panoramic view of beach

Visiting Shell Island in Panama City Beach, Florida

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Want to be on an uncrowded beach with clear waters and no background noise of 1000’s of tourists & city life?

Then visiting Shell Island in Panama City Beach, Florida is the thing for you!

See why Shell Island has become one of the most popular things to do in Panama City. We’ll cover all the basics you need to know to plan a day trip to Shell Island!

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visiting shell island in panama city beach florida

All About Visiting Shell Island in Panama City Beach


What is Shell Island?

So glad you asked! Located east of Panama City Beach, Shell Island consists of 700 acres of uninhabited, undeveloped beach that welcomes its guests with clear waters & beautiful views. It’s considered a must-do activity in Panama City.

Shell Island is much quieter than the beaches along the Gulf. It’s definitely worth spending at least a half-day here if you have the time. So much more relaxing! The only inconvenience is not having my cushioned beach chair & umbrella waiting for me when I get there, ha!

ocean shore and sand

What is there to do on Shell Island?

The most common activity is shelling! The farther down the beach you go, the more shells you will find!

Tip: Bring a fishing or shelling net with you to make your life easier if you plan on shelling. Trying to bend down to pick up shells between waves is a quick way to get knocked over or slapped in the face by a surprise wave. I learned this the hard way. Next time, I’ll have a net! Grab one on Amazon or pick one up at one of the many Alvin’s Islands or Sunsations stores for around $10-$15.

beach shells
Here are some of the shells I picked up from this trip’s visit. The largest one is about 5 inches wide!

Snorkeling is another popular activity at Shell Island. You can rent gear or bring your own snorkeling set.

Either way, you will be in for a treat. Shell Island (and St. Andrews State Park) are the most popular snorkeling spots in Panama City.

You may be wondering… can you take shells from Shell Island? Yes you sure can! Just as long as they don’t have living creatures in them. I came back with several nice shells, some the size of a saucer!

You can also fish at Shell Island. I personally don’t fish but I’ve heard that fishing around the rock jetty is the best spot.

So now that I’ve convinced you that you need to visit, this begs the next question:    

How do you get to Shell Island?

The only way to get to Shell Island is by boat. If you own your own boat, feel free to ride on over to the island. For those of us without that luxury, the other options are renting a boat or taking a boat shuttle over to the island.

Located across the street from Captain Anderson’s restaurant, the Shell Island Shuttle provides several services, two of which are pontoon rentals & a shuttle boat. The two times I’ve visited Shell Island it was via the shuttle.

teal boat
The shuttle runs every 30 minutes during summer (weather permitting) and takes about 15-20 minutes to get from the dock to Shell Island.

Shell Island Shuttle

During the summer, the shuttle boats depart every 30 minutes to and from the island from 9am to 5pm. You can stay on the island as long as you want, just make sure you’re at the pickup location by the last shuttle run!

Off-season hours vary and the shuttle only runs back and forth every hour. It’s best to call ahead in the off-season since shuttle hours can vary depending on weather.

Shuttle Tickets are $21.95 round trip for adults, and $14.95 round trip for kids.

See the map below to see where the shuttle drops you off.

map of how to visit shell island beach in PCB

Pontoon Rentals

You can also rent pontoon boats from the Shell Island Shuttle website. Each pontoon holds up to 10 adults. Their double-decker pontoon can seat 12. (The double-deckers have slides!)

Regular pontoons are $200 for a half-day (4-hour) rental and $349 for a full-day (7.5-hour) rental.

Double-decker pontoons are $399 for a half-day (4-hour) rental and $749 for a full-day (7.5-hour) rental.

Book ahead during the summer, as they tend to book out pretty far in advance!

Note: Keep in mind that traffic in PCB can be ridiculous. Even staying a few miles away on Front Beach Road can take you about 30 minutes to get to the Shell Island Shuttle. If you do happen to miss a shuttle, there’s a cool little bar & tables to chill at while waiting for the next one.

sand and ocean shore
Looking at the rock jetty from the Gulf side of the island. This is where you will find the best shells. The farther away from the jetty you go, the more (and bigger) shells you will find!

Other FAQs

Can you stay on Shell Island? No, you cannot stay overnight on the island.

Is there food on Shell Island? Nope! You will need to eat before you go or bring something with you.

Is alcohol allowed on Shell Island? Yes

Are dogs allowed? While Shell Island is dog friendly, dogs are not allowed on the shuttle boat.

Are there bathrooms? There are no restrooms on the island. The shuttle place has restrooms though, so you can go right before you leave.

grass in sand

Final Thoughts

Is Shell Island worth it? Totally! My friend who isn’t very fond of the hot sun & sand ended up loving it! She said it was her favorite thing we did on our PCB vacation.

Alright, I think that covers most of the need-to-know info for visiting Shell Island. Let me know your favorite thing about Shell Island in the comments below!

Last but not least, don’t forget to wear sunscreen : )

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog

Visiting National Parks in Florida & want to bring fido along? Make sure to check out which of the parks allow dogs!

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Visit Shell Island Beach in Panama City, Florida!

shell island trip

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