People from all over the world visit Florida every year. And if they are not coming to visit Mickey chances are they are coming to take advantage of one of the many beautiful beaches like Miami or Clearwater here in the Sunshine State.
But while some may find fun in slathering on the sunscreen (because boys and girls you need to wear sunscreen), others enjoy the water sports, and some like me just want to read a book under an umbrella something that many people love to do is go on a treasure hunt.
And that treasure hunt is for seashells. Now before you get too excited keep reading because not only are we sharing some of the best beaches in Florida for shelling but we are also talking about the dos and don'ts.
And if you're like me and like to skim I put together a handy list of the best shelling beaches in Florida below so that you can just skip around to the ones that you are most interested in.
So let's get started.
The Best Beaches for Shelling in Florida
Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
1. Sanibel Island
[Please note: Due to Hurricane Ian, visits to Sanibel Island are not recommended at this time. To learn more about Hurrican Ian recover efforts you can visit MySanibel for more information]
Photo Credit: Travlinmad
Just off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida on the shimmering Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State lies the island of Sanibel, a barrier island cut in two by a hurricane decades ago, separating it from Captiva Island by a narrow inlet that flows from the Gulf of Mexico.
Sanibel Island is the kind of island you seek for a laid-back and sandy tropical vacation where kids play in the surf and adults follow suit.
There are gorgeous white sand beaches, and some of the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel are still-undiscovered gems. In fact, Sanibel is known as the Shelling Capital of the US for the thousands of colorful seashells that wash up on its shores each day.
You’ll find many beautiful shells on Lighthouse Beach before the sky lights up at the end of the day with a fiery sunset. You won’t find high rise hotels or glitzy nightclubs on Sanibel.
In fact, buildings and hotels on the island cannot be higher than the surrounding palm trees, so most of the scenery is obscured by nature trails and trees.
The charming Sanibel Inn is located right on the beach and offers a perfect island stay. Go early or after a good storm, do the Sanibel Stoop and scoop up handfuls delicate gifts from the sea. They’re the perfect souvenir of your Florida vacation.
Submitted By Lori from Travlinmad
Where to Stay in Sanibel Island
[Hotels in this area are currently not accepting reservations. A visit to Sanibel Island is not recommended at this time]
Check out The Sanibel Inn. You can find rates and availability for The Sanibel Inn here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Sanibel Island here.
2. Marco Island
[Please note: Due to Hurricane Ian, visits to Marco Island are not recommended at this time. To learn more about Hurrican Ian recovery efforts you can visit the City of Marco Island website for more information]
Marco Island is located on the west coast of Florida near Naples. And it is a shell enthusiast's dream.
There is a reason why Marco Island tops the list of the best Florida beaches for shelling in Florida along with Sanibel Island.
Marco Island shelling attracts so many visitors because not only can you find amazing shells here but the island itself is home to some of the most beautiful and best shelling beaches in Florida.
Looking for more amazing places to visit in the US. Check out our list of places to visit in the United States.
In addition, Marco Island is the epitome or luxury and perfect for those looking for a resort style vacation with all the amenites.
If you are visiting for the day start off with a morning at Tigertail Beach. Here you will find a wide array of shells include exotic shells such as the junonia shells. While very hard to find if you are looking for them this is the place to keep your eye out for it.
After a day of shelling head on over to one of the many spots where you can get a bite to eat while watching the sunset over the gulf.
Where to Stay in Marco Island
[Hotels in this area are currently not accepting reservations. A visit to Marco Island is not recommended at this time]
Check out the Marco Beach Ocean Resort. You can find rates and availability for Marco Beach Ocean Resort here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Marco Island here.
3. Panama City Beach-Shell Island
Located just south of Panama City, Shell Island is a great spot to visit for shell enthusiasts or just someone looking for an alternative to Panama City beach.
Shell Island is only accessible by boat. Therefore it makes for a great day trip. The barrier island is 7 miles long and is part of a reserve so facilities are limited.
However there is plenty to do from shelling to enjoying the beautiful sandy beaches.
For those that are interested in shelling you will need to make your way about 5-10 minutes across the island from where the ferry drops you off. This is where you will start to see the shells that give this island it's name.
If you really want to find some of the prettiest shells visitors recommend wading into the water where you will find shells intact. You may want to pack your snorkel gear. (I love this set from Amazon).
Just remember if you choose to take the shells away make sure that they do not contain live animals.
Where to Stay in Panama City
Check out the Hyatt Place Panama City Beach. You can find rates and availability for the Hyatt Place Panama City here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Panama City here.
4. Caladesi Island State Park
Located in Dunedin, Florida on the west coast of Florida, Caladesi Island State Park is the perfect spot for shelling enthusiasts.
A visit to Caladesi Island is a great day trip for the whole family. While you enjoy shelling the rest of the family can go kayaking or just spend a lazy day on the beach.
