One of Florida’s top 10 parks chock full of adventure
Note: St. Andrews State Park is still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Michael on Oct. 2018. Call the park for updates at (850) 233-5140.
It doesn’t take long to understand why St. Andrews State Park is consistently named one of the top ten parks in the State of Florida. With more than 1,200 acres to explore, this park offers something for everyone to enjoy.
For the nature lover, St. Andrews is host to salt marshes, sand pine scrub and rolling sand dunes along more than 1 ½ miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The marsh areas are home to nesting snowy egrets, great egrets, blue herons and little blue herons. The park’s shoreline is the perfect habitat for nesting shorebirds as well such as least terns and snowy plovers. Other fauna commonly found in the park include white-tailed deer, gopher tortoise, raccoon, coyote, alligator, marsh rabbit and cottontail rabbit.
Two trails take the explorer through the sand pine scrub ecosystem offering stellar views of the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon in St. Andrews Bay. The Gator Lake Trail and overlook provide visitors with a beautiful vantage point for spotting alligators, wading birds and small animals. A 2-mile paved bicycle trail meanders throughout the park.
In addition to the main park, there is Shell island to explore – 770 acres of untouched nature. There you can explore the shoreline of both Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. A ferry is offered in the spring and summer to take you across Grand Lagoon to the island.
For the fisherman, the park offers two fishing piers; one located on Grand Lagoon, the other spans out into the Gulf.
Water sport enthusiasts can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing. A calm, shallow water area near the jetties is known as the “kiddie pool” and a great spot for the little ones to enjoy a swim.
The park boasts an environmental interpretive center near the front entrance. Built with funds raised from the volunteer group of Friends of St. Andrews, you can learn about the plant and animal life at the park.
The center offers an orientation video, ecosystem dioramas and exhibitions.
The park stays busy at their boat launch, as it is in close proximity to the Gulf.
Boat Launch and Entrance Fees:
$12.00 for one person with a boat.
$16.00 for 2-8 people with a boat.
St. Andrews was a former military reservation during WWII. Two of the original Army barracks are still standing and currently house the regional offices for the Department of Environmental Protection State Parks.
In 1942, at the onset of WWII, the U.S. Army established a Temporary Harbor Defense (THD) installation at this site overlooking the recently opened pass into St. Andrews Bay. The purpose was to protect the area from German submarines which were operating in the Gulf of Mexico.
The installation consisted of two 155-millimeter guns mounted on concrete called Panama Mounts. The steel track around the rim allowed the gun to rotate 360 degrees.
Troops of Battery C, 13th Coastal Artillery were assigned to establish the THD in April 1943. The site was inactivated on Jan. 14, 1944 without a shot having been fired at an enemy.
NOTE: Due to Hurricane Michael damage, camping is limited and on a walk-in basis only. Click here to learn more.
There are 176 campsites with electricity, water, picnic tables and grills. The sites will accommodate camping units ranging in size from tents to RVs up to 40 feet in length. Dump stations are located in the campground. Five bathrooms with showers and a laundry facility are also available. Trails, beaches, a boat launch and concessions are located a short distance from the campground. Leased pets are welcome at campsites.
Shuttle boat tours are offered to go from the mainland of the park to Shell Island in spring and summer. Visitors may wish to sun or walk along the shore of this pristine barrier island. Tickets are available at the park concession.
There are three stores in the park that are open during the summer season (March to Labor Day). These stores offers snacks, souvenirs, bait, fishing licenses, limited grocery items, and rental of chairs, umbrellas, snorkeling gear and kayaks. At this time there is no restaurant available.
4607 State Park Lane
Panama City, Florida 32408
Hours: The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.
$8.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
Bus Tour Admission for 1 to 29 passengers is $2.00 per passenger. 30 or more passengers is $60.00 total.
Boat Launch & Entrance Fees:
$12.00 for one person with a boat.
$16.00 for 2 – 8 people with a boat.
$28.00 per night, plus tax. Includes water and electricity. Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the federal government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees.