This Crab Island Visitor’s Guide will give you an overview of one of Destin’s most picturesque destinations. Crab Island is one of the top-rated attractions in Destin. This underwater sandbar has been featured on multiple TV shows and magazines. Boasting a spot in the Top Ten places to live and boat, Destin, Florida owes much of its allure to the charm of Crab Island.
Ideal for those seeking a beach vacation without the hassle of sand, Crab Island attracts hundreds, if not thousands, of boats during the summer season. If you’re still uncertain about making the trip, allow us to paint a vivid picture with some incredible snapshots captured at Crab Island.
Located in the middle of Choctawhatchee Bay, Crab Island is accessible only by boat, jet ski, or kayak. The closest boat launch is at Destin Marina. For those unfamiliar with navigating the waters or wishing to skip the responsibility of piloting a boat, a captained Crab Island Adventure is a fantastic alternative.
While paddleboards and kayaks provide alternative means of reaching Crab Island, a boat remains the safest and fastest option. Caution is advised for those considering paddleboarding or kayaking, especially if alcohol consumption is part of the plan, as it poses a risk of serious injury or worse.
Contrary to its name, Crab Island is not a traditional island but an underwater sandbar. The depth can vary with the tide from about a foot during low tide to 3 or 4 feet deep during high tide. Once boasting lush vegetation similar to Destin’s beach dunes, Crab Island transformed into a sandbar due to natural forces.
Historically, a hurricane-induced flood in Destin Harbor prompted fishermen to dig a trench, inadvertently creating what is now known as the East Pass. Over time, the saltwater influx led to the demise of Crab Island’s vegetation, and subsequent hurricanes completed the transformation, leaving behind the expansive sandbar we see today.
Located northwest of the Emerald Grande and Harborwalk Village, Crab Island is visible when driving over the Marler Bridge from Fort Walton Beach. GPS coordinates pinpoint its location at N 30° 23′ 36.7224″, W 86° 29′ 44.8188″. During summer, the sandbar is unmistakable, but in the winter, it may be more challenging to spot.
The winter view reveals a large area of shallow water, distinguishable by a series of white buoys. These buoys facilitate the Coast Guard’s quick passage through Crab Island during the bustling summer days.
Crab Island’s popularity has steadily grown over the years, with its emerald green waters being a major draw. On any given summer day, the shallow waters are dotted with boats engaged in water games and leisurely activities. National media attention, including features in travel magazines and on Good Morning America, has also contributed to Crab Island’s rising fame.
Mobile vendors add a unique flavor to the experience, offering an array of foods from ice cream to boiled peanuts. The dynamic environment created by these vendors is unparalleled, making Crab Island a must-visit destination.
The shallow waters make Crab Island an ideal spot for water sports and games. From tossing a football around to learning paddleboarding, there’s something for everyone. Floating lounges and inflatable water toys provide a perfect way to relax and soak up the sun, with some charters now offering all-inclusive packages with added amenities.
Prepare for your Crab Island adventure as if heading to the beach. Bring essentials like a swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, and snacks. Footwear that can get wet, such as sandals or flip-flops, is recommended. Stay hydrated with extra water or sports drinks, especially if indulging in the offerings of mobile vendors. Don’t forget your wallet for those impromptu purchases, and if you’re launching from Destin Marina, they’ve got you covered with a shop offering essentials.
The array of vendors at Crab Island has expanded over the years, offering everything from ice cream and T-shirts to boiled peanuts and exotic treats like pineapple and barbecue. While the lineup may change daily, staples like Ice Cream Boats and Robbie’s Boiled Peanuts are likely to be present, most any given day. You will find the majority of vendors at Crab Island from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Crab Island caters to families, especially on weekdays. The vast expanse allows families to find their own space, steering clear of less family-friendly areas. With an abundance of water activities, Crab Island promises a memorable experience for families and friends alike. Crab Island charters with local captains provide additional guidance for navigating the area.
The optimal time for a family-friendly visit is during weekdays when crowds are more manageable. The color of the water varies with the tides, with high tide showcasing the iconic emerald green water you see in Instagram pics. Morning and sunset visits are ideal for spotting dolphins in the surrounding channels, adding an extra layer of enchantment to your Crab Island experience.
Be sure to check your favorite weather apps before trekking out to the sandbar. Even on the most beautiful sunny day, pop-up storms can appear out of nowhere. Do not go out to the sandbar if lightning is in the forecast.
Crab Island stands as an ever-popular destination, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, water activities, and a lively atmosphere. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, Crab Island beckons with its inviting waters and vibrant ambiance, making it a must-visit spot for your 2024 Destin getaway.
Crab Island is currently under consideration by the National Park Service, with the primary concern revolving around its role as a vital marine life nursery. Extensive use has taken a toll on crucial seagrass beds, prompting a deliberation on the island’s future. The upcoming completion of the Commercial Services Strategy is expected to introduce regulations that may restrict or entirely prohibit commercial activities on the sandbar.
The resurgence of seagrass is anticipated to enhance wildlife, providing an improved opportunity to observe cow nose rays, fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and crabs. Despite the anticipated changes that will alter Crab Island from its current state, it remains a destination of choice when visiting Destin, Florida.