Shell Key is an uninhabited barrier island that is located between Fort Desoto Park and Pass-A-Grille. 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.
The only way to get to Shell Key is by boat. You can easily get to Shell Key to enjoy a few hours of relaxation away from the crowds. To catch the Shell Key Shuttle, head to Merry Pier, a small marina in the Pass-a-Grille section of St. Pete Beach-shuttles leave every hour during daylight hours in peak summer months. If you are traveling without four wheels, the Beach Trolley at St. Pete Beach will drop you off at Merry Pier.
At Shell Key, one can trek off the beaten path, away from the ferry drop-off to stake out a section of this barrier island. You can swim, snorkel, bird watch, or search for shells, all without another soul in sight. Bring along your snorkeling gear or ask the shuttle staff about their equipment rentals. Shell Key’s warm, clear waters offer views of stingrays, manatee, and clouds of fish. True to its name, Shell Key is also a shelling hot spot. Stroll the shores after high tide for the widest selection of ocean treasures.
To poke around the Shell Key Beach bird scene, try the mangrove tunnels on the northwest side of the island, follow them into the center of the island for an up-close-and-personal encounter with Shell Key herons and pelicans. And if you want a little company on the tranquil sands you can scan the shores further for more of your feathered friends. Shell Key Beach is also home to protected bird species including the American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, Snowy Plover and Black Skimmer. Surfers who are in on the Shell Key surf secrets head to the Gulf side of Shell Key for the biggest swells and plenty of elbowroom.
Keep in mind that Shell Key Beach is rustic and uninhabited so you won’t find lifeguards, a snack bar, or restrooms, should nature call. Bring along plenty of snacks or a bag lunch for a lovely little picnic on the sands. For a break from the St. Pete beach bustle, Shell Key is a mini-paradise practically a stone’s throw from the Florida mainland.