Crab Island in Destin, Florida: The Complete Visitor’s Guide

Crab Island is one of the most talked about attractions in Destin, Florida. If you’ve ever visited the Emerald Coast, chances are you’ve heard some mention of the popular sandbar. Indeed, Crab Island is one of our area’s top summertime destinations. It has been photographed and aired on national networks and shows such as HGTV and Good Morning America, published in various travel magazines, and featured in publications across the globe. I would venture to say that Crab Island is the main reason Boating Magazine named Destin one of the ‘Top 10 Places to Live and Boat’ in the United States. Just take a look at this video:


What is Crab Island?

The name ‘Crab Island’ is a bit of a misnomer because it makes you assume it’s an island. Actually, at one time it WAS a (crab-shaped) island, as this picture from the 1960’s archives shows:

but drifting sands from the Gulf of Mexico, along with the occasional hurricane, have eroded it over the years and now we are left with what it is today: an underwater sandbar and popular place to anchor your boat (rented or personal) for some fun in the sun. Although there is no actual land at Crab Island, the water is very shallow, ranging from 1-4 feet in depth in most places, and at high tide is blue-green and crystal clear. On an average day in the summer, Crab Island looks like this:

Crab Island

Where is Crab Island?

Crab Island is located on the north side of the Destin Bridge (also known as the Marler Bridge) at the southern entrance of the Choctawhatchee Bay, inside Destin’s East Pass. Its location is particularly unique because it is open to the tidal inflow and outflow of the crystal clear water from the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, yet it is protected from the surf and waves that you would typically experience along the beach. It is only accessible by boat (or kayak or standup paddleboard if you are strong and in the mood for a good workout) due to the distance from shore and the strong tidal currents and boat traffic that surround it.

Crab Island view

Why is Crab Island so popular?

Sandbar hangouts aren’t unusual across the world. Seems any time you mix boaters and shallow water, you have a recipe for a good time. Crab Island is a little more than your average sandbar hangout spot, though…although that is how it began. The shallow water is the perfect depth for wading and floating next to your boat while enjoying the tropical atmosphere. And the influx of visitors looking to enjoy the area’s unparalleled beauty combined with the businesses who set up to provide something unique to do create a tourist attraction like no other. Crab Island Floating Restaurant

How do I get to Crab Island?

As mentioned above, Crab Island is only accessible by boat (or other watercraft). Pontoon boat rentals are the most popular way to get to Crab Island. You can rent a boat from one of the boat rental companies in Destin or on Okaloosa Island. It is just a short 5 minute boat ride from the Destin Harbor to Crab Island, and 10-15 minutes from Okaloosa Island. If you are new to boating, don’t worry! Pontoon boats (also known as party barges) are the most popular type of rental boat for a reason! They are easy to drive, offer comfortable seating for up to 12 passengers, and your rental company can generally get you comfortable with the boat in 10-15 minutes, provided you have experience driving a car. If you’d rather not drive at all, you can even hire a captain to drive your boat for you and anchor it at Crab Island. Not a fan of pontoon boats? You can rent other types of boats as well, like center consoles or power boats. You can also tour the sandbar by jet ski, but keep in mind that rental jet skis do not have anchors, so you won’t be able to stop at Crab Island and get off the jet ski and walk around. If you are planning to spend any significant amount of time wading around in the shallow waters and experiencing everything that there is to do at this popular destination, a boat rental may be your best option, and Destin Vacation Boat Rentals, proudly offers the largest selection of rental boats in the Destin area . how to get to crab island in destin fl

Is there a shuttle to Crab Island?

You can now take a shuttle from the Destin Harbor to Crab Island! The Crab Island Shuttle Boat is a 32′ glass bottom tour boat that offers affordable 2.5 or 3 hour Crab Island excursions, complete with a captain and crew member, who stay with you for the duration of the tour, so you don’t have to worry about, or be responsible for, driving a boat. Pack a cooler, some cash for the vendors at Crab Island, and a floatie and see for yourself what Crab Island is all about. You’ll want to book early, as space is limited. Click here for shuttle informationways to get to crab island without a boat

What is there to do at Crab Island?

