Crab Island Destin Florida

Crab Island Florida: Ultimate Guide to Destin’s Sandbar Paradise

Craving crystal-clear water, vibrant energy, and endless fun? Escape to Crab Island, Florida, where turquoise waves lap against a vibrant sandbar teeming with excitement. Known as Destin’s “hottest spot,” this island oasis promises adventure for everyone and you’ll need to experience it at least once!

If you haven’t heard about this beautiful island of Florida, then read this post. I will guide you to plan your perfect day trip to Crab Island Florida. After all, It is the most visited place in Destin.

Whether you’re a family seeking quality time, a group of friends yearning for excitement, or a solo traveler craving a slice of paradise, Crab Island has something for everyone. So, let’s deep dive into the heart of Florida’s coastal charm at Crab Island Florida, the perfect beach escape awaiting you!

Keep reading to discover all you need to know about Crab Island including how to plan the perfect day at Crab Island Florida, the best time to visit, the best way to get there, and most importantly, how to get the clearest possible water during your visit and questions from travelers.

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What Is Crab Island?

When I heard about Destin, I researched more about the beaches of Destin, and I found this slice of Island Paradise. For someone who has visited the Beaches of Maldives, this was so freaking intimidating! Crab Island is one of the most famous attractions in Destin. If you are road-tripping around Florida 30A(emerald coast), you need to visit this vibrant beach destination.

Being the most popular summer destination in Florida, Crab Island has been featured on HGTV, Good Morning America, and across the globe! I can say, Crab Island’s fame has been growing at a rapid pace.

Its name is slightly misleading because Crab Island isn’t an actual Island. Most people are surprised to learn this fact! Crab Island is a submerged underwater sandbar.

At one point, it was an island, created by the Army Corps of Engineers. But the sands from the Gulf of Mexico have eroded it over the years to turn it into what it is today, which is all underwater!

Many boats come to anchor here. Today, Crab Island is best known as a spot where boaters gather to swim and play in the crystal clear water. There is no actual land anymore but the water is incredibly shallow.

In most places on Crab Island, Florida the depth of the water is about 1-4 ft deep which is perfect for a day of fun in the sand. Most areas are waist-deep and it’s perfect depth for walking around and shallow swimming! Both locals and tourists love to visit this cool place with emerald green waters, and white sandbar.

Long stretch of white sandy beach in Destin, Florida

Where is Crab Island Located?

Crab Island is located in Destin on Florida’s panhandle (Emerald Coast of Florida). Specifically, you’ll find the beautiful sandbar on the north side of the Destin Marler Bridge, at the southern entrance of the Choctawhatchee Bay, inside Destin’s East Pass. The Marler Bridge is a half-mile long from Okaloosa Island into Destin.

There’s a perfect view of Crab Island from the bridge when driving west on Highway 98 from Destin to Okaloosa Island.

Crab Island, Florida’s location is unique because it is open to the tidal inflow and outflow of the crystal clear, emerald green water from the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. But still, its location protects it from the heavy surf and waves that you would normally see along the Destin beach.

Destin Bridge

When is the Best Time of Year to Visit Crab Island?

Crab Island is a seasonal destination. Although it is a sandbar and is technically open year-round, the best time to visit Crab Island will depend on when you plan to visit Florida.

If you think Florida doesn’t have a winter climate, you’re wrong! Florida Panhandle has humid subtropical weather, Destin can be as chilly as 46 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter. The water can be chilly and not comfortable for swimming!

That being said, early spring to early fall months(from March to October) with warmer temperatures, you will have a successful trip to Crab Island, Florida.

But the best time of year to go to Crab Island is during the summer months of May, June, July, and August. This is when the water temperature is most comfortable for swimming and the vendors are out offering food, drinks, merchandise, and rentals. I recommend going in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are not as harsh.

If you’re hoping to get the most incredible Photos of Crab Island, Florida then It is best to visit during high tide. This is because the waters will be crystal clear with a blue-green color that you see in pictures. You need to check the high tide charts to get the clearest water at Crab Island.

