Although Destin and the Emerald Coast are known for having the most beautiful beaches in the world, locals will tell you, it's really all about the gorgeous water that surrounds our shore. Anyone fortunate enough to go boating here will tell you the same thing. You merge with nature to enjoy this wonderful, watery playground whether you're deep sea fishing on the Gulf of Mexico, cruising Choctawhatchee Bay on a party pontoon boat or jetting around on a wave runner. The huge expanse of sparkling clear water, in varying jeweled tones of green, is filled with abundant natural wildlife for your viewing pleasure. A favorite destination for viewing another kind of wildlife, defined by lots of beautiful people frolicking together on their boats, is Crab Island!
Located on the bay side of the bridge that connects Destin to Okaloosa Island's National Seashore, Crab Island isn't really an island at all, since it is underwater! Once upon a time, it used to be an island of sorts, albeit that of the “sand bar” variety. Water levels changed and today it often resembles a floating marina, (or party), from April till about Thanksgiving time. From the Destin Bridge, you can see anywhere from about a dozen boats anchored on week days to over 200 on popular holiday weekends or during the Summer. The water depth ranges from knee high to up past your shoulders for the most part, which makes it the perfect place to splash around and play. Passengers or perhaps I should say, party participants, arrive on maritime vessels of all descriptions. They range from big, luxury yachts to small fishing boats and everything in-between. Crab Island started years ago as a place where locals hung out on their boats in the Summer to relax and watch awesome sunsets over the bay. Today, this destination has become even more popular and often resembles a giant, friendly boat party. Many visitors join in by renting pontoon boats at the nearby Destin Harbor, which can accommodate up to twelve people. Seasoned boaters always make sure they have plenty of cold drinks on ice, yummy sandwiches or fried chicken, assorted munchies and plenty of sun screen. The atmosphere here is very social with many partying from boat to boat, others tossing foam footballs and still others snorkeling with their kids. In recent years on holiday weekends, there are venues with portable water slides, big bubble balls and floating trampolines! Now, there is even little boat called “The Sinkin Weenie” that scoots around offering $3 hotdogs along with $1 sodas, ice cream and candy bars. They also have hamburgers, bratwurst, chicken and salmon sandwiches for those who forgot to pack a picnic. A popular local radio station, 99 Rock WKSM, often does remote broadcasts from Crab Island on a “karaoke barge”. They play lots of classic beach or island music along with new hits providing a fun and Florida styled, party atmosphere!
Cruising the Destin Harbor
Besides Crab Island, there are lots of places to visit on Destin's Harbor. First of all, it is the best place to rent a boat for any type of water excursion. Pontoon boats, wave runners and even YOLO boards may be found at several locations. These include Blue Crab Water Sports; Boogie's Water Sports; Gilligan's; Luther's Pontoons and Wave Runners; and Sunshine Pontoon Rentals to name a few. Daily rentals for a pontoon boat averages between $150 to $250 for a whole day, with half day rentals also available. There are several places on the harbor where you can get gas, sodas, beer, ice or other supplies if you need them. Pontoon boats are great for groups of people, surprisingly easy to maneuver and don't use a lot of gas like some of the big boats. Many friends often share the cost of the rental, so it makes for a fun, inexpensive, memorable adventure.
For dining and entertainment, the Destin Harbor provides lots of places where you can dock up and hang out. The one closest to Crab Island is the Dewey Destin Restaurant and Seafood Market. This outdoor seafood eatery is owned by the founding family of Destin. In fact, it is located near the original homestead of Captain Leonard Destin who first arrived here in 1835. Laid back and wonderful, this restaurant serves up fresh seafood with views westward towards Crab Island for awesome summer sunsets over the bay. Harbor Walk Village at the base of the opulent Emerald Grande has multiple restaurants, bars and live entertainment but it is sometimes difficult to dock there. AJ’s, a little further down, has ample docking and been a Destin icon for over twenty-five years. This rustic, thatched grass top bar and restaurant has fantastic harbor views near the charter boat marina docks where you can watch daily fish catches unload. They have indoor and outdoor dining with live entertainment. Another popular place that you can boat to is The Boat House Oyster Bar toward the end of the harbor. Originally, this was a boat house over twenty years ago, so you are literally dining right over the water. They specialize in seven different types of oyster servings and have won awards for some of these recipes. They also have live entertainment and are known by locals for their really cold beer.
As a special treat, Ocean Reef Resorts offers discounted tickets to all of our guests to enjoy a cruise aboard the Southern Star Dolphin and Sunset Cruise. Located on Destin Harbor, this eighty foot boat has two tiers and a glass bottom to see dolphins and other fish during a two hour cruise. If it is a windy day, it heads off under the bridge past Crab Island to watch dolphins play in the bay. On calmer days it heads out of East Pass into the Gulf and cruises along the coastline. The captain provides a narrative history of Destin, the harbor and the world of dolphins which is very entertaining. During the summers, there are regularly scheduled, two hour cruises to watch gorgeous, sublime sunsets over the bay.
Whether partying at Crab Island or cruising the harbor, Ocean Reef Resorts bids a safe, fun-filled bon voyage!