Tucked discreetly on a peninsula literally a stone’s throw from civilization are 1,260 protected acres teeming with wildlife and unspoiled beaches. A visit to St. Andrews St. Park provides the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life, yet remains close to amenities and local attractions. Visitors will find a variety of activities to keep them entertained. In fact, there’s something for everyone. St. Andrews has over a 2½ miles of sugar white beaches for beach lovers, and almost endless acres of sand dunes, pine woods, and salt marshes to explore.
Along the beaches are jetties that provide shallow wading areas for the little ones, and also offers the perfect opportunity for snorkeling and fishing. Further down the beach visitors will find a pavilion that provides a shaded spot to watch passing boats and spectacular sunsets. There are two fishing piers located in the park. One can be found bay-side on Grand Lagoon, and the other is located on the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. The park also has a double-sided concrete launch for boats of almost any size.
Just across the channel from St. Andrews is Shell Island, aptly named for the beautiful shells that can be found along its beaches. The island can be reached by shuttle boat to provide a truly remote experience, as this 700-acre barrier island has remained undeveloped.
Trails, Overlooks and Bike Paths
The interior of the park offers two nature trails to explore. One trail winds along Gator Lake where visitors can see alligators and nesting birds. Visit the replica turpentine mill at the Heron Pond trail before setting off for a leisurely one hour hike through the pine flatwoods. Button Marsh Overlook is a birder’s delight. Expect to see a wide variety of birds. Button Marsh is also a good location to observe grazing deer and other small animals in the morning and evenings.
One of the best ways to view the park is by bicycle. There are two miles of paved roads on which to ride, and it’s an efficient and quiet way to move quickly around the park, allowing you a better opportunity to view some of the park’s wildlife.
St. Andrews State Park is home to several endangered and protected species like the Beach Mouse that makes its home in the sand dunes, and the Loggerhead sea turtles that come ashore to lay their eggs. When water temperatures are right, manatees may sometimes be spotted coming into the area.
The park has 176 camp sites available, all with grills, water, and electric hookups. Many of these campsites are only feet from the water. Reservations are strongly encouraged, as St. Andrews is one of the busiest parks in the state, with more than a million visitors annually.
In addition to campsites, the park offers eight pavilions, four bathhouses, three stores, three picnic areas, and two playgrounds. The visitor’s center also hosts an exhibit room where visitors can learn about the park’s history and various types of wildlife they may encounter. St. Andrews State Park is definitely a must-see if vacationing in the Panama City area, just don’t forget the camera or sun screen.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill