Shell Key Management Plan 2007- boundaries and use zones.
My husband and I intend to camp on Shell key this Feb. We are very familiar with Leave No Trace principals and the importance behind it. I was wondering though, is there a place to park our car safely for the night while we carry our backpacks/tent out to the beach to camp? We have already applied for the permits, just wondering about getting there and parking legally.
There is actually no way to hike to the South Public Use area – where camping is allowed. Even though the north end of Shell Key now connects with Tierra Verde, it is technically not allowed to go around the fence and walk on to the North Public Use Area of the island. Also, the north and south public use areas are split by the Bird Protection Area (BPA) – which is off limits to people. So, you really need to either take a boat or a shuttle to the south end for camping. This company will apparently rent kayaks overnight. The island ferry will also take campers to the south end. That being said, the safest place to leave your car overnight would be at the Ft. Desoto Boat ramps. There is a fee ($6, I think) which can be paid at the kiosk on the way in.
Hope this helps!
First timer coming in a few weeks, Taking our 35-foot formula cabin up form Sarasota loaded with a jet ski, paddle boards, and kayak. Where is the best place to tie up and anchor for a night or two? Looking to use the boat during the day to go play and then anchor up and camp on the bach with the boat tied up nearby.
Whats the best area to do this, would you suggest tucking up being the island to prevent wake issue/ not being in the channel.
Any advice would be great!!
Camping is allowed only in the South Public Use Area – and as such, you have 3 choices: Gulf Side, Bunces Pass Side, or inside of Bunces Pass….
The gulf side is a great place to set up camp, but I do not recommend anchoring your boat on that side of the island due to the potential for rough seas and currents. I would not sleep well if my boat was anchored on the west side of the island.
Inside Bunces Pass is my favorite place to anchor for camping – because the waters are always relatively calm. However, this area can get very shallow and would not be a good choice for a larger boat. I like to take my 21ft tub to this spot for safe harbor – and then walk to the gulf side to camp on the beach free of Sandspurs. Best of both worlds. However, I stress that your 35ft Formula would almost certainly run aground in this area. You could pick this spot which has a very deep channel close to shore, but getting in and out could be problematic depending on the tides.
My recommendation would be to pick a spot on the Bunces pass (south) side of the island. The waters are calmer than the gulf side – and it remains relatively deep all the way to shore – so you don’t need to worry about the tides leaving you high and dry. There are usually more people camping on this side – due to the easy access – however, if you are camping in winter, there will not be many other people out there. (personally I only camp on the island in winter because there are fewer people and I love the cold). I usually double-anchor with my stern toward shore for easy access.
Hey Jack…..I have been camping on shell island for over twenty years and know the waters good. The sandbar outside of bunces pass keeps growing and is not included in the maps of the area. Is this considered part of the park? I will be camping on this sandbar and am not sure if it is subject to park rules. Also, is sister key off limits to camping?
Sister Key is definitely off limits for camping – but the sandbar west of the preserve boundary outside Bunces Pass is fair game as far as I know. Since it is not within the preserve boundaries, it should not be subject to the rules in the Shell Key Management Plan. I have seen plenty of folks on that sandbar with dogs and booze. Of course, I can’t guarantee that Law enforcement will leave you alone. I would carry a printout of the preserve boundary map with me just in case. That sandbar is technically owned by the State of Florida – and not Pinellas County. So you would only be subject to the laws which govern unincorporated land in our state. I’m sure I don’t need to mention that a “leave-no-trace” ethic is always appreciated in any natural area.
Hope this helps.
Hi! How clear is the water there? Is there much sand?
Water clarity in our area varies greatly, but in general, they are not as clear as some other areas like the Florida keys. Even on a good day, your visibility near shore is not usually better than about 10 feet. As you head out into the gulf, the water clarity improves. I have seen a variety of conditions while scuba diving many miles out in the gulf – ranging from over 30 feet to almost no visibility at all. Sand, in particular, is not a cause of poor visibility because it sinks to the bottom quickly. The major cause of murky water in this area would be algae and plankton. As a result, the water clarity is usually best in the winter time when algae growth is at a minimum.
Are there any volunteer opportunities available on the island?
We are planning a cleanup later this summer and appreciate any and all help. We will post the event here and on our facebook page. You could also contact Tampa Baywatch to see if they have any events planned. As always, you are encouraged to pick up any trash from the island and post your efforts on social media to share 🙂
if you Kayak to shell key and want to walk around or snorkel, Can the kayaks be secured somewhere?
I suppose you could try to lock your kayak on to some mangroves, but I have never heard of anyone swiping a boat on Shell Key 🙂
Thanks for a great website. Can we get to the bird preservation area/idle wake speed ? From the map it isn’t very clear since the north area is restricted so trying to understand how we get on the inner side from north / pass a grille ? Thanks again
You are not allowed to access the bird preservation area at all. The best way to get to the inside of the island is from the south end by boat – or from the east by kayak.
I’m a first timer here. Where are some spots to launch a kayak from…..and how long is the paddle to get to some good shelling areas?
I usually go paddling over to Caledesi to go shelling since it is closer drive for me….but it sounds like the shelling is much better at shell key.
Thanks for any advice!!
A lot of people like to launch from the side of the Bayway at Tierra Verde. This spot on the side of the road is popular for day visitors. You can get all the way to Shell Key without entering any large boating channels.
Coming down the Intercoastal water way from the north what is the best way to get to north beach without running a ground this will be our first trip to shell key
You will be coming in through Pass-a-grille and there should be well marked channels all the way to the island. If you stay inside pass-a-grill, you can pretty much drive your boat right up to the island. If you go out of the pass into the gulf, there are sandbars to avoid. Here is a navigation page with maps and images to help. If you need any help navigating the intercoastal waterways to the north, please let me know. Have fun!
Where is the snorkeling areas and charter trips that may be
Here is a reply to an earlier post about snorkeling locations …
You might try one of the shuttle services (Shell Key Shuttle, Island Ferry, etc) to see if they offer any guided snorkeling trips.
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