Shell Island: The Ultimate Paradise in Panama City Beach

Aerial View of Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida
Aerial View of Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida | Photo Credit: Shutterstock - Adam Maclovio
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Panama City Beach is known for it’s beautiful sugar-white sands, turquoise blue waters, and fun atmosphere, but at times it can get a little crowed. If you’ve ever been to Panama City Beach and felt you needed to find a quiet getaway from your vacation, Shell Island is the paradise you’ve been looking for. Located right at the mouth of St. Andrews Bay, Shell Island is a 7-mile stretch of untouched beach paradise unlike anything else in Florida.

Natural, pristine and undeveloped, Shell Island offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Florida the way mother nature intended it. Go snorkeling, get a tan, and even get to watch dolphins riding the surf in this beach paradise. Secluded from the rest of the world, the only way to access this beach is by boat, but that’s half the fun!

Things to Do at Shell Island

Wildlife Encounters

Untouched by the outside world, Shell Island is full of wildlife. From pelicans and dolphins, to sea turtles and schools of native Florida fish, you’ll be able to experience them all as you dive into the crystal blue waters and explore the sandy shores of the island.

Dolphin
Dolphin | Photo Credit: Pixabay – Simon Mettler

Snorkeling and Swimming

Take a jump off your boat and dive into the beautiful blue waters that surround the island. Bustling with fish, turtles, crabs, and so much more what happens under the water at Shell Island is almost more exciting than what happens on shore. Don’t forget your goggles and a pair of fins when you go out there, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss.

Go on a Shell Hunt

They don’t call this Shell Island for nothing! Loaded with all sorts of unique shells, sand dollars, and all sorts of hidden gems you won’t be disappointed on this treasure hunt. Unlike Panama City Beach which is picked over and machine cleaned constantly, Shell Island is a shell collector’s paradise. And the best part is, there is no limit to the number of shells you can take home with you, as long as there are no living creatures inside.

Cast a Line and Go Fishing

You are in luck! Fishing is permitted everywhere on Shell Island. Whether you want to cast out into the surf, put a line into deeper waters off the jetty, or skim the shallow grasslands from your boat the possibilities are endless. Make sure you are properly licensed through the State of Florida or you may get a visit from Fish and Wildlife who patrol the water regularly.

Shell Island, Florida
Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

How to Get Out to the Island

Getting to Shell Island can be an adventure all it’s own. Because there are no roads or bridges out to the island, your only option is to take a boat. Lucky for you, there are dozens of ways to get out there. From tour boats to shuttles, pontoon rentals, and even jet skis if you are looking for some excitement.

  • Rent a Pontoon Boat or Jet Ski
  • Ride the Shell Island Ferry from St. Andrews State Park
  • Take the Shell Island Shuttle from Thomas Drive
  • Take your own boat and put in at any of the local marinas

Things to Know for Your Trip

Shell Island is primitive which means there are no bathrooms, shelters, or shops of any kind. If you are planning to take a trip out there it is recommended that you bring a cooler with food and clean drinking water, sunscreen and a hat, and maybe an umbrella if you plan to be out there all day. The sun can be intense out there, so if you are taking shuttle boat plan ahead. During the summer months many locals will take their boats out to the island and setup in one of 2 coves, so if you are looking for secluded just sail on past them. If you are renting a boat, time how long it takes you to sail out to your anchorage. You’ll want to allow yourself that much time or more to get back to the dock or you may incur some penalty fees (especially on really busy rental days). With those things in mind, go enjoy Shell Island!

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