When an Island, really isn’t an Island
Long before Destin was a tourist destination, a small island, affectionately called Bird Island by some of the locals, sat on the north side of Destin Bridge. But in 1974, hurricane Eloise swallowed up this tiny spit of land, hiding it under the crystal clear waters of the Gulf. As the years accumulated, ocean tides, hurricanes and passing storms moved more sand and created an ever expanding sandbar. From the air, this sprawling underwater island looks like a crab surrounded by deeper, darker waters. Over time, the warm waters became a favorite spot for the locals to anchor their boats and swim in the aquamarine water. The shape of the sandbar and the myriad crabs that can be found scuttling along the sand have given the area its current name—Crab Island.
Today, Crab Island is a favorite destination of both locals and tourists. Located on the north side of the Destin Bridge at the entrance of the Choctawhatchee Bay, it is only accessible by wave runner, paddleboard, kayak or boat. Due to its distance from shore, strong currents and boat traffic, walking or swimming to this sunken island is not an option. Crab Island has developed into a great spot to anchor your boat and enjoy various live bands, partying with friends in the crystal clear water or simply soaking in the Florida sunshine. This underwater playground also makes a great spot for swimming, snorkeling and fishing.
Though there are crowds who enjoy partying at Crab Island, rest assured that it is a very family-friendly environment. Anchoring away from the more rowdy activities insures you and your children will have a fun-filled and memorable day on the water.
In 2014 a family-friendly Water Park was added to the sandbar for and can be enjoyed by the more adventuresome visitor. This floating obstacle course does require an armband which is purchased at the pontoon boat floating nearby, but you and your family will have hours of fun on their climbing walls, balance beams, slides, swing and their “flipper”, used for bouncing a friend high into the air and into the water.
And don’t forget about food! Crab Island has several floating eateries with a variety of offerings that can satisfy your craving for an afternoon snack or an evening meal. The anchored restaurants offer similar menus, but each has their own distinguishing flair that sets them apart from the rest.
Wrap it Up – This newest addition to the Crab Island scene offers “healthy alternatives” to the usual food faire. The restaurant is open all day, 7 days a week, weather permitting and offers a variety of burgers, wraps and hot dogs and for your sweet tooth—Dippin’ Dots.
Helen Back – This bright yellow barge is always located near the Coast Guard station and is known for its crowd involvement and food giveaways, including drinks and pizza. With a café menu of pizza and burgers, visitors also enjoy the launching of T-shirts, beads and koozies from the restaurant.
Chomp N’ Chill – This floating restaurant offers Cajun-style cuisine as well as a variety of foods including, boiled peanuts, candy, ice cream, nachos, chili cheese dogs, burgers, and the crowd-pleasing New Orleans style snowballs. The owner cooks his own syrups for the snowballs at his house and has added quite a few unique flavors to his menu.
Crab Island Trading Company – The only restaurant in the state of Florida on open water, you can go aboard and eat and with bathroom facilities, many visitors to Crab Island enjoy getting out of the water and sun. Their signature 12-hour slow cooked pulled pork is a crowd favorite, but they also offer half-pound burgers, virgin daiquiris, snow cones and much more. This barge is located in the “family area” of Crab Island and is open every day, weather permitting.
The Sinkin’ Weenie – Grilling all their food fresh to order, this restaurant offers a variety of grilled chicken and grilled Mahi sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and bratwurst.
Crab Island Online – This restaurant is open all day, 7 days a week and doubles as an entertainment stage, hosting live music as well as a game area for volleyball and basketball. Their menu includes BBQ sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, steamed shrimp and a whole lot more. They like to keep all menu items below $6.50.
And if that’s not enough for you, there are mobile vendors traveling via motorized rafts, delivering food directly to the customer.
So when is the best time to visit Crab Island? The answer depends on what you want to do while you are there. If you have children and want to enjoy the water park, we recommend visiting Crab Island on a weekday during the summer or any time during the rest of the year, with Friday being the least crowded day. For those who want to drop anchor and party in the Florida sunshine, then any weekend in the summer will find the younger crowd enjoying live bands and delicious food. As far as time of day, we recommend consulting a local tide chart and enjoying Crab Island at high tide, when the waist-high water is a mesmerizing aqua green and crystal clear.
But however you want to enjoy Destin, no vacation is complete without a trip out to Crab Island—the island that isn’t an island.