Frequently Asked Questions:
BOAT OPERATING SKILLS
SNORKELING GEAR AND SITES
HALF-DAY AND FULL DAY BOAT CRUISING
WAVERUNNER TOUR PATH
WHAT TO BRING
Q: What is Shell Island?
A: Shell Island is a natural, undeveloped island which lies between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay in Bay County, Panama City Beach, FL. The island is about seven miles long and anywhere from two hundred yards to three-quarters of a mile across. Shell Island is home to one of the world's highest concentrations of bottle-nosed dolphins. The island's pristine beauty and abundant wildlife make it an enjoyable and exciting way to spend the day. It is filled with tremendous sand dunes, a fresh water swamp, acres of woods and sugar-white sands. Shell Island offers excellent snorkeling, fishing and secluded beaches. There are no facilities or concessions on the island itself.
Q: How many people
does a pontoon boat carry?
A: Our pontoon boats are designed to comfortably carry 10
persons regardless of age.
Q: How many people does the 17 Boston Whaler carry?
A: The 17 Boston Whaler is designed to safely carry up to 4 adults or maximum of 800lbs.
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Q: I am a novice boater.
Can I safely operate a pontoon boat or Boston Whaler?
A: The Shell Island Boat Rentals fleet is made available to
novices. However, we recommend novices start with a pontoon boat
over a Boston Whaler when becoming familiar with the cruising area
and boat operation. Our area is filled with very shallow sandbars,
and pontoon boats need much less water to operate in than the Boston
Whalers. Should you find your pontoon boat accidentally stuck on
a sandbar, you can easily turn off the motor, raise the motor completely
up out of the water (as high as it will go), and get off of the
boat in order to push it BACK the way you came in - in other words,
BACK into deeper water ! A boater should never try to push his
or her boat ACROSS a sandbar - you will find this to be impossible!
On the other hand, before you realize it a Boston Whaler will likely
put you so far up onto the sandbar that youll find it very
difficult if not impossible to push the boat back to deeper water
without assistance from Sea Tow. When renting a boat we explain a map of the area and how to navigate the channel
markers and go through the boats with you. We also give you a chart of the
area. We thoroughly explain the use of channel markers and how the
different colors of the water can indicate depths so that you can
better recognize and avoid shallow areas. We then turn the boat
over to you and let you bring it back to our shore location. Good
news- no docking is ever needed with a pontoon boat! Pontoon boats
are easily beached on a calm shore.
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Q: What about snorkeling
gear and places to snorkel?
A: Snorkeling gear is available at local dive shops.
All sorts of tropical fish, game fish, sea urchins,
and more can be found. Also, encounters with the local friendly
dolphins can often happen around St. Andrews Bay. The St.
Andrews Bay side of Shell Island offers a great snorkeling adventure.
Here you can discover starfish, puffer fish, sea slugs, hermit crabs,
blue crabs and stone crabs, spider crabs, schooling bait fish, artificial
reefs, sting rays and more! Dont let some of these creatures
scary names frighten you--snorkeling in our area is very safe!
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Q: What do you suggest
for half-day and full day boat trips in the cruising area?
A: For half-day trips, Shell Island offers access
to protected swimming areas--great for snorkeling!
Anchoring your boat on the bay side of Shell Island, youll
find a nice beach area that leads to the Gulf side of Shell Island. Depending on your individual
experience, you may still have time to cruise a bit down the bay
side of Shell Island and snorkel some grass flats. It only takes 20 minutes to get to a great spot on the bay side of Shell Island.
In addition to these adventures, full day trips allow you to experience
more of Shell Islands bay side. The Anderson Pier area, about
5 miles down Shell Islands bay side, offers sandy bottom
swimming areas and several paths through the sand dunes to the ocean
side of the island. This is also the
end of Shell Island and as far as boats can go due to the water
becoming very shallow. With a full day to explore, youll have
more time to find your own secluded beaches to enjoy shelling, snorkeling or
whatever you like.
Whether youre renting for the half-day
or full day, be sure to bring a packed cooler for refreshments because
Shell Island remains undeveloped. Restroom facilities are not on
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Q: Will I see dolphins?
A: Our area is home to the worlds largest population of wild
bottle-nosed dolphins. Encountering these beautiful, intelligent
creatures is very common in St. Andrews Bay, the pass, and the Gulf
of Mexico. Although we do not guarantee dolphin sightings (and no
one should make this guarantee since the dolphins are wild and free),
your chances are very good- around 80% of our customers report seeing dolphins
in the bay. Swimming with the dolphins is a bit more difficult,
as they will often move away when humans enter the water. We generally
find the chances of swimming with the dolphins is 50/50. No one
in our area has ever reported an injury from a dolphin. However,
FEEDING/HARASSING/CHASING THE DOLPHINS IS ILLEGAL and we do not condone this at all.
these laws is both a state and federal offense.
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Q: Whats the
shelling really like on Shell Island?
