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The 2023 Visitor’s Guide To Crab Island, Destin, Florida
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever made a trip to Florida, Destin harbor to be exact, there is a great chance you’ve heard of the famous Crab Island. Considered one of the top summertime destinations in the Destin area, Crab Island has seen its popularity grow at a rapid pace, even having been featured on HGTV, Good Morning America, and various travel magazines.

Many visitors who visit Crab Island marvel at its incredible beauty and unique atmosphere. If you haven’t been to the submerged sandbar, imagine this—shallow waters in the Emerald Coast, numerous obstacle courses, and floating bars serving freshly made drinks.

If that sounds like the perfect weekend getaway, then maybe it’s time to visit Crab Island. To help you prepare for the trip, here’s a visitor’s guide to Crab Island in Destin, Florida.

What is Crab Island?

The name “Crab Island” is actually a misnomer. First, it makes people assume that Crab Island is an actual island. Second, the name makes it seem like the island is teeming with crabs.

To clarify the first point, Crab Island is not an island… at least not anymore. Crab Island was initially formed by the Army Corps of Engineers who dredged out sand from the Destine East Pass to allow for a wide passageway into the Gulf of Mexico. The sand removed from the pass was then dumped into the sea, which then formed two mounded islands during the mid-20th century.

Later on, seagrass, wildlife, and other vegetation began to take root and stabilize sandy mounds. Both mounds remained islands until 1974 when Hurricane Eloise took with it a huge portion of the sand that stayed above the water’s surface. What remains today is what we know as Crab Island, which is now a submerged sandbar that varies from one to four feet deep, depending on the tides.

On the second point, Crab Island is indeed home to thousands of tiny crabs on the seafloor. However, it is also home to a vast array of marine life, including dolphins, seahorses, and fish. There are also plenty of seabirds in the area.

How Do I Get To Crab Island?

Crab Island is only accessible by boat or other watercraft as it is quite far from the shore and there are strong tidal currents surrounding it. You can your own boat or rent one from the various boat rentals that launch from the Destin Harbor boardwalk called HarborWalk.

If you’re traveling in groups, you can go on a Crab Island Excursion. Larger excursion boats are available for Crab Island cruises. There are also private charters, tiki bar boats, catamarans, and pontoon boat rentals.

If you’re on a budget, you can also hop on a Crab Island shuttle boat that usually offers 2.5- to 3-hour excursions. Unlike pontoons, shuttle boats have an onboard restroom, a captain, and crew members.

Crab Island is about 5 to 7 minutes away from Destin Harbor, 10 to 15 minutes from Okaloosa Island, and 20 to 30 minutes from Fort Walton Beach. Crab Island is also close to the Destin East Pass at the entrance to the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Is Crab Island Family Friendly?

Crab Island is a family-friendly destination. In fact, they encourage visitors to bring their entire families to the area. Crab Island is also a shallow water park, making it a great place for families, especially those with young kids, to go to for a day of swimming.

In addition to its shallow waters, Crab Island is also home to a variety of marine animals. The most common sightings are of the bottlenose dolphins, which can be spotted when you’re entering the bay. Jellyfishes are also present at times, though that would depend on the tide conditions and water quality.

Larger species like sharks are not generally seen around the area. That being said, it is important to note that there have been a few sightings reported over the past years.

What Can I Do At Crab Island?

Crab Island is not one of Destin’s most popular tourist spots for nothing. There are plenty of things to do and see in the area. Some of the most common activities include:

  • relaxing on a boat
  • renting paddle boards or kayaks
  • playing water volleyball
  • sampling local dishes from floating food vendors and floating restaurants
  • Snorkeling
  • Watching dolphins and other marine life

What to Bring to Crab Island?

If you’re thinking about drinking alcoholic beverages at Crab Island, we recommend bringing your own cooler and drinks as the sale of liquor is prohibited. We also recommend bringing food and snacks as the options can be limited at Crab Island due to recent changes.

In addition to food and drinks, guests are advised to bring a lot of sunscreens, making sure to re-apply every hour to prevent sunburns.