I’d been wanting to go to Shell Island, not having visited since childhood. There are many excursions that will take you over there but I feel very fortunate that I found the St. Andrew Bay Ferry. For just a low fare of $19.95 per person, owner, Hal, and his crew will bring you and your family (no extra charge for your dog!) to the section of the island that is not controlled by the state park. What does this mean for your excursion? Well there are many advantages of being brought in to this area of the island. For one thing, you are not charged a State Park fee. You are allowed to bring your dog and keep them off leash (you are responsible for bringing all waste back with you!) Plus, the boat stays beached for the approximate 2 hours that you are on the island, which gives you a place to go for shade, a place to leave your belongings, a restroom and access to the snacks and drinks they sell on board.
St. Andrew Bay Ferry is a super relaxed choice and the price is right. Not only is the fare to ride very reasonable, they don’t gouge you on the drinks and chips and they also give you the option to bring your own if you want and that includes alcohol if you wish.
We left the St. Andrews Marina at a little after the scheduled departure time of 1pm yesterday. There was a family running a little late so Hal and his crew were kind enough to not only wait a few minutes but even bring the boat back to the dock when they saw them pull up in the parking lot. The ride from the marina to the island is approximately 30 minutes and during the ride, Hal serves as tour guide, pointing out such things as the Navy base, Air Force base and other sights along the water. He also explains that we may likely see some dolphins on the way to or from the island and gives his passengers some instructions if so.
When the boat arrived on the island we had the choice of staying near the boat and swimming around that area, renting water sports equipment from the boat tied up next to us or walking across to the Gulf side and the beach and enjoying the nearly untouched sand over there. Another option was to explore the fresh water lakes on the island, though Hal warned us that there might be encounters with wildlife.
We started out by the boat and didn’t get any farther because of a huge unforeseen storm that came in and chased us all back onto the boat, where we waited, hoping to get the chance to enjoy all that the island has to offer. While we waited, the crew brought out the party hats and bubbles to keep everyone entertained. It was a fun place with lots of windows to watch the lightning show!
Since the storm didn’t really let up, we had to ride back to St. Andrews Marina early. Hal gave everyone the option to come back the next day for a free trip so that his customers would have a chance to get what they paid for.
The Shell Island and Dolphin Cruise is offered in good weather each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1pm and lasts til approximately 4:15 or 4:30. They also offer a sunset cruise on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I can’t wait to try that one!