Shell-lovers from all over the world make pilgrimages to tiny Sanibel Island’s Gulf Coast, considered the best shelling spot in North America.
Piles of shells line the beaches, hiding countless treasures that are exclusive to our little slice of paradise. Here you’ll find helpful information to have the most shelling success!
Laws For Harvest
Getting that great find of a whole unbroken shell is exciting. And it is permitted in just about every beach in Florida. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one location that does not permit collecting anything that you find on the shore, even empty seashells. Along most shorelines, however, it remains a fun pastime and recreational activity. It is important to know that if you pick up a shell with a live animal in it, or a sand dollar, starfish, or other sea life that is alive, you need to put it back. Taking live creatures from their habitat on a Florida beach is illegal and can result in hefty fines.
The best time to go out in search of your elusive Junonia is early in the morning, during low tide. Even better if it is the day after a big storm or winter winds. Depending on your propensity for getting wet, wading out into the water, and digging for shells can be a fantastic way to get a big haul-just make sure that there are no little critters in there!
Every beach has different characteristics, with shells of different kinds and qualities. But Turner Beach is the clear choice for the best shelling beach on Sanibel and Captiva beaches. It is usually uncrowded which makes hunting for the best shells easy, with plenty of opportunities to find unique or rare shells that are not already in your collection.
Located mid-island, Tarpon Bay Road Beach has high sands, giving the beach a different look. A walk along the shore will turn up an assortment of seashells, as well as hotels and condos. However, keeping with city codes only low-rise buildings are allowed, so don’t expect any towering condominiums to cast shadows on the sunny beach. It’s also a dog-friendly spot so pupper is welcome to dig for shells too—as long as he’s on a leash
Blind Pass Beach is considered the best spot to find larger shells, Blind Pass Beach is a favorite with serious shell seekers. You might even want to take a long-handled net or shell scooper and wade knee-deep into the water to scoop shells off the bottom. This usually turns up an interesting bounty, including an occasional live shell that has to be returned to the sea. The beach sits on the northwest edge of Sanibel, where a bridge crosses over to Captiva Island.