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Shell Key

Categories: Beach, Nature preserve

More in this neighborhood: South Pinellas beaches

The 1,800-acre Shell Key Preserve is a little bit of undeveloped barrier island and a whole lot of sheltered shallow water with sea grass beds and some smaller islands. Most of the land of the preserve has been owned by the state for decades, but only recently has it been placed under a protection plan to protect its vital habitat for nesting shorebirds.

Of the 1,800 acres, only about 10 percent is the actual Shell Key and much of the middle of that is off limits at least part of the year, but the beach is still attractive for a visit because it is pristine. There are no services, no restrooms, no water fountains, no garbage cans, no nothing, but it is perfect beach and an excellent, aptly named place for shelling. Alcohol and pets are banned from the island.

There are no amenities, other than undisturbed environment, which some would say is the finest amenity of all. But anything you want on the key you have to bring, and you have to bring your garbage back with you. You can sunbathe, swim and hike around unrestricted areas, and you can even camp overnight, with a permit,  in the southern area. But remember you have to bring your life with you and take it home again. Shell Key is one of the state's most important areas for shorebird nesting and is a study area.

One of the commercial services, the Shell Key Shuttle, leaves from the Merry Pier on Pass-a-Grille.

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Shell Key - South Pinellas beaches