There is so much to do at Crab Island! Crab Island encompasses a huge area and is large enough for people of all ages to enjoy. There is always plenty to do and see when you get there! Activities abound for all ages at the sandbar, and include:

  • relaxing on your boat while soaking up some sun
  • paddling around the sandbar via kayak or paddleboard
  • joining in a game of water volleyball
  • enjoying tasty food from mobile food boats and floating restaurants
  • playing on the giant inflatable obstacle courses
  • listening to music played by bands on a floating stage
  • enjoying a cold beverage while floating on an inflatable
  • snorkeling around your boat
  • watching for dolphins and other marine life
  • tossing a football or frisbee and diving into the water to catch it
  • people watching!

crab island sandbar vendors in destin florida

Is Crab Island Family-Friendly?

We get this question a lot. Do a Google search for Crab Island and you might find pictures of a drunken and scantily-clad party crowd. And parts of Crab Island can be like that…sometimes. The good news is the real-life daily image is much different, and those party pictures are more of the exception than the rule. If you’re with your family and you want to avoid the party scene, you can. Just anchor away from the party crowd (if you’re not sure where the party crowd is, just stay clear of the floating stage that sets up on the weekends) and take part in more family friendly activities (like snorkeling, tossing a football or frisbee, floating on a raft, or playing on the inflatable obstacle course). My kids are 7, 9, and 12 and we have always been able to successfully visit the popular sandbar without them seeing anything that we wouldn’t want them to see. In fact, it’s one of our favorite family activities. If you want to be extra careful to avoid the party scene, plan your visit on a weekday (Mondays and Fridays tend to be the least crowded) and avoid major holidays. crab island destin florida inflatables boat rentals

When is the best time to go to Crab Island?

Crab Island is a seasonal destination. Although it is a sandbar and is accessible year round, the floating vendors are typically only open from March/April through October. That being said, the best time to go to Crab Island depends on what you want to do when you get there. If you want to party, drop anchor on a weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day in the summer. If you want a relaxing getaway, plan to go on a weekday during the summer or any time during the rest of the year, with the most relaxed and quiet days being Mondays and Fridays. As far as time of day, what I CAN tell you, is that my absolute favorite time of day to go is during high tide. The water at high tide is unbelievably clear and aqua green. I’ve lived here my entire life and even I can’t believe how beautiful it is sometimes. So, find a tide chart or weather app (we use Magic Seaweed), or ask your boat rental company/guide/etc and plan to be there at high tide! crab island sand bar destin beach

What should I pack for my visit to Crab Island?

You can bring a cooler with food and drinks (Alcohol cannot be sold at Crab Island, but you can bring your own if you like-just make sure you have a designated driver), cash for the Crab Island vendors (if you choose), and your rafts and floaties; otherwise, just pack like you would for a day at the beach (minus the chairs and umbrellas). For a more extensive list, check out our packing guide here.

If you’d like to spend a day on the water in Destin to visit Crab Island, contact us at (850) 650-2628 to reserve your boat rental or Crab Island excursion. We offer a full selection of fishing, pontoon, and power boat rentals to get you out to Destin’s most popular hangout for some fun in the sun!

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  1. Thanks for the post! My family and I are planning a trip to Florida in a couple of weeks and I think we are going to try to spend a day at Crab island!

  2. amber haney says:

    I Have a question for those of you that have been to Crab Island in Destin Florida? Do you have to get on a boat to get there to the Crab Island? please let me know asap because im going this month. THANKS 🙂

  3. I plan on visiting destin Florida the 2nd or third week in july and I would love to visit Crab Island…but if i dont live there and dont have a boat how can I get out there ? can i rent a boat and have someone take me out there or something?

