For boaters all over the Gulf Coast, these local hangout spots are top of mind when it comes time to plan a boat day. The Gulf Coast is notorious for sandbars from the panhandle as far down as Boca Grande. These sandbars offer the perfect setting for gathering with friends and family, relaxing, people watching, swimming, snorkeling, and simply just hanging out. Some locations even offer swim-up bars and food joints, so your day on the water never has to end. Check out our list of top sandbars on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Destin’s famous boating-day-out adventure takes place at Crab Island, a true local hangout. Located just on the other side of the Destin bridge— Crab Island is a bright beaming turquoise sandbar where the Destin pass ends and the bay begins, resulting in the immaculate color. With water just to your knees, Crab Island intends for anchoring out and spending the day on your boat. Although completely underwater, Crab Island has a margarita bar, burger joint, BBQ, Mexican restaurants, and even a live band floating on water. If you catch yourself at Crab Island for a holiday or on the weekend, you’ll see boats as far as you can see from the middle of the sand bar. Learn more about boating in Destin here.
Located off the coast of Panama City is Shell Island, notorious for dolphin site seeing and a variety of marine life. Shell Island is the perfect sandbar for a relaxing day surrounded by nature, family, and friends. Grab your snorkeling gear to find sand dollars, moon snails, conch shells, and so much more. Looking for an afternoon treat? Head over to Bearon’s Water Weenie Taxi across the Channel to get some ice cream to cool off from the Florida heat.
Off the coast of St. Augustine lies Matanzas River Sandbar. This unique location is home to a Spanish Fort and one of the few remaining inlets not protected by a jetty. Matanzas is a local hotspot for fishing and great for anchoring. Locals love to spend the day relaxing at the sandbar socializing with friends and taking in the beauty of this natural park. Be cautious of the tide, as it does rise and fall fast.
Three Rooker sits off the coast of Northern Pinellas and is one of the top spots for local boaters. Three-Rooker is home to Caribbean blue water and white, sugary soft sand. You can expect busy weekends with, and an atmosphere similar to that of football tailgating. However, on most days, it is a tranquil setting to walk the shores, collect shells, fish, catch some rays, or simply relax.
John’s Pass Sandbar is located off the coast of Madeira Beach in St Pete, FL. This famous pass brings in boaters, anglers, and tourists from all over the place and is one of the best fishing locations in West Central Florida. The sandbar formation took place in 1848 by a hurricane. A pirate known as John Levique made the first passage through the newly created pass, hence the name. On the waterfront, over one hundred merchants fill the strip with retail shopping, a variety of restaurants, and plenty of watersport activities to indulge in.
Deemed a local favorite— Big Pass Sandbar in Sarasota, FL exemplifies a private island retreat. Locals love this sandbar because of its clear waters for swimming and snorkeling, nearby white-sand beaches, and exceptional shelling. This sandbar separates the north end of Siesta Key from South Lido. Due to the strong currents in the area, the sandbar is not as big as it uses to be. If you plan to hang out for the day, get an early start, as the shoreline fills up quickly on gorgeous days.
The Boca Grande Sandbar is known for its calm, crystal-clear water and iconic railroad trestle backdrop. The trestle was built in 1907 to transport phosphates to ships docked in the pass. It was operational for 50 years before business declined in the 1970s. The sandbar is loved by locals and is the perfect spot to anchor up and enjoy snorkeling, swimming, and lunch while feeling like you are on your own private island.
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