St Andrews State Park
In 1929, a hurricane washed up Theodore Tollofson’s boat onto the pristine white sands of a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. He had never seen such a beautiful place. ‘Teddy, the Hermit’ never left. He turned his boat into his home and lived on the beach for twenty-five years.
This tropical paradise is now St Andrews State Park, a peninsula with the Gulf on one side and the waters of St. Andrews Bay on the other. Over a mile and a half of white sugar sand beach, perfect for swimming or lolling in the sand, rolls down to brilliant green water. In between the Gulf and the Bay is 1200 acres of undeveloped land and swamp with hiking trails. Gator Lake is aptly named. Be careful. And bring your camera. You can get up close with the deer, tortoises and even the gators.
What to do in the Park
- Swimming – All the beaches you could want. Please – no swimming in Gator Lake.
- Fishing – Surrounded by water, the park offers some of the best fishing in the area. Piers extend into the Gulf and into the Bay, while jetties offer fishing closer to shore. Boat rentals are also available.
- Snorkeling and SCUBA Diving – Equipment can be rented in the park. Brightly colored marine life thrives around the jetties.
- Hiking – Nature trails crisscross the park, providing the setting for plentiful wildlife. Bird watching is especially popular
- Kayaking – Kayaks and canoes are also available for rental.
- Bicycling – You can rent a bike and explore the whole park.
This seven-mile-long spit of land is part of St Andrews Park, separated by the ship channel from the Gulf to the Bay and the Grand Lagoon. The scrub forest and pine hammocks are home to deer and flocks of shorebirds. An inland lake provides water for the animals. The island was named for the multitude of shells that lined the beaches. The multitude of shells have been taken home as souvenirs by a multitude of tourists. Because the land is undeveloped, there are no restroom facilities, no food vendors, no trash cans. Take what you need and pack it all back out.
How to get there
There are shuttles that make the run to Shell Island frequently during the day. You can also rent a canoe or a kayak. You can even rent a pontoon boat, some of which seat up to twelve people. Or you can arrange a tour. Dolphins are often seen off the island and the fishing is excellent.
RV Camping at St Andrews State park
St Andrews Park has 176 campsites, although not all are set up for RVs. Each RV campsite has electricity, water, grills, and picnic tables. The Park, however, suffered significant damage from Hurricane Michael and RV camping is limited. Make your reservations early. If you are unable to make a reservation, there are quite a few RV camping sites outside the park.
What to do in the area
- Restaurants – From fine dining, crab shacks, pubs, and pizzerias to fast food, they are all relatively close.
- Amusement parks – You can play miniature golf or go for the rides. One has a maze the size of a football field.
- ZooWorld Zoological and Botanical Conservatory – An educational and fun experience for the whole family.
- Golf courses – More than a dozen highly rated courses are close by.
- Fishing charters – Spend a day on the water and catch dinner.
- Dolphin tours – There are many to choose from. Each offers an experience you won’t forget.
- Sailing – Spend some time on a sailboat, the wind in your hair, feeling the ship move under your feet.
- SCUBA dive with experts – SCUBA diving is a thrilling sport but should be done with guides if you are not certified. Another experience you will keep in your memories.
- There’s even a pirate ship you can go out on.
- For a more relaxing time, take a tour of a winery.
No matter what your favorite outdoor activity may be, you can probably find it in the Park or close by. Experience the barrier islands. ‘Teddy’ Tollofson thought it was paradise. After a visit to this Park, you may very well agree with him.
For more information, please visit the St Andrews State Park homepage on floridastateparks.org or call 850.708.6100.