operating at Crab Island in 2021. (Please note that we cannot guarantee that all vendors will be out every day after they receive approval. Vendors are independently operated businesses and are not owned or managed by Destin Vacation Boat Rentals).

How to stay up to date on information about Crab Island 2021

This post will be updated as new information is released by either the National Parks Service or the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners. Bookmark this page to check back for Crab Island 2021 updates. If you’ve learned something new, please share this post and spread the word!