A: Shell Island has been accurately named! And the rumors are false;
no person replenishes the shells on the island. The shells on Shell
Island all arrive completely naturally! Sand dollars, moon snails,
conch shells, and olive shells are just a few of the shells people
find on Shell Island, and theres no limit to how many you
can take for souvenirs. The waves along the seven mile Gulf beach
of Shell Island continually uncover and carry in new shells. As
the tides rise and then fall, many treasures are left behind just
waiting to be discovered! A snorkel and mask are very useful when
searching the sand bars along the bay side of Shell Island. Whole
sand dollars, for example, are often found in shin to thigh-high
water are buried a bit under the sand. Use your hands to sift through
the sands in order to find these shells. Keep in mind that sometimes
the shells contain living creatures, like hermit crabs and sea slugs.
Although there is no law protecting these animals, we do ask that
our customers exercise compassion and leave these shell homes
where you found them. We ask the same for all of the living creatures
of Shell Island, such as starfish and puffer fish. These creatures
need saltwater to live, and there are plenty of non-living souvenirs
to take home instead.
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Q: Where does the
waverunner tour take you?
A: If you are in search of a thrilling, unique way to see Shell
Island, our famous waverunner tour is the way to go! Your adventure
begins from the Grand Lagoon bridge on Thomas Drive. Riding your
own brand new waverunner, youll follow your guide through
the Grand Lagoon heading east past the campgrounds of St. Andrews
State Park and several marinas and dockside restaurants. Once outside
the lagoon, youre in beautiful St. Andrews Bay. Traveling
through St. Andrews Bay Pass, you will round the Jetty Rocks that
lead out into the Gulf of Mexico (weather permitting). This is often
a stopping point on the tour for dolphin encounters, photos and
swimming. Then youre off again as your guide takes you down
the bay side of Shell Island, exploring the many inlets and bays.
Zooming right along the coastline, youll make your way past
snow-white beaches to Lands End, the best beach for shelling
on the island. There, youll ride your waverunner right up
on the beach and take a short break. You may choose to collect shells,
take a swim, or whatever floats your boat. Once you climb back on
your waverunner, you can take this opportunity to switch drivers
if you wish.
From Lands End, you will circle Shell Island
and continue your adventure up the Gulf side of Shell Island. The
last leg of your journey has the sugar sands of the island on your
right and the wide open emerald sea to your left. Keep in mind that
this is the generalized tour plan. Each of our tour
guides has his unique tour style and may choose to mix
this plan up a little. You will likely discover all sorts of interesting
wildlife on the tour, such as blue heron, osprey, stingrays, tarpon
and of course, dolphins. Whenever dolphins are in sight, the tour
will stop in the water with these fun, intelligent creatures. Youre
welcome to jump in and swim with the dolphins if youd like,
and this is a great photo opportunity!
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Q: What should I bring
for a boat rental or waverunner tour?
A: For boat rentals, a cooler is a must. Remember that there are
no concessions on Shell Island, and the sand, sun and water tend
to make everyone extra hungry and thirsty! The usual beach equipment
(towels, sunscreen, hats) is a great idea as well. Some people bring
beach chairs, floats, fishing rods, bait and more. Just be sure
to save room on the boat for the people! We DO NOT recommend bringing
video cameras, and you may want to consider purchasing a disposable
waterproof camera instead of bringing your nice, expensive one.
Finally, you will not need money on Shell Island, so we recommend
locking your valuables in your car. We can keep your car keys if
you like--taking your keys on the boat can be risky since its
not uncommon to lose them to the surf or sand. If you are over 15
years of age and plan on fishing, you WILL need to purchase a fishing
license before you arrive at our location. Remember, there are no
restroom facilities on Shell Island, so plan accordingly. AS A SAFETY PRECAUTION,
WE ASK CUSTOMERS WITH A CELLULAR PHONE TO BRING IT ALONG FOR THEIR
For waverunner tours, the best rule of thumb
is to NOT bring anything that absolutely cannot get wet or jostled
around, such as regular cameras or video cameras. Instead, we suggest
purchasing a disposable waterproof camera. Most people regret not having a camera when they neglect
to bring one. This could be one of the most exciting things you
do all year! We also recommend bringing something NON-CARBONATED
to drink, as the waverunner ride tends to really shake things
up. Water and sports drinks are best. A small, soft-sided
cooler with a little ice works very well to keep drinks cold. Most
people do not bring any food. Be sure to slather on lots of sunscreen
and bring some along to repeat application once youre on Shell
Island. Having ONE towel per waverunner is also convenient for wiping
eyes, faces and sunglasses. Leave the other towels in the car so
you will have clean, dry ones when you return. Plastic grocery bags
work well at keeping towels basically dry in the waverunner storage
compartments. Most people wear swimsuits and sunglasses on the tour
(we recommend securing your sunglasses with a strap if theyre
the expensive kind). You WILL get quite wet. Water shoes are great,
although most people go barefoot. DO bring shoes to our location
since you will have to cross our parking lot on foot.
We will keep your shoes safe while youre on the tour. We do
not have lockers, so lock your valuables in your car, and let us
hold your car keys. DO NOT take your keys on the waverunner tour;
its almost guaranteed that you will lose them to the ocean
or beach! Finally, hats are very difficult to keep on when youre
doing 40 mph over the water. You can carry hats in the storage compartment
if you wish, but wearing them while riding is not recommended.
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