Top Tip: Summer months have more clear water days compared to the rest of the year because of the high tide times falling more often during the day.

You can also visit Crab Island during March, April, September, and October. Tour boats still operate during these months, but it’s just not quite the same place as it is in summer.

During March and April, you’ll find the water too chilly to enjoy swimming for very long! The water is still nice and warm in September and October, so you may think it is a good time to go. However, there are not as many clear water days because the high tide times start shifting towards the evening or middle of the night.

November, December, January, and February are not the best months to go to Crab Island. The water is chilly, there are no vendors out, and most days the water is murky or tea-colored since the high tide times mostly fall at night in winter.

So, the best time to visit Crab Island is in the Summer months when high tides occur during the day! If you want a relaxing getaway, plan to visit on a weekday during the summer as it gets pretty busy! 

Top Tip: Visit around high tide and arrive as early as possible (it gets busier as the day progresses).

How to get the Clearest Water at Crab Island?

One of the most important things to plan your perfect trip to Crab Island is getting the clearest water during your visit. Several factors influence the watercolor at Crab Island, Florida but mainly the tide times are very important.

The most important advice I followed was to visit Crab Island during the window of 2 hours before and after high tide to get clear water. This is most important but there’s a lot more to it.

In Simple statement, the water is clearest at Crab Island at high tide when the water from the Gulf of Mexico fills the sandbar with clear water. The water gets murkier during low tide when Crab Island fills from the other direction with water from Choctawhatchee Bay. During low tide, the water at Crab Island will almost always be more brownish!

To find out when high tide is on the day you plan to go to Crab Island, Florida use Tide Tracking Charts for Destin to check the Daily Tide Schedules.

In the summer, when most people go, it seems to be around 70% or more days when the water is a color you would see on Instagram.

Also, keep in mind that the water will have the most clarity and sparkle when the sun is directly overhead and reflecting off the white sand. That being said, best to go around the high tide mark, especially on days when the high tide falls during the sunniest part of the day. Water will be more crystal clear at 1 PM high tide on a sunny day than at a 10 AM high tide.

So, make sure that you plan your time in Destin wisely. Studying the tide charts, the surf report, and the weather forecast will help you decide what days to go to the beach, what days to go to Crab Island, Florida, and what days to plan other activities when you visit Florida 30A.

TIP: Check the tide schedule for all of the days of your visit in advance. This will help you pick the best day to visit Crab Island Florida. Some days high tide occurs earlier than others. Compare the tide chart with the weather report to pick the optimal day for the very best experience.

Also Read: Best Beaches to Visit in Destin, Florida

How to Get to Crab Island Destin, Florida

The only way to get to Crab Island, Florida is by boat. No, you can’t drive your car to Crab Island. And it’s too far from the beaches for you to swim there! Attempting to swim there is extremely dangerous!!

TIP: Don’t let the shallow areas fool you. Crab Island is surrounded by strong currents on the East and West end, a lot of boat traffic, and deep channels. You can easily get swept away by strong tidal currents if you attempt to swim to Crab Island. It might seem like it isn’t that far, but do not, attempt to swim to Crab Island.

But you have so many options! You can rent a boat or charter your own, sounds cool right? You can also access Crab Island by Jet Ski, Kayak, or Paddleboard. But Boats are the most common way to reach Crab Island. If planning to stay an entire day at Crab Island, Florida renting a pontoon is the best option.

The best place to find Boat Rentals is at the Destin Harbor and Destin Boardwalk next to it. This is a long stretch of waterfront area that runs from the Emerald Grande Resort to the Destin Bridge. There are a lot of boat rental places to choose from in this area with a variety of boat types, so you might even find one here without having to make a reservation in advance!

The most important factor when renting a boat is who you are renting with. Do your research, compare prices and offerings, and read customer reviews before you decide which company to choose.

