No trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, is complete until you’ve taken a day trip to Shell Island. This undeveloped 700-acre barrier island is just a short boat shuttle from St. Andrews State Park. The island is actually a part of St. Andrews State Park. The sugary sand is so white you’ll think you are seeing snow! Lazing on the beach, snorkeling, nature walks and shell collecting are just some of the ways you can enjoy this pristine wildlife sanctuary. Shell Island is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of bottle-nosed dolphins, and the island’s pristine beauty and abundant wildlife make an enjoyable and exciting way to spend the day.
Shell Island is a very natural environment, which means there are no concession stands where you can buy food or drinks, no restroom facilities, and no picnic tables, trash receptacles or shaded pavilions. If you go, go prepared, and please take out everything you brought in. While Shell Island was named for the abundance of shells found here, in the more heavily trafficked parts of the island shells are few and far between, since so many beachcombers are on the hunt for prize shells.
In its history, Shell Island has seen Native American settlement, the arrival of Spanish explorers, and even pirates! More modern efforts at development have usually been quickly undone by hurricanes, including a zoo that was once located in what is now state park owned land.
Getting there: Rent a pontoon boat from St Andrews State Park at the boat ramp or take the Shell Island Shuttle. During peak summer season this shuttle runs every half-hour, from 9-5, 7 days a week. Off season schedules vary, so be sure to call ahead and check. Again, keep in mind that there are no restroom facilities, concession stands, trash receptacles, picnic tables or shade pavilions on Shell Island, so take everything you need, and plan on taking it all back with you as well!