Shell Island is a small barrier island at the north western tip of Spanish Ante in the Florida Panhandle's Saint Andrew Bay. If summer temperatures in the 90's scare you off consider making this trip in mid to late October when gulf water temps still hover in the 70's and balmy south/southwest winds prevail. Any later and we stand by the 120 degree rule (if the sum of the water and air temperature <120 then consider adding a neoprene wetsuit or drysuit to your kit).
From your put-in (30.136599, -85.720392) at Panama City your camp at Shell Island (30.1210688, -85.7165498) is a straight 1.25m (2km) shot southwest across St. Andrew Bay. Sting Ray, dolphins (the Flipper variety) and blue crabs will keep you company in the grass shallows. The welcoming white sand beaches soon give way to a shaded canopy of native spanish moss covered oaks and an undergrowth thick with sabal palmetto. But don't give in to your coastal campsite too soon or you'll miss some of the highlights of this mini kayak adventure.
An inlet to the clear open waters of the Gulf is accessible if you'd like to test some open water navigation and paddle skills as most of the time the water is very calm and forgiving. Keep to the leeward side for ample opportunities abound for snorkeling (see our locations mapped below), crabbing and fishing if you are so equipped.
The preferred camping location is on Shell Island. From our research it is legal to primitive camp on the island but it isn’t advertised so if you do camp on the island, take care of it please so this can continue. It’s a very large “island” with lots options to camp but if you have a hammock and need trees you are limited to a point but still have great spots to camp. This spot is close to all of the fun stuff and the beautiful waters around the pass.
TRIP SMITH hails from South Alabama and adventures all over the Southeast United States. He enjoys everything that has to do with outdoors. When he's not on or planning an adventure he is a full-time fireman, husband and father.
He is the host of Out There, a popular outdoor channel on Youtube.