Now more than 1200 acres in size, St. Andrews State Park as it was originally known at its inception in 1947, comprised only a mere 302.87 acres along the Gulf Shore. This portion was purchased from the US Government at a bargain price of $2.50 per acre. Over the next 40 years, additional land was acquired in bits and pieces. The park first opened to the public in 1951, after repairs to the nearby Grand Lagoon Bridge made access to the park feasible. Many centuries ago, Native Americans visited these beaches to enjoy the shellfish which then abounded in the surrounding waters. Shell Island was created with the construction of the Gulf-Bay Pass in the 1930’s. During World War II the property served as military reservation.
Originally Lands End Peninsula, Shell Island was created when the Gulf-Bay Pass was dredged in the 1930’s. A visit to the island with its stretches of bright, sandy beaches backed by sea-oat capped dune system is a trip to the Florida of many centuries ago: primitive, unspoiled, peaceful. Good fishing can be enjoyed on both sides of the island and you may find a myriad of shells along the beaches. Seabirds nest in the dunes and sea turtles deposit their eggs above the high-water line in early to mid-summer. Visitors are asked not to disturb this habitat.
World War II
In 1942 the War Department selected the site overlooking the new pass for a temporary Harbor Defense installation and directed the emplacement of two 155 mm guns to be built among the dunes just west of the jetties. To this day one of the original gun mounts is now shaded by a pavilion to protect it from the elements.
Teddy the Hermit
The first known full-time resident of the land now occupied by the Park was a Norwegian-born sailor named Theodore Tollofsen, known affectionately as “Teddy the Hermit”. Left homeless when his 26 foot boat was wrecked and cast ashore on the south bank of Grand Lagoon by a hurricane in 1929, Teddy decided to homestead where the remains of his boat had been left, and he remained there for 25 years until his death in 1954 at age 74.
Cracker Turpentine Still
Visitors can learn about the turpentine era at the parks old Cracker Turpentine Still. The Cracker Turpentine Still was donated in 1963 from the Lewis Family and relocated from Bristol, Florida. The still is a replica of an operational turpentine still from the turpentine era when turpentine and rosin were indispensable to Naval stores.