Pancreatic islets are innervated by autonomic and sensory nerves that influence their function. Analyzing the innervation process should provide insight into the nerve-endocrine interactions and their roles in development and disease. Here, using in vivo time-lapse imaging and genetic analyses in zebrafish, we determined the events leading to islet innervation. Comparable neural density in the absence of vasculature indicates that it is dispensable for early pancreatic innervation. Neural crest cells are in close contact with endocrine cells early in development. We find these cells give rise to neurons that extend axons towards the islet as they surprisingly migrate away. Specific ablation of these neurons partly prevents other neurons from migrating away from the islet resulting in diminished innervation. Thus, our studies establish the zebrafish as a model to interrogate mechanisms of organ innervation, and reveal a novel mode of innervation whereby neurons establish connections with their targets before migrating away.