The island is accessible only by boat which makes it a prime place to visit if you're looking to avoid the crowds.
The island is also a State Park and is protected with means that these beaches are virtually untouched and in their natural state. Being one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in the state of Florida it is definitely a must-visit.
While exploring the island you will find plenty of shells that have washed up to shore. Sometimes in piles even. It is dependent on the time of year as well as the tide.
However if you wade into the water here is where you will find some gems. However please proceed with caution and make sure that you are not picking shells with live organisms which not only is illegal but can cause harm to the ecosystem as well as the living organisms themselves.
Where to Stay near Caladesi Island
Check out the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Resort. This resort is great as the rooms include full kitchens so you can save money by cooking meals for the family that you can enjoy on your balcony while watching the sunset.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay near Caladesi Island here.
Navarre Beach, located on the panhandle is a beautiful beach and perfect for shell enthusiasts.
Not only can you find amazing shells here but unlike its neighbors Navarre Beach is a lot quieter. If you are looking for a relaxing beach getaway then Navarre Beach is the perfect spot for you.
The beach itself is perfection. Powder white sand and turquoise water makes it the perfect spot to spend a morning.
However the shells are what brings you here and you will not be disappointed. Sunray Venus and tulip shells are just some of the beautiful shells you can find here.
Check out the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Navarre Beach. You can find rates and availability for SpringHill Suites by Marriott Navarre Beach here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Navarre Beach here.
6. Barefoot Beach Preserve
[Access to Barefoot Beach Preserve is currently closed. Please visit the Collier County Parks website for up-to-date information.]
Barefoot Beach, one of the few undeveloped barrier islands still remaining in Florida is the perfect spot to go shelling in southwest Florida.
Easily accessible by car Barefoot Beach is a great option for those that do not want to worry about access or jumping on a ferry.
From Shark's Eye to Worm Shells there are so many good finds at Barefoot Beach.
Because it is not as popular as the neighboring Sanibel Island, Barefoot beach makes for a great alternative. In the mornings you can have the island mostly to yourself. And this where you find some of the most amazing shells.
Where to Stay near Barefoot Beach Preserve
Check out the Latitude 26 Waterfront Boutique Resort. You can find rates and availability for Latitude 26 Waterfront Boutique Resort here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay near Barefoot Beach Preserve here.
7. Venice Beach
A list of best shelling beaches in Florida would not be complete without a mention of Venice Beach.
Located on the gulf side of Florida, Venice Beach attracts visitors who are on the hunt for shark teeth.
Yes. You read that right. Shark teeth. Venice Beach is considered the shark tooth capital of the world. They even have a shark tooth festival every year in the spring.
Most people are unable to spot these shark teeth initially. It's probably because when you think teeth you think white or off white triangular shapes. However, these fossilized shark teeth are commonly brownish or black which can make them sometimes hard to find.
Once you find one, you will find dozens.
The Best Beaches for Shells on the East Coast of Florida
8. Flagler Beach
Photo Credit: Moyer Memoirs
The quiet relaxing shore on Flagler Beach is perfect for shelling. This beautiful beach is located on the east coast of Florida in the middle of St. Augustine. It is just north of Daytona Beach but with less tourists.
As the surf rolls out and deposits the empty seashells, you are likely to be the only one searching for those treasures. The beach stretches out for 6 miles on a flat, sandy, clean incline, gradually meeting the ocean.
The city of Flagler Beach is home to many waterfront open-air restaurants, shops, and a long fishing pier.
As far as accommodations, I definitely recommend that you try out the Beverly Beach Camptown for beachfront camping in your motorhome right on Flagler Beach.
They have many spots along the shoreline, so you will have to step right out of your camper, descend down the short beach access stairway, and you will be wading in the cool ocean water in seconds.
The RV resort is very pet-friendly so you can bring along your best friend to play in the waves too.
Not a fan of camping? They also have cute little cabins that you can rent.
Each morning, you can sip your coffee watching the surf and then walk along the shore in search of abandoned shells.
After you responsibly collect your souvenir shells from the beach, if you decide to take them home you can make awesome seashell crafts to display and remind yourself of the fun vacation you had at Flagler Beach.
Submitted By Michelle from Moyer Memoirs
Where to Stay in Flagler Beach
Check out the Beverly Beach Camptown. You can find rates and availability for Beverly Beach Camptown here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Flagler Beach here.
9. Mickler’s Beach
Photo Credit: Buddy The Traveling Monkey
Mickler’s Landing Beachfront Park is a great beach for shelling in Florida. This public beach is a favorite amongst locals and it’s easy to see why. It has beautiful pink, coquina-sand and of course, plenty of shells.
Mickler’s Beach is also a great place to search for shark’s teeth. The best times to search are at low tide or right after a storm.
