Many restaurants in Destin can claim to have waterfront dining, but few can claim to have literal on-the-water dining.
Stan Shipp, who owns WaterWorld Destin, is one of those few. The businessman and Destin resident is the owner of the floating restaurant and tiki bar anchored in the middle of Crab Island. From the barge, with a kitchen/boat hybrid attached to the back, Shipp sells a full food menu, mixed drinks and beer, as well as paddle board and jet ski rentals.
“I built it all,” Shipp said of the floating restaurant. “I built the barge and the deck. It’s like Noah’s Ark.”
Shipp, who said he has all valid business licenses for his unconventional floating restaurant, has had the restaurant up and running for three seasons. He is open from spring break to fall break.
“I built a kitchen last year and it’s a mobile kitchen, it comes in and out every day,” he said. “We have an awesome menu, something you wouldn’t think you’d get on the water.”
WaterWorld’s menu includes fried bologna sandwiches, chicken quesadillas and hot dogs.
This year, Shipp built three floating dance platforms — one large and two small ones — to encourage people to dance on the water. He also has a DJ every day who plays Top 40 hits, and the National Anthem every day at 2 p.m.
Shipp said working on a floating restaurant, as opposed one on dry land, has its challenges, including the unpredictability of the weather. But Shipp said he is out there every day regardless of the challenges, and said working on the water is better than working on dry land.
“Everyone thinks it’s a dream job, but it’s very tiring,” he said. “You’re on the saltwater all day, every day. The salt life is tough.”
Shipp said the concept of a floating restaurant is foreign to some people, but the floating lounge tables and party atmosphere attract people from all over Crab Island.
“The tourists have a blast,” he said. “The atmosphere is great, and the dance floor toward the end of the day is pretty awesome.”