Shell Island Dolphins – What to Know Before You Visit

Swimming with dolphins at Shell Island is an experience you’ll never forget! Learn all about Shell Island’s bottlenose dolphins, when to visit, and how to book a once-in-a-lifetime dolphin tour.

About Shell Island

Shell Island is a beautiful, 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island lying between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. No condos here! This 700-acre island is just a short boat ride from Panama City Beach, Florida. Shell Island is one of the few areas left on the coast of Florida that has been left undisturbed. This beautiful island has been kept as natural as possible for all visitors to enjoy!

Natural Sights and Sea Life to Explore!

Beachcombers from near and far come to Shell Island to explore the white sand, seashells, sand dollars, and crystal clear water. Being at Shell Island is like being in the Caribbean.

The island offers some great family fun activities. At Dolphin Seafari, we can take visitors to walk along the beach to look for shells or do some snorkeling to find starfish and sand dollars. On all of our tours, you can get to look at and swim with dolphins and snorkel near Shell Island.

Best Time to Visit Shell Island

The best time to visit Shell Island is early or mid-morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day. Shell Island attracts visitors at all times of the year. Note that the best time to find whole shells is right after a storm – due to the shells being pushed onto shore from the waves. If you snorkel, you have a much better chance of finding whole shells.

Landscape and Wildlife

Shell Island is covered with palm trees, pine trees, sea oats, and dunes. There are deer, armadillos, raccoons, and (rarely) alligators. During nesting season, turtles come to the island to nest. You will see areas that have been taped off to protect the turtle nests.

About Bottlenose Dolphins

The dolphins that inhabit the waters alongside Shell Island are bottlenose dolphins. These are a resident pod of dolphins that are here year-round. On some of our tours, we encounter up to 30 dolphins.

Image of Dolphin on the side of a rented Pontoon boat saying hello to the group
Man leaning over the edge of the boat to be near a dolphin the water. Both of them are smiling and looking at the camera
Photo of dolphin floating along sider of boat
Dolphin swimming along side of Pontoon boat while the kids look on

Interesting Facts About Shell Island Dolphins

Dolphins live in pods. Bottlenose dolphins live in pods of 10 to 30, but they can also be found alone and up to 1000!

They fish as a group. A dolphin’s diet consists mainly of forage fish. Dolphins work as a team to harvest schools of fish but can also hunt by themselves.

Dolphins use echolocation. Dolphins search for fish using echolocation. They emit clicking sounds and listen for the return echos to determine the location. Bottlenose dolphins also use sound for communication, including squeaks and whistles, as well as sounds emitted through body movements, such as leaping from the water and slapping their tails on the water surface.

Dolphins can get BIG. Adult dolphins range from 6 to 13 feet, and 330 to 1,400 pounds. Males are slightly longer and considerably heavier than females. Females are about 8 feet, and 450 to 700 pounds. Dolphins can live to be 40 years old in the wild. Females typically outlive males.

They’re great jumpers. Dolphins can jump up to 20 feet in the air and reach speeds of 22 miles per hour

Want to see these dolphins live and in-person? Book a Dolphin Tour today! Or Call 850-252-7209
Image of dolphin with his head out of the water and he's looking up and smiling