  4. Where do you launch your boat for Crab Island if you bring your own? Susan

  5. Hello! My ten year old went on vacation with some friends of ours this summer.They went several times to Crab Island he LOVED it!!!
    but what he liked the most was the famous virgin pina colodas. He dranked so many that the crew named him Pina Colada boy. Lol
    I would like to see if someone can email me the reciepe so I can make him some for his biryhday. He also tried some with strawberries.

    • I have been mak8ng them for years!!! I buy mine at the grocery store frozen section instead of alcohol just add a bit more of ice and pineapple juice

  6. Is this a place to go to in March?

    • Absolutely! Crab Island is beautiful year round. Do keep in mind that many of the vendors at Crab Island only set up between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so Crab Island won’t be at its peak of the season, but many people go in March and it is still a beautiful place to hang out and relax on the water. Thanks for the question!

  7. Layne Johnson says:

    is there restroom facilities there v

    • There are not currently any restroom facilities ON Crab Island. There are several nearby marinas and restaurants where you can dock and use their facilities if needed. Hope that helps!

  8. Is it pet friendly ?

    • Some people do bring their pets on their boats. Keep in mind that Crab Island is an underwater sandbar, so there is no land for your pet to run around on. He/she will have to swim or stay on the boat. You can purchase a life jacket for your pet at PetSmart in Destin, should you need one. Hope that helps!

  9. Edward Mei says:

    Thanks for the post! i am planning a trip in Florida in a couple of days and i’ll try to spend a day at Crab island!

  10. Hi! We are planning a trip to Destin in July 2016,I know its quite a bit of time away, but we are curious about a few things. We know we want to visit crab island, by boat rental. do you actually find things during snorkeling on your own, or would it be better to do a 3 hours snorkeling session and are you able to keep what you find (as long as it is not alive?)
    Which time of day is better for snorkeling?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Hi Kim! Thanks for stopping by. You can snorkel at Crab Island but the plain sandy bottom and other boats anchored nearby might make it hard to find marine life. The National Seashore is close to Crab Island and you can find more in that area in the grass beds, etc. My kids love to find hermit crabs and shells, as well as the occasional seahorse. You can keep the shells you find! The best time of day to snorkel is at high tide. Typically in the morning in July. Hope that helps!

  11. Hello, we are vacationing in Destin towards the end of May and had thought about renting a boat. Would Crab Island be a good place for a 9,6, and two 5 year olds? Also would you suggest half a day or a whole day with this age group?

    • Hi Heather! Yes, there are plenty of things to do for kids at Crab Island. It’s really a personal preference as far as half or full day goes. You can certainly get everything done in 4 hours, but sometimes it is nice to be able to relax and enjoy a more leisurely time. My kids always napped on the boat if they got tired. There is plenty of shade on a pontoon boat. Hope that helps!

  12. Lorie Mick says:

    I am hosting a girls trip down to Destin next year. Crab Island looks like a must for this crew of girls! We are booked the first weekend in June. Can you tell me if there will be floating food vendors, etc.?

  13. Wayne Fudge says:

    We are coming down from July 30-Aug6 and have 20 in our party. We are wanting to spend a day at Crab Island and are wanting to rent a pontoon boat. Do you have any suggestions on whats best with 20 people. 7 adults and the rest range from age 13-19

  14. What are the individual VHF channels for the various vendors please?

  15. Will vendors still be out there during October 14-16? What is crab island like during october?

    • The vendors usually stay open as long as there is a enough business for them to be able to do so. With fall break, there should still be at least a couple of vendors open, especially on weekends.

  16. shawn rhoades says:

    We are coming to destin first week in October. Can we still come to crab island? Just water park is closed? Or is all of ths island closed?

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful information regarding one of the best hot spots to visit in Florida. Even if you do not currently own a boat, renting one to visit this place is relatively easy. With everything being handled for you, from cleanup to maintenance, and even storage, a daily boat rental may be just what you and your friends and family need when visiting Crab Island.

