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

Details

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

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 bike trails, marked hiking trails, water sports equipment rentals (including canoes, kayaks and snorkeling gear) and shuttle boat tours to Shell Island, a 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island. Additionally, the park provides a concession stand with snacks, souvenirs and fishing supplies.

Recent visitors described the park as beautiful and praised the clean beach and facilities. Reviewers said the park can get quite crowded on the weekends and advised visiting during the week if your itinerary allows. And keep your eyes peeled for plenty of wildlife: travelers said there was a lot of activity in and out of the water from local animals like alligators, heron, ibis and white tail deer.

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