Best Beaches

Shell Key – Uninhabited Crystal Clear Perfection – Perfect for Shelling, Snorkeling & Loafing

John and I took the Hubbard’s Ferry from the boat ramp at Fort Desoto for a day of snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on a true Florida Island Paradise, Shell Key.

Shell Key Preserve is a natural uninhabited barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, just south of St. Pete Beach at  Bunces Pass. Because you can only get there by boat, it is uncrowded and is the perfect place to walk the white sands and find some beautiful shells. If you enjoy snorkeling, the crystal clear water that surrounds the key provides clear views of those hard-to-find special shells that haven’t washed ashore yet.

A video view of our day

The undisturbed Island provides a sanctuary to many native shorebirds and is a great spot to bird watch.

You never know what type of sea creatures you might see at Shell Key, and dolphin sightings are almost a guarantee.

If you prefer to do nothing but sit back and relax on a quiet, uncrowded beach, it would be hard to find a better spot than the unspoiled white sand of Shell Key. So take your chair, umbrella, sunblock, snack, cooler, and you will be all set to unwind in a perfect paradise setting.

Know before you book

  • There are no facilities on Shell Key, so you will have to do what the fish do.
  • There are also no concessions on the key, so do remember to take plenty of refreshment to stay hydrated and pack at least a snack.
  • The Florida sun can burn you in less than 15 minutes, and there is no shade on Shell Key; I recommend you take the strongest sunblock you can find.
  • I recommend that you book the early departure; this will give you the option to spend more time on Shell Key. Of course, you can always leave on the earlier return trip back to the boat ramp if you need to, but if you take the 2nd or 3rd trip of the day, you will only have less time on the Key.
  • Hubbard’s Shell Key Ferry has 3 departure and return trip times depending on the season. Check their official website for times. Ferry fares are $25 adult and $12.50 for children 11 & under. Online reservations are highly recommended. For your convenience, here is the link to Hubbard’s Shell Key Ferry official site.
  • You do not need to pay to park at the boat ramp. Instead, the ferry captain will give you a parking voucher to display on your dash. Hold on to that voucher because you can get a $5 discount on other boat excursions that Hubbard offers.
  • The Ferry departs from the boat ramp at Fort Desoto. The address is 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde, FL 33715

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