  18. Hi! I’m looking to visit crab island the last weekend in April with a group of girls for a bachelorette party. Will there be any vendors out? Is it better to go on a Saturday versus a Friday? Will the water be warm enough for us?

    • Hi Jen! There should be a few vendors set up by then, especially on the weekends. Most of our bachelorette trips choose to go on Saturdays. We’ve had a very warm winter so far, so that should help water temps rise quickly during the spring. Hope that helps!

  19. What if no one in your group has ever driven a boat?


    • Our closest location is only 500 yards from Crab Island. The waterways are protected, so the water is usually very calm and seasickness is rarely an issue with any of our guests, unless you are extremely prone to it or highly sensitive. Hope that helps!

  21. Sherron Barnett says:

    I have a group looking to go to crab island April 29-May 5th. Will there be any bands playing at any time?

  22. Matt strickland says:

    Will the water park be set up by march 11th? Spring break starts then in Alabama and we are coming down for the week. Was going to rent a pontoon and go out there. Thanks

    • The water park is usually set up from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There will be plenty of boats out there the week of March 11-17th though-that looks like it is going to be the busiest week of Spring Break!

  23. Angie R says:

    We are planning our vacation for the week of may 22nd. We are planning on renting a boat but kids want to look for shells. Is that something you can do at crab island?

    • Heather says:

      Crab Island is a sand bar with a sandy bottom. Not many shells there. You can check out the National Seashore as you may have better luck over there!

  24. Sheramie LeBrun says:

    We are planning on going this summer and renting a pontoon to go to Crab Island. Is Sunday July 30,2017 a good day and how far is your arena from Crab Island? Thank you for your help!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sheramie, We have several locations all within a 5 minute drive (by boat) to Crab Island. Make sure to book in advance if you are coming in July, as that is peak season for us!

  25. MARIA ESPINOZA says:

    i am planning on going 23rd of june to destin and i am certainly interested in taking my kids to crab island is it kid friendly? also do i have to rent a boat or is it am option? im sorry first time hearing about crab island…

    • Heather says:

      Hi Maria, Crab Island is definitely kid-friendly! You will need a boat to get there. Stay near the inflatable obstacle course and your kids will have a blast!

      • How high is the water? My son is 5 years and he is excited but I’m afraid the water might be too deep for him ?

        • Heather says:

          In many places the water is 2-3 feet deep. For a 5 year old, I would bring along some floaties.

      • my son is 5 how deep is the water? we have already reserved the boat rental for that day i just want to make sure where the obstacles are my son is okay and water is not too deep.

  26. MARIBEL says:

    Hi!! We are going to Destin this weekend. I really want to visit crab island. As I was reading comments and questions, you need a boat/kayak to get there right? How high is the water? I also wanted to bring an inflatable tube so I can lay out and just relax… What else do you recommend we do while in Destin?? Thanks! 🙂

  27. VANESSA says:


  28. Addie Faciane says:

    Does anyone know of a RV campground near crab island?

    • Heather says:

      Hi Addie, Destin Bayview Campground is not far from Crab Island, or you can try Destin West RV campground on Okaloosa Island. Those are the 2 closest that I know of. Hope that helps!

  29. Hi Heather,

    My family and I are coming to Destin in Mid-August and looking to rent a pontoon boat to take out to Crab Island. Do you need a FL (or any state) boating license to rent/operate the boat? I had one, but it is probably many years expired by now. Also, is fishing permitted on/near Crab island? Nothing serious, just a simple Shimano and light test to cast off the boat. Thanks for your help, see you in August!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Dory, you only need a boater’s license if you were born after Jan 1, 1988 and will be driving the boat. You can get one for free at or you can take an open-book, multiple choice test on site for $5 (plan to arrive 30-45 minutes early to test). You can fish but I would recommend casting away from all the people at Crab Island…

  30. Belinda says:

    Hello, we are planning a family trip to Destin next week and want to visit Crab Island. Do you still have 1/2 day rentals available for Friday, July 7? We would need at least a 12 seater. We are also interested in doing a little fishing, if we navigate away from Crab Island to fish do we need to bring our own equipment and tackle or do you provide that as part of the rental? Thank you!

