#1 Crab Island

Crab Island is the premier boating attraction of the Emerald Coast. Once a physical island, the sands have eroded over the years, leaving a 4-acre submerged sandbar! The water is between 1 to 4 feet deep in most places on the Island, making it the perfect place for boats to pull up and drop anchor.

Hundreds of boats anchor on Crab Island every day to enjoy its natural beauty, wildlife, and crystal-clear waters. The water will be most clear at high tide, as the emerald water from the Gulf of Mexico flows into the Choctawhatchee Bay, creating that beautiful blue-green water you see in pictures.

However, Crab Island is a must-see destination at any time of the day as the shallow waters are great for games, kids playing, walking around the Island to visit friends, or just hanging out. Rent a Double-Decker Pontoon and you take your experience to a whole new level! Just imagine the kids (and adults!) racing down the dual waterslides into crystal clear water, enjoying a true birds-eye view of Crab Island from the upper deck, or relaxing in the shade on the deck below.

To read even more about Crab Island and download a copy of “The Mother’s Ultimate Guide to Crab Island”.

Crap Island aerial photo with multiple boats

Important things to know when visiting Crab Island:

  • Crab Island is only accessible by boat! Due to the strong tides and boat traffic, it is extremely dangerous to attempt to get to Crab Island by any means other than boat. Click HERE to reserve your double-decker pontoon boat today!

  • There are multiple vendors on Crab Island selling food, apparel, and souvenirs. Unfortunately, due to increased regulation, the larger vendors who used to be permanently anchored on Crab Island are no longer allowed, however, there is still a wide range of smaller vendors to choose from. Be sure to bring cash as some of these vendors will not accept credit cards!

  • Alcohol IS allowed on Crab Island. The sale of alcohol has recently been banned, however, you are welcome to bring your own. Just remember that operating a boat is the same as driving a car when it comes to how alcohol is treated. Drinking and driving are strictly prohibited and enforced by local Coast Guard and Sheriff boats.

#2 Gulf Islands National Seashore

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is the ~4 mile stretch of undeveloped seashore southwest of Crab Island – beginning just past the U.S. Coast Guard station. This stretch is beach is a great alternative to Crab Island if you’re looking for a more peaceful and natural experience, while still being close to the action.

There are far fewer boats along this stretch making it perfect for families with kids. There is a huge inflatable water park, as well as miles of natural seashore made for exploring, collecting shells, and catching crabs!

The Gulf Islands National Seashore truly gives you a serene and quiet experience away from all the crowds, perfect for relaxing on your double-decker pontoon boat while your kids explore the natural wonders of the Gulf Coast.

Okaloosa Island National Seashore

Important things to know when visiting the Gulf Islands National Seashore:

  • Just like Crab Island, the water can get very shallow (especially closer to shore). So make sure that you drive slow, trim up your motor a bit, and cut the engine if you run aground.

  • The inflatable waterpark is one of the highlights of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, however, it does cost money for your kids to play so be sure to bring some extra cash with you!

  • As a general disclaimer, the closer you are to Crab Island on the National Seashore, the more boats there will be (the water park is adjacent to Crab Island). So if you’re looking for more peace and quiet, just boat a half-mile or so away from Crab Island, and you’re met with fewer boats and more solitude.

#3 Spectre Island

If you rent a boat from our Fort Walton Beach location and are looking for an incredible experience that is totally off the beaten path, then you must check out Spectre Island. Spectre Island is one of a series of completely untouched islands along the Santa Rosa Sound.

About a ~5 minute boat ride east, and on the south side of the sound, you’ll begin to see the Islands. Spectre Island located across from navigational Buoy 55, and is especially unique as it is a true island and you can boat all the way around it.

Crab Island is the top spot for big parties and fun times, but if you want to live like the locals for a day and enjoy an isolated stretch of natural wonder, then Spectre Island is the place to go. It is quiet, peaceful and full of natural beauty. There is endless exploration for the kids as they have free reign around the natural island landscape and all the mystery and excitement that it has have to offer.

From relaxing in the calm lagoons, swimming around the island, collecting souvenirs, and playing games, Spectre Island will not disappoint.

Spectre Island with a boat parked at the beach

Important things to know when visiting Spectre Island:

  • The water around Spectre Island is very shallow in some parts and very deep in others - so be sure you're aware of your water depth as it pertains to both the boat and kids. 

  • As you boat down the sound, you'll see that certain islands belong to the U.S. Air Force base and are not open to the public. They are clearly marked to remove any confusion, but just be aware.