Best Crab Island Boat Tours

Crab Island Water Taxis and Boat tours are another best way to get to Crab Island especially if you don’t have a large group! The more passengers a boat holds, the less it will usually cost!

These tours depart from Destin Harbor, cruise to Crab Island, Florida, and anchor up there for some time–usually around 3-4 hours and return to the harbor. During this time, you can swim and explore Crab Island and come on and off the boat as needed. Many of the larger boats also have restrooms on board. These excursions also offer floats, water toys, games, snorkel gear, and other accessories to enhance your fun day at Crab Island.

The Crab Island Company offers a Shuttle Boat that includes your trip to and fro from Crab Island Florida. Their wildly popular Adventure Tour includes two and a half hours in the waters of Crab Island, Florida, a guided tour of Destin Harbor, and a banana boat ride, kayaks, paddle boards, and snorkel gear. Tickets start at $40!

You can also check out the Sunventurecruises. They offer 4-hour Crab Island excursions to spend your day in the water. In the evening, you can opt for their 1.5-hour Destin Harbor Sunset with Dolphin watching cruise.

Crab Island Boat Cruise
Tiki Boat Cruise on Crab Island

But my favorite way to explore Crab Island was the Tiki Boat Cruise. There is only one company that offers it – Cruisin’ Destin Tikis. This 3-hour excursion is a very fun way to explore Crab Island. We did this excursion and well it was worth every penny!

After the boat tours, you can check out the shops at Harborwalk Village, a variety of great restaurants, enjoy events and live music, or just wander and watch the fishing boats come in with their fresh catch at the marina.

If you do an afternoon boat cruise on a Thursday in the summer, you can enjoy the fireworks at night(from Memorial Day to Labor Day).

Make sure you know the cancellation policy for weather or unforeseen emergencies, since you never know what Florida weather brings to you, especially regarding rain and storms!

Things to do on Crab Island Florida

There are plenty of things to do and see at Crab Island, Florida but the primary reason people go is to just relax and hang out in the water.

Crab Island, Florida is a water sports haven. The shallow waters minus the surf and waves, make it perfect for families and children. Here are the top things to do during your visit to Crab Island, Florida for a fun fun-filled trip.

  • Relax on your boat and soak up some sun
  • Walking and swimming around in the Shallow Water
  • Paddle Boarding or Kayaking around Crab Island for a fun workout
  • Relaxing in Floating Chairs and Inflatables with a tropical drink in hand.
  • Setting up and Playing Games of VolleyBall
  • Make some new friends and enjoy the people-watching opportunities
  • Snorkeling around your boat and see little crabs, Jellyfish, and other sea life.
  • Getting Ice Cream or a Drink from a floating vendor.
  • Tossing a Frisbee or Football
  • Eat from floating restaurants and mobile food boats around you!

What should I bring to Crab Island?

Packing for a day at Crab Island is similar to Packing for a day at the beach. You’re visiting Sunny Florida and the weather will be hot during the day! Here are some essentials to not forget:

  • Sunscreen
  • Cooler with drinks and Plenty of water
  • Food, snacks, and alcoholic beverages
  • Cash (if you plan on making any purchases)
  • Water toys and Floaties to have more fun!
  • Snorkeling gear is a must to see marine life
  • Bring your Phone and Camera to capture the memories!
  • Beach Towels to dry off throughout the day!

How Long To Spend At Crab Island In Destin

You can spend as much time as you like at Crab Island! There is no time limit to have fun in the clear blue waters of Crab Island, Florida. If you are a first-time visitor or repeat visitor, it’s always great to spend as much time as you can here.

If you’re renting or chartering a boat, most of those rentals come in four, six, or eight-hour blocks. Most families choose a four-hour block because it might be a lot for 6 or 8 hours!

If you choose to go with a ferry or Boat Tour, you are a bit more restricted in your options. Most companies offer 3-4 hours sailing excursions to and from the sandbar. If you want to make the most of your day in the sun, book a tour that allows you the maximum time in the water! Ideally, four hours is perfect to spend your day in Crab Island.

