Visiting Shell Island, Florida is a one-of-a-kind experience. If you’ve never heard of Shell Island, however, you might be surprised to learn that there are no manmade structures or buildings on this beautiful barrier island. With that in mind, many visitors wonder what to do at Shell Island.

Even though the attractions and activities aren’t the same as what you’ll find on the mainland of Panama City Beach, there’s no need to worry about being bored. Your trip to Shell Island is bound to be memorable, fun, and adventurous. In this post, we’ll highlight some of the best activities you can do when you visit Shell Island, Florida.


How to Get to Shell Island, FL


The only way to get to Shell Island is by water. There are no bridges or roads leading to the island, so you will either need to rent a boat or book a reservation aboard the Shell Island Shuttle. The shuttle service has been serving local residents and tourists for years, and it’s the safest, fastest, and easiest way to get to Shell Island for a day of fun.

The shuttle ride to the island offers incredible scenery and views, and you’ll be able to disembark on the Shell Island jetty in about 10 minutes from the time of your departure. Rides take place on a 30-minute rotation, so it’s easy to come and go as you please from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

When you book a trip on the shuttle, you’ll also have an easy way to reserve other water sports gear and rentals. Since the Shell Island Shuttle operates out of St. Andrews State Park, there’s a nearly endless supply of outdoor adventures for you to enjoy.


8 Best Things To Do at Shell Island, Florida


Wondering what to do at Shell Island to fill up an entire day? Look no further than this comprehensive list of fun ideas. No matter your group size or the ages of guests in your party, you’re bound to find something that everyone will love.


1. Rent a Boat


Image of a young man turning his head to look at the camera. He is on a pleasure boat in the ocean. He has a smile on his face and a baseball cap on.


Since boating is the only way to get to the island, many visitors enjoy renting their own vessel. This can include anything from small fishing vessels up to large pontoon boats, which are more suitable for large parties. Boat rentals allow visitors to have more control over their schedule, to have a place to rest in the shade, and to store snacks and other supplies.

If you want to see Shell Island at your own pace, reserve your Panama City Beach boat rental before you arrive. At high traffic times of year and in the warmer seasons, it may be more difficult to find the type of boat you need for your trip.


2. Collect Unique Shells


Photo of a collection of small seashells laid out on a wooden table.


Shell Island is named that way for a reason! The area is home to a variety of indigenous shell species that visitors can enjoy and collect. On the island, you’ll find things like sand dollars, moon snails, conch shells, periwinkles, whelk shells, and olive shells.

The only stipulation for taking shells with you is that they shouldn’t have live sea creatures living in them, such as live crabs or snails. Otherwise, you’re free to snag some seashells as Shell Island souvenirs!


3. Watch for Dolphins


Dolphin swimming along the sea floor by panama city beach


When you visit Shell Island, make sure to keep your eyes out for wild dolphins. You may be able to spot them both on the trek over to the island and as you relax on the beach. Bottlenose dolphins are plentiful throughout the waters near Panama City, so you might catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures as they play and swim.

If you’d like to get even more up close and personal, there are several options for guided dolphin tours. Dolphin Seafari is one way that you can enjoy a professionally guided swim with dolphins in their natural habitat. Tour guides will take you to the best waters, outfit you with the right swim and snorkel gear, and teach you how to interact with dolphins safely.


4. Go Snorkeling


Image of woman snorkeling in the clear ocean blue water. She's close to the sandy sea floor and is facing the camera. She has a happy and contented look on her face.


Snorkeling is a favorite pastime around Shell Island due to the astounding variety of sea creatures along the coast. Most tour companies provide either guided snorkeling tours or allow you to rent snorkeling gear before you head to the island.

If you arrive at the island by shuttle, you can expect to land near the Shell Island Jetty. This area is known as the “children’s pool” for its relatively calm and shallow waters. If you’re new to snorkeling, this is a great place to get up to speed and practice your snorkeling skills.

5. Go Kayaking


Image of two woman on two canoes in the ocean. There is an island in the background.


Kayaking is another favorite activity for visitors to Shell Island. The easiest way to secure a kayak is either through St. Andrews State Park or through the Shell Island Shuttle. When you rent through the shuttle service, your kayak will even be ready and waiting for you once you arrive at the island!

The waters around Shell Island are relatively gentle and mostly shallow. This makes it a great spot for learning how to kayak or paddle. Additionally, kayaking is a great activity for everyone in the family, and you can often find kayaks for both one or two paddlers.


6. Go Fishing


Photo of fishing boat taken from the bow, facing the stern. The back of the boat is visible with 6 fishing poles and the wake of the boat is blurry from the speed. The sky is partly cloudy and looks expansive and beautiful.


The waters around Shell Island provide an immense variety of fish. As with other water activities near the island, you can usually rent gear from local tour companies and through the Shell Island Shuttle. Keep in mind that if you’re not a Florida native, you need to secure the proper license before fishing.

Panama City Beach is known for fish species like speckled trout, sheephead, red snapper, king mackerel, and flounder. Be aware of local rules regarding the types of fish that must be released upon catch and which fish you can safely take with you.

Want to go fishing at Shell Island? Consider booking a private fishing charter online. 


7. Hike through the Dunes


Image of an empty beach near Shell Island. The water is calm and the sky is overcast. The beach is part sanctuary for wildlife.


The landscape of Shell Island, Florida, is natural and untouched from any structures or buildings. This means that there are plenty of natural sand dunes, plant life, wildlife, and other interesting things to see. Visitors love to walk around the island to spot unique treasures.

If you’re a fan of natural landscapes, bring a camera to capture the special views that Shell Island provides.


8. Visit St. Andrews State Park


Image of a pelican and two egrets sitting on large rocks by the ocean water.


Shell Island is a part of the St. Andrews State Park system. As you travel to and from Shell Island, it’s likely that you’ll make a pit stop on park grounds.

This former military reservation is recognizable for its white sand beaches and bright green waters. Visitors can enjoy water sports, outdoor activities, and even recreational camping. If you’re close to Shell Island, don’t forget to check out the services and events that the park has to offer year-round.


What to Bring to Shell Island


As you plan your Shell Island adventure, remember to pack your standard beach gear. Sunscreen, towels, snacks, and water sports gear are popular items. Additionally, bring your ID and any fishing licenses if you’re attempting to rent a boat or go fishing.

There are unfortunately no facilities or restrooms on the island, so plan your travel accordingly. The Shell Island Shuttle operates in regular intervals should you need to leave for a bathroom break.

Lastly, visitors to Shell Island are expected to help upkeep the island’s health and appearance. This means properly disposing of any trash, cleaning up personal items, and leaving any animals or wildlife in place on the island.


Start Planing Your Shell Island Trip


If you’re wondering what to do at Shell Island, this resource provides many exciting choices so that you can create a fun trip for guests of all ages. Start planning your Shell Island adventure today for the quintessential Florida experience. We can help!