  31. Danielle says:

    We will be visiting Destin Sept 15-18 2017. What activities are available on crab island during that time? It will be 4 adults no children.

  32. Beth Simon says:

    I have a group of girls going on a trip Sept 8-10. Will the vendors still be out at this time?

  33. Is it okay to bring jet skis into crab island? Is there somewhere to beach them?

    • Heather says:

      Yes, you can bring jet skis. No, there is no land at Crab Island where you can beach them. Crab Island is an underwater sandbar. Hope that helps!

  34. Laura Rhea says:

    Hello! We will be in town Sept 25-29th and would like to book a boat to visit Crab Island. Will any of the vendors be there? Specifically will the games, big floats and slides be set up? We will have kids with us.

  35. Patricia Williams says:

    I have enjoyed the beautiful Crab Island myself, but I truly wish all these informational posts and blogs would point out the fact that there are no bathroom facilities available once on the water.

    At the very least, recommend where families may visit the closest restroom by boat.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Hi Patricia, all of our rental locations have restrooms on site and we provide a map and show you restroom access areas where you can use the facilities should you need to while you are out on the water when you arrive for your rental. Hope that helps!

  36. We will be there Monday, Oct. 9th – Friday, Oct.13th. Is Crab Island open then?

  37. JAIMIE ALLEN says:


    • Life vests are included with all of our rentals, from infant sizes all the way up! Children 6 and under are required to wear them while the boat is in motion. A half day is 4 hours and is typically morning (9-1) or afternoon (2-6) and a full day is 8 hours (9-5 or 10-6). Hope that helps!

  38. Brenda Chavez says:

    Is this place deep? I don’t know how to swim so I was just wondering?

    • Crab Island is knee to waist deep in most places, but is surrounded by deep water. Life jackets come with the boats so I would recommend wearing one while in the water if you can’t swim. Hope that helps!

  39. Is the boat certificate online for just driving a boat or is it good for jet ski as well?

  40. Does anybody know if you can rent paddle boards for the day?

  41. Paola Flores says:

    Hi, I want to spend some time in crab island water park, I know I need to rent a boat,do I have to have a special licence to drive it or could someone that works there,take me to the Island and back to where I rented the boat. And how much are rhe rentals?

  42. Hi there,
    I’m planning a Bachelor/Bachelorette party in Destin the weekend after labor day. Are there still crowds and vendors open at this time?

    Appreciate any guidance… thanks!

  43. Sarah Adam says:

    Do you have to rent a boat to get to Crab Island or is there a way to get there and use floats and rafts?

  44. T lyons says:

    I have a question is it kids friendly for ages 2 to 4 and at the water park is it some where for them to play and if they can’t swim.

  45. T lyons says:

    I have a question is it kids friendly for ages 2 to 4 and at the water park is it some where for them to play and enjoy if they can’t swim.

  46. Is it warm enough in December to visit Crab Island and swim?

  47. Hi ! I plan to visit Crab Island with my wife and my daughter. My daughter will be 8months on April when we want to visit. Is it alright to get there with a baby ?

  48. Patsy Blankenship says:

    We will be arriving Sept.17 2018 will the water park be closed then?

  49. Porfiria Bautista says:

    Hi, I am planning a family trip for Tues April 23rd an Wed April 24th. Will it be warm enough to get in the water and will the waterpark be open?
    Also, I am trying to book a water taxi for those dates and it’s only giving me a time of 10am. Is that the only time available?

    • The Water Park employees say they are planning to open mid-April. We won’t know for sure, however, until they actually set up. There is a 1:30 departure on the shuttle boat also.

