With no commercial development, this barrier island is a great spot to enjoy sand, sun and waves and see some of Florida’s marine wildlife.
Shell Island rightfully earns its name, as the narrow barrier island is covered with shells of varied species. Expect to find conch shells, sand dollars, snails and periwinkles here. As long as the shells are unoccupied, they can be removed from the site. Add exceptional specimens to your personal shell collection.
While the island is 7 miles (11 kilometers) long, it is only about 0.75 miles (1.2 kilometer) wide. Walk easily between the northern and southern shorelines to see the contrasts between St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll pass tall pine trees, sea oats and island scrub. Look for the narrow inland lake near the coast.
Note that there is no commercial development on the island. The park generally operates a concession boat in the summer offering drinks, snacks, sunscreen and other essentials. Bring a bag to take your trash with you when you leave. When you’re not beachcombing and looking for shells, spread out a towel and relax on the sugary white sands of the island.
Getting to the island is part of the fun. Rent a kayak, motorboat, sailboat or pontoon boat to cross St. Andrews Bay from Panama City or Panama City Beach. You might see ospreys or dolphins along the way. If you have a license, do some fishing as you motor along.
Once on the island, look for evidence of loggerhead and green sea turtle habitation. Nesting season is from May to October. Be careful not to disturb these endangered species. Deer and shorebirds also live on the island.
At one time Spanish explorers established fortifications here, leaving behind a good place to dock at Spanish Shanty Point. If you don’t rent your own boat, arrive here via the large year-round shuttle from Capt. Anderson’s Marina or the Shell Island Shuttle in spring and summer from the mainland half of St. Andrews State Park. Shell Island’s western end is part of the park, separated by the wide inlet to St. Andrews Bay. Pay an entry fee at the mainland part of the park.