Best of St Pete Beach



Shell Key Preserve, Florida

Shell Key Florida

Where: Shell Key is an uninhabited barrier island that is located between Fort Desoto Park and Pass-A-Grille. The only way to get to Shell Key is by boat. Pass-A-Grille is right across the pass to the north of Shell Key, and Fort Desoto Park is right across Bunces Pass to the south. Tierra Verde (a developed island of luxury homes and condos) is a short distance east of Shell Key.

Parking: No cars on the island.

Hours: Never closes, but don't miss your boat ride home!

Facilities: None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Zip.

Lifeguards: No lifeguards. You are on your own.

Food: Only what you bring. There is no place to buy food on Shell Key.

Trolley stop: Nope. But you can take the Shell Key Shuttle! Surfing: Yes, there is surf on the Gulf side, but I don't know if anyone surfs there. Could be a good spot.

Tip: Go during the week if you prefer a quiet experience. Weekends bring lots of recreational boaters that converge on the island to party.

The island is about 2.5 miles long and has about 180 acres of dry land. However the entire preserve covers over 1700 acres, including Shell Key, some smaller islands, and many acres of shallow water grass flats and mangroves. Significant sections of the island are off-limits to humans because they are a wildlife preserve.

Shell Key is popular with boaters, nature lovers, kayakers, snorkelers, shellers, fishermen, campers, and astronomers, who take advantage of the dark nights on the island without lights.

You can easily get to shell key to enjoy a few hours relaxing away from the crowds. Most of the charter boats that make the trip to Egmont Key also have excursions to Shell Key. However, the first choice for most people would be the Shell Key Shuttle, which leaves from the Merry Pier, located on the bay side of Pass-A-Grille at 8th Avenue (801 Pass-a-grille Way).

shell key shuttle leaving the docks at the merry pier
Above: The Shell Key Shuttle leaving the docks.

Cost: $22.00 adults; $11.00 children 12 and under (plus tax)

Departs: 10:00, 12:00, and 2:00

Returns: 12:15, 2:15, or 4:15, your choice.

Parking is metered and the Shuttle offers a $2 parking pass. You can make reservations (I'd recommend it) but it is not required.

The Shell Key Shuttle also offers a one-and-a-half hour sunset cruise.

If you are staying on St. Pete Beach and don't have a car, the Beach Trolley will take you right to the Merry Pier to catch the Shell Key Shuttle.

Someone on the TripAdvisor website made the following comments about their experience with Shell Key: "...we sort of tripped upon the Shell Key shuttle, and went back almost daily after the first trip. It was like a picnic on a deserted island. Very relaxing, reasonably priced, and easy to get to..." That pretty much sums it up. No reason to visit St Pete Beach without heading over to Shell Key.

family outing on shell key

Keep in mind that there are at present no restrooms on Shell Key, nor is there food or water. Whatever you may need will have to be brought along. There are no trash cans either, so plan on carrying your trash back off the island when you leave.

sailing near shell key

If making the short trip to Shell Key really interests you, I suggest that you learn more about this wonderful little island by visiting It is the most comprehensive and informative website on Shell Key. 

Pinellas County's website has the details of the Shell Key Preserve Management Plan if you care to know more about island politics, environmental preservation, and human use. It's pretty interesting, actually.



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