Destin Crab Island Complete Visitor's Guide 2023

Destin Crab Island Complete Visitor's Guide 2023

If you have visited the Destin-Ft Walton area before then you may have overheard someone talking about Crab Island. Crab Island is a popular sandbar located in Destin, Florida. In recent years, Crab Island’s popularity has even garnered national attention from media outlets such as Good Morning America. The beautiful crystal clear emerald green water is just one reason celebrities like Luke Bryan have been spotted with their boats anchored at Crab Island. Travel magazines have written dozens of articles about Crab Island, and it is one of the reasons why Destin, Florida was ranked in the Top Ten places to live and boat. If you aren’t convinced that you should give Crab Island a visit, read on and take a look at some of the amazing pictures taken at Crab Island. 

Destin Crab Island Aerial View

What is Crab Island?

Today Crab Island is a sandbar that can get as shallow as about a foot deep at low tide. A name like ‘Crab Island’ might imply an actual Island and not a sandbar, but it was at one point in time an island. The island use to have vegetation similar to the sand dunes on the beaches in Destin, Florida. 

Similar to Crab Island, the East Pass in Destin didn’t always look the way it did. In fact, the East pass didn’t exist at all and was instead a beach. After a hurricane had flooded the Destin Harbor, businesses were at risk of flooding. A couple fishermen dug a small trench from the harbor to the Gulf of Mexico to let some of the water drain from the Destin Harbor. This small trench expanded to over 100 feet wide overnight.

Over time the salt in the water coming from the Gulf of Mexico killed the vegetation on Crab Island. With no root structures protecting Crab Island, the sand slowly started to erode away. Eventually a hurricane came through and wipe out all the remaining sand making Crab Island the giant sandbar that it is today.

Destin Crab Island Satellite View

Where is Crab Island?

Crab Island is located northwest of the Emerald Grande and Destin Harborwalk Village. If you are driving into Destin from Fort Walton Beach, you can see Crab Island when driving over the Marler Bridge. The GPS coordinate location is

N 30° 23' 36.7224", W 86° 29' 44.8188". Crab Island is also located about 1000 feet directly across from the Destin Marina.  On a summer day you cannot miss Crab Island when you’re driving over the Marler Bridge. 

During the off-season in the winter, you may have a harder time seeing Crab Island. All you will see in the winter is a large area of shallow water that appears lighter in color than the surrounding area. Although it is harder to see when driving by, if there are no boats on Crab Island you will see what looks like two parallel lines of white buoys. These buoys represent a designated no boat zone to all the Coast Guard a fast route through Crab Island on a busy summer day. 

Girl in with dog at Crab Island

Why is Crab Island Popular?

Over the years, Crab Island has experience consistent growth in popularity each year. When you see the emerald green water at high tide it’s no surprise why Crab Island is so popular. On any given day in the summer, you will find 100s of boats anchored in the shallow water playing water games and hanging out in the water. Whether you have a boat or not, who wouldn’t want to spend their day hanging out in crystal clear water listening to their favorite tunes. 

Crab Island hasn’t just grabbed the attention of locals and tourist, travel magazines and even Good Morning America have featured Crab Island. The increase in popularity of Crab Island can be attributed to attention from national media outlets, but it’s also due to the people who visit. After visiting Crab Island for the first time, people can’t help but share pictures on Instagram of the beautiful emerald green water. When people see pictures of Crab Island they want to visit themselves and thus the cycle repeats itself. 

Another factor that makes Crab Island so popular is the mobile vendors. When I was 15, I got my first job selling Ice Cream on an inflatable dinghy at Crab Island. Back then it was just a couple ice cream boats and a guy who sold boiled peanuts, but the number and variety has grown over the years along with Crab Island’s popularity. The mobile vendors at Crab Island create an incredibly unique environment on the water that cannot be found anywhere else. 

Captain driving boat to Crab Island

How Do I get to Crab Island?

The quickest way to Crab Island is by boat. If you bring your boat to Destin, then launching at Destin Marina will get you to Crab Island in minutes. The Destin Marina is the closest boat launch to Crab Island at roughly 1000 feet away. From the Destin Marina, you just drive across the channel and you’re at Crab Island. If you don’t have a boat, you can book a captained Crab Island Adventure cruise with the Destin location, and it will leave from the Destin Marina. This is the shortest boat ride you will find to Crab Island and will give you the most amount of time at Crab Island. 

There are other boat launches in Destin and the surrounding area, but a boat is not your only option to get to Crab Island. You can also get to Crab Island on a paddleboard or kayak; however, a boat is your safest and fastest option. If you are thinking about taking a paddleboard or kayak you should take necessary safety precautions. Additionally, if you plan on drinking at Crab Island, I don’t recommend taking a paddleboard or kayak as there is a risk of serious injury or death. 