  • While Spectre Island is a local favorite, there are many other islands along the Sound to explore. Pull your boat up the beach and let the kids have the time of their life! Just be aware that many of these islands are very untouched, so you may encounter a broad range of wildlife. 

#4 Norriego Point

Norriego Point is the long stretch of beach on the south side as you enter the Destin Harbor. Lightly drive the front of your boat up onto the shore and enjoy the white sand beach and take in scenes of the harbor. It’s common for people to bring chairs, tables, food etc. with them and make a day out of it!

If you walk across the beach to the other side of Norriego Point, you’ll be looking out at the Destin Pass (the body of water that connects the Gulf to the Bay). Here there are designated swim areas protected from the waves and currents by the jetty rocks.

If you rent a double-decker pontoon boat and request to bring your fishing poles, this is also a great spot to fish off of the jetties!

Norriego Point with multiple boats parked at the beach

Important things to know when visiting Norriego Point:

  • Make sure that you securely “beach” your boat so that it won’t float away or hit other boats! It’s always best practice to pull the anchor 10-20 yards onshore just to be safe.

  • Be mindful of the signs that designate where you cannot beach your boat (towards the very front end of the harbor).

#5 Destin Harbor

You might be wondering why we consider the Destin Harbor and Norriego Point (located inside of the Destin Harbor) two different destinations, however we feel that the Harbor really stands out on its own as one of the most unique destinations along the Emerald Coast.

Destin's fishing tradition began in the mid-19th century with a group of fishermen fishing with nets off the shore in small boats, and over 150 years later, the Destin Harbor has evolved to be home to the nation’s largest commercial fishing fleet.

Rent a double-decker pontoon and take a slow ride down and back in the harbor. You will see some absolutely incredible boats, beautiful homes, and Destin’s boating community in full swing. The Harbor is a special place to many, and while it won’t be your whole day’s destination, it is absolutely worth seeing in its entirety.  

Destin Harbor with boats driving through it

Important things to know when visiting Destin Harbor:

  • The whole harbor is a no-wake zone, meaning that you shouldn’t drive faster than idle speed.

  • Larger boats (such as commercial fishing boats, tour boats, etc.) have the right of way, so be sure to get out of their way in any applicable circumstance.

  • Be aware of boat congestion towards the mouth of the harbor. Be sure to drive on the correct side of the harbor just as you would on the road.

#6 East Jetty Beach

East Jetty Beach is located at the base of the east jetty in the Destin pass before you enter the gulf. East Jetty Beach is your go-to destination for snorkeling and fishing.

At the end of the jetties (on the harbor side) is an area perfect for snorkeling and seeing fish of all kinds as fish are attracted to the rocks and the algae and nutrients that grow on them! Several larger tour boats take their passengers here to snorkel, so experience the freedom of renting your own double-decker boat and do it yourself!

High tide is the best time to snorkel as the water will be most clear. In addition to snorkeling, East Jetty Beach is also a prime spot to fish. It gets pretty shallow close to shore, so you can walk or swim in with a pole and fish off the jetties themselves.

Lots of fish school through the Destin Pass with the tide changes including Spanish mackerel, bluefish, redfish, pompano, ladyfish, whiting, and more. Types of fish and success will depend on the time of year and time of day, however you’ll almost always see people fishing off the jetties.

All in all, whether you’re looking to go snorkel, fish, or just hang out in a different location, East Jetty Beach is great for adventure of all kinds.

East Jetty Beach with boats parked along the shoreline

Important things to know when visiting East Jetty Beach:

  • High tide is the best time to snorkel as the water will be most clear.

  • Be aware of the tide and stay close to shore when snorkeling. Both ingoing and outgoing tides are very strong and can be extremely dangerous if you swim too far into the open water of the pass.

#7 West Jetty Beach

West Jetty Beach is located on the west side of the Destin Pass, directly across from East Jetty Beach. Unlike the majority of East Jetty beach, here you are allowed to pull your boat right up to the beach.

There is a long stretch of beach available for boats to do this and is one of the less congested and busy areas to boat to. There is also great fishing off of these jetties as well; you just have to walk a ways!

West Jetty beach is great for games, picnics, and relaxation, and is home to some of the prettiest water along the Gulf Coast at high tide. As of recent, parking a car hasn’t been allowed at the West Jetty Beach access from land, creating an even more open area that can only be gotten to by boat!

West Jetty Beach with a double fun double decker pontoon boat parked at the shore

Important things to know when visiting West Jetty Beach:

  • While less strong, be aware of the tide here as well and don’t swim out far away from shore.

  • West Jetty Beach has one of the best views of Destin’s charter fishing fleet as many boats return late morning from half-day trips and will sometimes display their fish off the side of the boat!