If you search for Crab Island on a map, you may be surprised to learn that it isn’t an island at all. Yet, this mysteriously idyllic place has a charm that draws locals and tourists alike. Here at Crab Island Watersports, there’s nothing we enjoy more than cruising out to the sandbar on a sunny afternoon and dropping anchor on this jewel of the Emerald Coast. We consider it one of the top Okaloosa Island activities! But don’t just take our word for it, this hotspot has been host to celebrities like singer Keith Urban and chef Emeril Lagasse. This is your ultimate guide on what to do in Crab Island and the story behind it.
Crab Island History
These days Crab Island is not an island, but it was once— a man-made one. The “island” was formed in the 1960s when, in an attempt to stabilize the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged the East Pass (Destin Pass) and constructed jetties. The sand that was removed from the Pass was then unloaded on the north side of what is now the Destin Bridge. At this time, the sand mass created a small island in the shape of a crab — hence the name!
However, with the passing of time, the island struggled to hold strong against the elements. The currents and occasional hurricane contributed to the island being partially consumed by the ocean. We were left with the submerged sandbar that we know and love today. The water now ranges between 2 to 10 feet deep making it a great spot to anchor up, avoid the currents, snorkel, and enjoy the sun.
The sandbar is only accessible by watercraft and we recommend a pontoon boat(opens in a new tab) for the best experience. They are perfect for maneuvering through shallow waters, easy to drive, and convenient to anchor. What’s more, they provide the ideal sun deck for those looking to catch some rays and a great base for your picnic lunch. We offer half-day and full-day rentals of both single(opens in a new tab) and double-decker boats.(opens in a new tab)
When to Visit Crab Island
We have to admit that the beauty of Crab Island is no longer the best-kept secret in Florida, so choosing the right time to visit is essential. Firstly, visiting in the summer months will guarantee you sunny days and high temperatures. But there are also considerably bigger crowds from June through August, which means you need to set off early to secure a good spot for your boat. If you are looking for warm weather but fewer crowds during your Crab Island visit, we suggest going on a weekday.
There is an important factor to consider when planning your trip to Crab Island. By now you have seen photos of the idyllic, emerald waters, but what the pictures don’t tell you is that most of them are taken at high tide. About an hour before and two hours after high tide, the water is at its most clear. This is because the pristine water is pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico. We recommend checking the tidal times(opens in a new tab) before your trip and planning the day around them.
What to Do on Crab Island
Crab Island is the ideal destination for a day at sea with family or friends. The shallow waters make it safe for kids to splash around and perfect for adults to wade and relax. There are endless activities that you can add to ensure a fun-filled day at Crab Island; load up your pontoon boat with paddleboards and kayaks so you can explore the full length of the sandbar. Be careful not to stray into the currents in the surrounding waterways.
If your group wants to splash around and burn off some energy, why not try water volleyball as the shallow water makes it the perfect pitch! Choctawhatchee Bay and the surrounding area is a fishing paradise. Hire some rods and bait from Half Hitch Tackle(opens in a new tab) and see what you can catch (trout and redfish are on the cards). Pontoon boats make the ideal fishing vessel due to their wide platforms and stability, so get angling!
If you’re looking to kick back and relax, be sure to take some inflatables. There’s nothing quite like a cold beverage while you sit back on a float in crystal-clear waters. Be sure to bring binoculars to spot some of the area’s impressive wildlife — more on that next!
Crab Island Wildlife
There’s plenty of wildlife to spot in the nutrient-rich waters of Choctawhatchee Bay. If you take snorkeling gear to Crab Island, you can expect to see fish like flounder and pufferfish. The bay is renowned for dolphins and our guests regularly spot them while out on a jet ski(opens in a new tab) or pontoon boat. When exploring, you may even be lucky enough to see a hermit crab scuttling along the seafloor or even an octopus (in the deeper areas). And if you are especially lucky, you may see the graceful giant that is the manatee on your route out from Crab Island Watersports to Crab Island.
Sea turtles are often spotted from Okaloosa Pier and every now and again they make an appearance around Crab Island. We are lucky enough to attract four different types of sea turtles to the Gulf of Mexico: green turtles, leatherbacks, loggerheads, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles (the world’s most endangered).
It goes without saying that everyone needs to respect these animals. Remember, we are guests in their home and not the other way around. If you are interested in learning more about what animals to spot on a pontoon boat or jet ski rental, get in touch(opens in a new tab)!
Where to Eat on Crab Island
We always like to make a real adventure out of a trip to Crab Island, and opting for a picnic is a great way to ensure you get to make the most of your time. Rustle up some salads, fried chicken, sandwiches, and sliced watermelon the day before and board your boat knowing you won’t have to come ashore until the end of the day.
If you’re not one for preparing ahead of time, there are a few mobile food boats and smaller floating restaurants on the sandbar. Check out Crab Island Sandbar(opens in a new tab) or Reef Burger at Crab Island(opens in a new tab). For a refreshing snack, get a freshly cut coconut or pineapple from Wild Coconuts(opens in a new tab). If you need cooling down, try an ice cream from Jimmy’s Ice Cream(opens in a new tab).
Crab Island is a beautiful spot and a great day out, however, there are a few things to bear in mind to ensure a safe experience. Our pontoon boats offer substantial shade but please be aware that elsewhere on the sandbar there it is hard to avoid the sun’s rays. Bring lots of sun protection and remember to keep topping up throughout the day. As well as sun protection, be sure to stock up on drinking water before you set sail, keeping hydrated is important when you’re burning off energy in the sun.
If we’ve succeeded in convincing you to embark on a Crab Island adventure, check out our pontoon boat rentals(opens in a new tab). Our convenient location on Okaloosa Island is a short boat ride from Crab Island and avoids the congestion of the busy Destin Harbor. Parking your car is not an issue either as we have ample private parking too! When it comes to picking a pontoon rental Okaloosa Island is the safest and most convenient starting point.