We had 4 hours Tiki Boat Cruise and didn’t feel it was too short! but I also wished that we had a longer time here! Besides parking and enjoying all of the fun right on Crab Island, there is plenty to do with the extra time. For future Crab Island trips, we will look for a boat rental for the 6-8 hour period.

Quick Tips For Visiting Crab Island in Destin

Crab Island has changed a lot over the last several years and there are only a handful of vendors out there selling things like burgers, pizza, ice cream, peanuts, and various non-alcoholic drinks. So, it is good to bring your food and snacks if traveling with family.

The highest risk at Crab Island is swift currents and drownings. Stay on the inside of Crab Island, rather than the outer edges to stay safer from swift currents and deeper water. Currents during outgoing tides can be extremely strong and this is the most common place where people would get swept away! So, be EXTRA Cautious.

If you’re chartering your own boat, go for the longer option: a six or eight-hour block rather than a four-hour rental period, as time is always shorter on Crab Island Florida!

There’s a lot of boat traffic on Destin Harbor and around Crab Island, especially during the summer! So if you want hassle hassle-free vacation, go with boat tours for peace of mind!

Bring a waterproof case for things like your phone, your camera, and your cash! You’ll want to bring cash with you for the floating vendors that sell trinkets and food!

SALE of alcohol is banned at Crab Island. You are permitted to bring alcoholic beverages with you, but be responsible! If you are on a tour to Crab Island, the operator will normally allow you to bring your cooler with alcoholic beverages as long as it’s not in glass containers.

The waters of Crab Island, Florida are pristine and beautiful. Since there is no land here, there are no trash cans, so make sure you have a garbage bag with you to clean up yourself!

If you want to avoid crowds, try to visit towards the end of the summer. This way, you can avoid the crowds of summer vacationers. This is truly one of the best beaches in Florida 30A, so it makes sense!

What Hotels and Resorts are closest to Crab Island?

If you want to spend some time at Crab Island while in Destin, you might be wondering where is the closest place to stay. Luckily there are a few great options nearby.

Some FAQS about Visiting Crab Island

Is Crab Island worth visiting?

Yes, crab Island is worth visiting. The water is crystal clear and shallow, perfect for island water fun! You can swim, snorkel or do water sports, it’s worth visiting.

What is the cheapest way to do Crab Island?

The cheapest way to get to Crab Island depends on your group size. If you have a large group, everyone can split the cost of a boat rental. If it’s a small group, it may be best to rent a kayak or paddleboard for the day. You can also book Crab Island Tours which costs less for 3-4 hours excursions.

Can you walk to Crab Island Destin?

No, You can’t walk to the Crab Island. The only safe way to get to Crab Island is by boat. You can either rent a boat, charter a boat, or do an excursion for the day.

How Deep is the Water in Crab Island?

The water at Crab Island is usually anywhere from 1 – 4 feet deep, depending on the tide and where on Crab Island you are located. Outskirts of the emerald waters are deeper as you get closer to the open water, but many areas are shallow enough that you can easily walk through the clear waters.

Is Crab Island Family-friendly?

Yes, Crab Island is very family-friendly and appropriate for kids of all ages. The water is rather shallow toward the center and can be a great place for kids to have a good time in waist-deep water. If you are more concerned about the atmosphere at Crab Island, go on a weekday instead of the weekend. Also, plan to go in the morning rather than the afternoon when there will be more people drinking and partying.

Are there bathrooms on Crab Island?

Unfortunately, there are no restrooms anywhere on Crab Island. If you need to go to the bathroom, most people will relieve themselves in the water or they ask a fellow boater for access to the restroom!

Hope I have covered most of your questions about visiting Crab Island, Florida. If you are planning to visit Crab Island this summer, have lots of fun, and hope this guide helps you to plan your Crab Island trip.

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