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Shell Island picture in Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

Details

  • Beaches, Hiking, Recreation Type
  • 2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.1
Overall
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  • Value
    3.5
  • Facilities
    1.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

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If you need a break from the crowds in Panama City Beach, consider making the short trip to Shell Island. This 7-mile-long barrier island runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay. Because it's undeveloped, you'll find plenty of coastal creatures and untouched vegetation, plus miles of pearly white sand to sink your toes into. While recent visitors said the natural setting was a relaxing reprieve from the busy, commercialized feel of the mainland, it isn't without a few drawbacks. Shell Island has no restrooms, concession stands, trash receptacles, picnic tables or shade pavilions, meaning you'll need to come with everything you need (and take it back with you when you head back across the bay).

To get around the fact that the island hosts no facilities, many travelers choose to hop on a charter to the island. This option offers the best of both worlds: You'll have access to food, drinks and a restroom on the boat, and still be able to play in the island's shallow waters.

There are several tour companies to choose from. If you're just looking to get between St. Andrews State Park and Shell Island, consider Shell Island Shuttle, which transports visitors between the park and the island every half hour, seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer. Plus, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the company mans a concession boat on the island, allowing you to buy any snacks or sundries you forgot to bring with you. The Shell Island Express Ferry from Capt. Anderson's Marina is another shuttle option. But if you're looking for more than just a quick transport to the island, consider opting for a tour like the one offered by Adventures At Sea, which comes recommended by recent visitors. Pricing can vary depending on if you choose a tour or shuttle, but you should expect to pay around $20 for adult tickets and $10 for children's tickets for the shuttles and twice that for tours. 

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#1 St. Andrews State Park St. Andrews State Park has enough attractions and activities to keep every member of your family happy. Along with a nearly 2-mile-long white sand beach, the park also boasts paved ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#2 Beaches With 27 miles of beaches and nearly 100 access points, PCB is a beach bum's paradise. You won't have a difficult time finding a stretch of sand to ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#3 Dolphin Tours Though you can see and interact with dolphins at the Gulf World Marine Park, locals and visitors will tell you: there's nothing like observing them in the wild. Dolphin ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#4 Shell Island If you need a break from the crowds in Panama City Beach, consider making the short trip to Shell Island. This 7-mile-long barrier island runs east to west between the ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#5 Conservation Park When you're ready to explore more of PCB's nature, head to Conservation Park. As a safeguard for wetlands, wildlife and pine forest, the park is a natural filter ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#6 Shipwreck Island Waterpark Consistently described by visitors as a great place for families, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a 20-acre facility that features a wave pool, a lazy river, several water slides and flumes ... Read more » Daniela Solomon / Getty Images

#7 Fishing Charters As with other coastal Florida cities, Panama City Beach is a prime spot for both avid and novice anglers to cast a line. Though you can fish from the piers ... Read more » Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

#8 Pier Park PCB is first and foremost a beach destination. But when you need a break from the sun and surf (or if some clouds thwart your plans), the area has a ... Read more » Arpad Benedek / Getty Images

#9 Gulf World Marine Park If you love dolphins, you'll want to schedule a stop at Gulf World Marine Park. Though the park houses several other species, including sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and sea ... Read more » Courtesy Gulf World Marine Park

#10 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Though Ripley's isn't unique to Panama City Beach, it is a favorite rainy day activity among families with young kids. Inside, you'll find oddities like shrunken heads ... Read more » Scott Beale / Flickr

St. Andrews State Park picture in Panama City Beach
Beaches picture in Panama City Beach
Dolphin Cruises picture in Panama City Beach
Shell Island picture in Panama City Beach
Conservation Park picture in Panama City Beach
Shipwreck Island Waterpark picture in Panama City Beach
Fishing Charters picture in Panama City Beach
Pier Park picture in Panama City Beach
Gulf World Marine Park picture in Panama City Beach
Ripley's Believe It or Not! picture in Panama City Beach
St. Andrews State Park picture in Panama City Beach
Beaches picture in Panama City Beach
Dolphin Cruises picture in Panama City Beach
Shell Island picture in Panama City Beach
Conservation Park picture in Panama City Beach
Shipwreck Island Waterpark picture in Panama City Beach
Fishing Charters picture in Panama City Beach
Pier Park picture in Panama City Beach
Gulf World Marine Park picture in Panama City Beach
Ripley's Believe It or Not! picture in Panama City Beach

St. Andrews State Park has enough attractions and activities to keep every member of your family happy. Along with a nearly 2-mile-long white sand beach, the park also boasts paved biking trails, marked hiking trails, water sports equipment rentals (including canoes, kayaks and snorkeling gear) and shuttle boat tours to Shell Island. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

With 27 miles of beaches and nearly 100 access points, PCB is a beach bum's paradise. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

Panama City Beach is a popular sanctuary for bottlenose dolphins. The jetties at St. Andrews State Park in particular are a gathering place for these gentle creatures. To see even more dolphins out in the wild, consider signing up for a dolphin sightseeing tour Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

An aerial view of Shell Island, a 7-mile-long barrier island that runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay, shows the beach's white sands. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

This nearly 3,000-acre park features 12 different trails of varying difficultly and eight boardwalks totaling more than a mile in length. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

Daniela Solomon / Getty Images

As with other coastal Florida cities, Panama City Beach is a prime spot for both avid and novice anglers to cast a line. Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau, Inc.

Pier Park is an outdoor retail, restaurant and entertainment district, home to stores like Old Navy and fast-food chains like Five Guys. Plus, it also offers an amusement park for the kids. Arpad Benedek / Getty Images

Gulf World Marine Park houses several local species, including sea turtles, stingrays, sharks and sea lions, but dolphins are the main attraction here, and one of the major reasons visitors recommend spending a few hours at the park. Courtesy Gulf World Marine Park

Scott Beale / Flickr

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