During the summer there is a lot of boat traffic around Crab Island, so you should only travel by paddleboard or kayak if you are confident in your abilities and do not plan on drinking alcohol. The current near Crab Island can be very strong at certain times of day, so please consider your athletic abilities. I have seen two people on a kayak go nowhere even when they were padding hard.

If you are not bringing your boat to Destin, a captained Crab Island Adventure cruise is the best way to get the most out of Crab Island. Selecting the Destin location will give you the shortest boat ride and more time at Crab Island, while the Fort Walton Beach location will have a longer boat ride with more time cruising around looking for sea life.

Baby and Mom on inflatable mat at Crab Island

What is there to do at Crab Island?

Crab Island is a giant sandbar and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The shallow water makes Crab Island perfect for water sports games. You can throw a football around with your family and friends and even practice your diving catches. Even though the Crab Island waterpark was closed several years ago, there is still plenty to do. 

Kids enjoying snorkeling around the boat and watching swim by fish and looking for hermit crabs. Crab Island is also a great place to learn how to paddle board since the water is shallow enough to allow you to get back on easily. 

Crab Island is also the perfect spot to blow up a floating lounge such as the Mission Hex 82. If you are looking to relax and soak up the sun, a floating pad is one of the best ways to do it. We recently added a Mission float pad and a paddleboard on our boats for those looking for an all-inclusive cruise to Crab Island

What should I bring to Crab Island?

You should pack for Crab Island like you’re headed to the beach. This includes wearing your bathing suit, bringing a towel, sunscreen, and any snacks or drinks that you may need. You should also bring sandals, flip flops, or shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. The sun and water work together to dehydrate you quicker than you think, so making sure to pack extra waters or sports drinks like Powerade (Go Noles) is recommended. I also recommended that you bring your wallet if you are interested in experiencing the mobile vendors that sell various items at Crab Island. In addition, there are several restaurants on the water close to Crab Island that you can order from the water and take on your boat. 

If you are launching your boat at the Destin Marina or taking a Crab Island Adventure cruise, they have a small shop you can purchase items you may have forgotten. The Destin Marina has sunscreen, drinks, dri-fit shirts, sunglasses, and snacks available for purchase. If you are in the Destin harbor, there is also a Harborwalk Marina that sells similar items. 

Ice Cream boat at Crab Island

What vendors are at Crab Island?

I mentioned earlier that I used to sell ice cream on an inflatable dinghy at Crab Island. Almost 10 years later, and the ice cream boats are still a popular vendor at Crab Island. Ice cream on the water during a hot summer day just make sense. The number of vendors has increased since I started selling ice cream, but here is a list of the current vendors:

  • Jimmy’s Ice Cream and T-Shirts
  • Gulfstream Ice Cream
  • Robby’s Boiled Peanuts (Red Boats)
  • Wild Coconuts (Also sells pineapple)
  • BBQ boat

The business may change day to day, but you can almost guarantee that Jimmy and Robbie will have their ice cream and peanut boats out at Crab Island rain or shine. Take it from me, I’ve been out there selling ice cream with white caps and rain battering my rubber boat. 

Family at Crab Island

Is Crab Island Family-Friendly?

You may have seen pictures from the internet that make Crab Island look like a giant party. You might think that Crab Island is not family friendly, but this is far from the truth. You may find obnoxious groups drinking and playing loud music here and there, but it is not the majority and usually only occurs on weekends. The best time for families to visit Crab Island is on the weekdays. One of the amazing things about Crab Island is that it is very large and has something for everyone. Similar to how High Schools have clichés, Crab Island has certain areas that you want to avoid if you are looking for a family friendly experience. 

Crab Island is big enough that you can always move your boat to another area if a group next to you is doing something you don’t like. With all the water activities and things to do at Crab Island listed above, you can take your family to Crab Island and make the memories of a lifetime. You can rent a boat with a knowledgeable local captain who can help you navigate Crab Island to find the adventure your family and friends are looking for.  

Wife on Husband's shoulders standing in water at Crab Island

What is the best time to visit Crab Island?

The best time to visit Crab Island varies based on your priorities. As mentioned above, the best time for a family friendly visit to Crab Island is during the weekdays. The color of the water at Crab Island also changes with the tides. At high tide, the water is the crystal clear emerald color that you see in pictures on Instagram and Google. When the tide is falling and the water is going out into the gulf, the water at Crab Island starts to turn to more of a tannish brown color. The water at Crab Island is still clear, but it is not the emerald green color all the time. If you are trying to see dolphins swimming around, the morning and sunset are the best times to visit Crab Island. At these times you may spot dolphins swimming in the channels surrounding Crab Island.

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