Located on the east coast about 30 minutes north of historic St. Augustine, Mickler’s Beach is a great place to spend the day.
We really enjoyed our time there. It wasn’t overly crowded and walking up and down the beach looking at shells was really fun.
We also liked that Mickler’s Beach had really nice facilities. There is plenty of parking available and there are bathrooms and outdoor showers. There are benches and picnic tables as well as a handicapped-accessible walkway from the parking area to the beach.
You can also bring your furry companion to the beach, but they have to stay on a leash and you have to clean up after them.
We recommend basing yourself in St. Augustine as it’s just a short drive away and there are plenty of attractions to see there too. The St George Inn is a very popular place to stay and it’s within walking distance of museums, shops, and restaurants.
Submitted By Vicky from Buddy The Traveling Monkey
What beach in Florida has sand dollars?
10. Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island, located on the west coast of Florida is not only one of the prettiest beaches in Florida. It is also a great place to find sand dollars.
They are everywhere.
When wading into the warm crystal clear water you can sometimes see them right from where you are standing.
However, these beauties are there to be admired. Sand dollars are living creatures therefore they should not be removed. Especially if you find them in the water.
Where to Stay in Anna Maria Island
Check out the Anna Maria Island Inn. You can find rates and availability for Anna Maria Island Inn here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay in Anna Maria Island here.
11. Fort De Soto Beach
Fort De Soto Beach, located just outside of Tampa, Florida is a great places to visit for shelling.
Here you will find amazing shells such as lightning whelk shells as well as sand dollars. Here the sand dollars wash up to the shore so you may find sand dollars which are not live and can be taken away if you choose.
Please note that a telltale sign of a sand dollar that is not live is it is dried and turns a sun-bleached white color. You want to make sure to inspect it carefully and thoroughly if you decide to take these away.
We personally prefer to find them and admire them but usually leave them behind once we done for the day.
In addition to shelling, there is plenty to do at Fort De Soto. You can go kayaking or spend some time exploring the Island on the more than 7 miles of paved trails.
Where to Stay in near Fort De Soto
Check out the Inn on the Beach. You can find rates and availability for Inn on the Beach here.
You can find rates and availability for other places to stay near Fort De Soto here.
Things You Should Know Before You Go Shelling
Is it Illegal to Take Shells from the Beach in Florida?
While it is not illegal to collect shells from the Beach in Florida, there are limitations for those that chose to collect sea shells.
You can read more about the rules for recreational sea shell collecting in Florida here.
However here is a summary.
- Removing shells with a live animal in it is illegal and can result in fines. This also includes sand dollars, starfish or any other sea life that you may come across.
- Removal of seashells in certain counties maybe strictly prohibited. Therefore if you plan on removing shells please make sure to check the rules for that specific county.
The Ethics of Shelling
Is shelling harmful for the environment?
The short answer is it depends.
Studies like this one have shown that collecting shells to take away with you can be harmful to the ecosystem.
However, the other side of the argument is the amount of people and increase in tourism is to blame versus the actual act of shelling.
It pays to be educated and be informed. If you are unsure whether you should collect shells to take away or put back take a moment to read this article from The Guardian that also cites the same study.
Best Time To Go Shelling
The morning is the perfect time to go shelling. And ideally, if you are able to catch an A.M low tide that is even better.
In the mornings temperatures are cooler and there are less crowds. So chances are you will have the beach to yourself.
In the alternative if you are not able to get to the beach early try to time your visit with low tide.
What To Wear To Go Shelling
Any opportunity I have to dress for the occasion and you know I am there. but in this situation we want to be mindful of safety and comfort.
First, you should wear water shoes. Shells are sharp and you don't want to go at it barefoot. These water shoes come in all colors so you can match them up with your swimsuit.
Second, you want to wear or a hat or something to cover your head and face. The Florida sun is no joke and even though you may be near the shore and shuffling around in the water the reflection of the sun will cook you right up. So make sure to cover up.
Finally, wear sunscreen. If you don't listen to anything here then at the very least listen to that one piece of advice.
Types of Seashells You Can Expect to Find in Florida
The most common shell that people know about is the conch shells. While these shells are easily found in Florida harvesting Conch shells is illegal in the State of Florida so if you come across a conch shell it is best to admire them but do not plan on walking away with any.
The next most popular shells that you will see in Florida are Cockle Shells.
Sand dollars are also very popular in Florida. However please be careful. If you find a sand dollar in the water that is alive please put it back. It is not permitted to remove live animals from the habitat.
Other shells that you will come across are Junonia Shells (now quite rare), coquina shells and worm shells just to name a few.
What Beaches have the best seashells?
With miles of coastline this list is only just a handful of the the beaches in Florida with the best seashells. We put together a map below to help you plan your trip and visits.
Map of the Best Shelling Beaches in Florida