Panama City Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico in the northwest Florida Panhandle region. Miles of pure white sand beach and turquoise Gulf waters make Panama City Beach a place of unmatched beauty. In fact, both CNN and TripAdvisor rate the beach in this area as one of the world’s most beautiful coastal destinations. But the real rewards are to be found by exploring just a bit beyond the dense strip of condominium and resort hotel developments along the main portion of Panama City Beach.
Head down to the south-eastern end of the Panama City Beach strip to find St. Andrews State Park. This slice of old Florida coastline has been rated by U.S. News & World Report Travel Guides as #1 in the best things to in Panama City Beach. The park attracts both day and overnight visitors with its beaches, campground, hiking & biking trails, water sports gear rentals, abundant wildlife, and more.
One of the park’s most popular attractions are the pontoon boat rentals provided by Panama City Beach Boat Rentals. The 10- or 12-passenger pontoon boats are the best way for a family or group of friends to get out on the waters of St. Andrew Bay for a day of cruising, fishing, snorkeling, or lounging on the pristine beaches of undeveloped Shell Island. Anyone who is over 21 years of age and in possession of a Florida Boater’s License is qualified to rent one of these safe and easy to operate boats.
In St. Andrews Park, down at the jetty and just across the St. Andrew Shipping Channel, locally known as the Pass, you can see Shell Island stretching into the distance. This undeveloped, 7-mile-long barrier island is a top attraction in the Panama City area. The island is a nature reserve, and the waters off the coastline here are protected by the St. Andrews State Park Aquatic Preserve. You can catch the Shell Island Shuttle out to the island for an experience of unspoiled nature that cannot be found anywhere else in Panama City Beach.
St. Andrew Bay is home to one of the largest groups of bottlenose dolphins in the world. These are the gray dolphins with the long nose and smiling mouth that most folks are familiar with. When the weather is clear and the water is calm, it is common to see groups of dolphins feeding, playing, and going about their business in the area near the Pass and the waters off Shell Island. The best way to get a close-up look and some good photos is to go out on a dolphin tour. Experienced captains who know the Bay and the dolphins can usually find some, and will take visitors as close as conservation regulations allow.
The park is an excellent place to enjoy water sports. The jetty area and the kiddie pool behind it offer great snorkeling, as does Shell Island. Kayak rentals are available, and the St. Andrews State Park Marina offers a good launch point into the Lower Grand Lagoon. You can also arrange for a Shuttle package to Shell Island that includes the use of kayaks and snorkeling gear out on the island. Stand-up paddle boards are also available for rent at the Jetty Store.
If you are looking for a natural setting with pine hammocks, sand dunes, and coastal scrub, you need to visit the park. And on days when the Gulf waters are rough along the Panama City Beach coastline, St. Andrews State Park and Shell Island offer protected calm water options for swimming, snorkeling, and playing.
The multitude of things to do and see on land and water make St. Andrews State Park a mecca for Panama City Beach visitors. To get to the park from Panama City Beach, simply head south along the beach or by car on Thomas Drive and you will soon arrive directly at the park entrance.
Looking for things to do in Panama City Beach? Take our Shuttle over to Shell Island, rent a pontoon boat, or even take a dolphin tour.
Explore Shell Island on your own time with your family and friends with one of our, well maintained, Shell Island Pontoon Boat Rentals.Learn More
Our Shell Island Dolphin Tours are one of the most memorable experiences you will have while visiting Panama City Beach.Learn More
Shell Island is a local hot spot for snorkeling in Panama City Beach, Florida. Begin your adventure with Shell Island Shuttle.Learn More