  50. Irving taxi cab says:

    I’m glad to see it featured here,Nice blog, I really apprecialte the way you are sharing your exwperiences,Thank you for sharing about this information. That’s nice and interesting,

  51. Jessica Lee says:

    Will Ceab Island be open the first week of October??

    • Crab Island is ALWAYS open! The vendors are typically open through October unless we have a hurricane threat before that. 🙂

  52. Francine De souza says:

    Hi I want to visit crab island during the first week of June and I’ll be taking my son with me he is only 8 years old. Is he too young to go to crab island? What are the hours for the water taxi?

  53. Shay Francis says:

    Is there a shuttle boat to get to crab island? We are looking to use our floatables instead of a boat..

  54. Hi! We are going Sept 21-25, will there still be vendors at Crab Island?

  55. Mrs. Jacome says:

    Hello, my daughter is turning 15 in February and we would love for the whole family to be there. Is it a good time, weather wise, to be there in February?

  56. Jana Marie Grant says:

    I will be taking family vacation in July 26-29 (Embassy Suites Destin) what would be the best way to get to Crab Island? Also, what are some other must see things in the area?


  1. […] be happy to help make your dreams come true! In the meantime, read Heather’s blog post The Complete Visitor’s Guide to Crab Island (they have pretty photos and great […]

  2. […] Florida, USA  Heather Thomas gives you The Complete Visitor’s Guide to Crab Island in Destin, Florida posted at Destin Vacation Boat […]

  3. […] top attraction in Destin. Other popular activities include fishing, sailing, water sports, visiting Crab Island, Big Kahuna’s waterpark, the Track, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park (on Okaloosa Island), […]

  4. […] every meal. What to do: Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  5. […] every meal. What to do: Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  6. […] 6. Watersports-Destin is a mecca of water sports activity and was named by Boating Magazine as one of the Top 10 Places to Live & Boat in the whole world. You can rent a jet ski for a thrilling ride across the water from Fudpucker’s Watersports, or rent a pontoon boat and drop anchor at Crab Island. […]

  7. […] every meal. What to do: Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  8. […] We have multiple locations on the Destin Harbor and Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Florida, but the best (and most popular) place to visit is a sandbar known as Crab Island. […]

  9. […] a great spot to visit. Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  10. […] water. It’s only up to here (knees) and is crystal clear with a white sand bottom. It’s called Crab Island and is really something to […]

  11. […] getaways. The last thing to mention is really the first thing you see when driving over the bridge, Crab Island. A glorious meeting point on top of a sandbar. There are boats, floats, and kayaks everywhere. They […]

  12. […] getaways. The last thing to mention is really the first thing you see when driving over the bridge, Crab Island. A glorious meeting point on top of a sandbar. There are boats, floats, and kayaks everywhere. They […]

  13. […] Crab Island – Rent a Pontoon boat, a see-through canoe or jet ski and go hit Crab Island. A favorite party spot of locals and […]

  14. […] every meal.What to do: Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  15. […] green water off Destin’s shoreline is full of blue crabs and more. The charter stops at Crab Island (which sounds promising), but it is actually a sandbar where boaters anchor up for ocean fun, […]

  16. […] every meal.What to do: Take a professional sand sculpting class from the masters, and wade around Crab Island, which is a part of the beach where the water is waist deep and floating vendors (think ice cream […]

  17. […] While it is nice to soak up the sun and lay on the beach all day, visitors to Destin might not realize the hidden gems lurking around the area, specifically Crab Island. […]

  18. […] to take your kayak out. People really enjoy kayaking all the way from Destin Harbor to Crab Island. Crab Island itself isn’t really much of an island as it’s just a patch of sand that is mostly […]

  19. […] Crab Island. I’d love to visit Crab Island on another trip, when I am not pregnant and can enjoy a few adult beverages again. Crab Island is a […]

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