A true Robinson Crusoe getaway.


When the day comes when you feel like you just had enough of all the exhausting hustle and bustle and endless clamor of the everyday get up, go to work, meet the quota, make the deadline, fight the crowds and you’re sitting there stuck in traffic feeling like life is just passing you by . . . where can you go? Where can you really escape it all, I mean every bit of it, for a day or two of solace, sun, water, gentle breezes?

Well there is a place that is a true Robinson Crusoe getaway in Panama City Beach called Shell Island. This beautiful barrier island is a retreat for those who have enough of the hype and the going-nowhere-fast lane they can stand. For those who simply need to slow down and just get away from it all, here are miles of seemingly endless sparking white sand.

Shell Island is the beach-goers and photographers’ delight. This seemingly untouched paradise is a natural habitat abundant with wildlife. A person could easily get lost for hours in their own excitement exploring the islands pristine beauty back dropped by the emerald waters of the gulf. Here there are exciting discoveries waiting to be made and continual photo opportunities across the remarkable sand dunes, in the sky or along the shore and in the water.

This stretch of sand is a unique and priceless jewel of nature elegantly set here in the Emerald coast. With its natural splendor and remarkable abundance of wildlife, exploring Shell Island is a memorable and exciting way for the whole family to spend the day. With acres and acres of woods covered with sand pines, scrub oaks, rosemary and other hardy island plants the natural beauty is a refreshing change from the “stuck in traffic again” nightmare. Here a person can casually walk the nature trials from a fresh water swamp to the rolling sand dunes with miles of swaying sea oats, and sugar-white sands.

Bay County’s Shell Island has preserved it magnificence because it is only accessible by boat, but with the many shuttles and boats, kayaks or wave runners available to rent getting there is no problem. Though it is just one third mile across the channel, it is far enough away to successfully make ones escape yet close enough to make it back the same day. Here is an island hugged by the gulf on one side and St Andrew’s Bay and St Andrew’s Sound inland water ways on the other. One can comb the beach for miles collecting sand dollars, conch shells, olive shells, horseshoe crabs and moon snails or take nature walks from the gulf side to the inland waters side to sun bathe, snorkel or fish.

With over 15 miles of shoreline this is truly a great Crusoe getaway from Shell Island to Spanish Shanty Point to Land’s End all the way to Hurricane Island next to Tyndall Air Force base. This island is a natural habitat where visitors may encounter wading birds, alligators and many other small animals. Pelicans abound here, as well as sand pipers, gulls, and piping and snowy plovers. No vacation to Panama City Beach can be considered complete until you've taken a day trip to Shell Island. Unlike Robinson Crusoe, you can spend just an hour or all day there, but just as it was for him, there are no facilities, so you will want pack a picnic lunch and beverages.

The Emerald Coast is also home they say for the world's largest population of bottle nose dolphins. These gentle and intelligent creatures live and play just offshore. It is a very common event to be sitting on your wave runner or kayaking and to have these beautiful, docile creatures swim up to you. They will swim by and visit with snorkelers with their playful behavior. A visit by these gentle creatures is an experience one will always cherish, but please remember to keep your distance and just enjoy their antics since petting or feeding them is illegal. However, take as many photos and memories as you like.

Shell Island is in actuality an undeveloped part of Florida’s St Andrews State Park. The park itself is divided by the St Andrew’s Bay Pass, a ship channel inlet. The main park area is easily accessible by car and has a concession offering snacks, souvenirs, and fishing supplies that ole’ Robinson would have loved to of had access to. The park also hosts year round full-facility campsites as well as primitive group camping. It has two fishing piers, a jetty and a boat ramp which provides plenty of fishing opportunities for anglers.  During spring and summer the park offers shuttles to Shell Island. With the weather getting cooler this park becomes a popular overnight destination.

However, for those wanting to just relax for the day and not necessarily run away, St Andrew’s State Park is the perfect drive in /drive out place to just drop in and soak up the sun on the beach or enjoy a leisurely lunch in the breeze under the shade of a pavilion. Those seeking a little dry exercise can take a leisurely stroll on the two nature trails winding through the park’s rich diversity of coastal plants for a splendid opportunity for photography and bird-watching. But, one of the greatest events that happens daily on the Emerald Coast is our spectacular sunsets, so bring your cameras and take as many photos as you wish to keep on your desk till you have opportunity to escape again and come back!