15 Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

The sandy beaches of Florida draw people to the state for vacation throughout the year, although it is usually for many different reasons.  Whether a person simply wants to sit in the sand and relax, swim in the sparkling water, or watch the dolphins frolic out in the distance, every beach offers exactly what a person wants when they are away from home.  However, what happens if you want to do a little shelling at a Florida beach? Do all the beaches offer the same shelling results? You may be surprised that shelling is not the same at all Florida beaches and that some beaches offer better experiences than all the others.  

What is Shelling?

When you go shelling down on Florida’s beaches, you are basically looking for, finding, observing, and then collecting shells from the sand.  Most of the time, people just grab a few seashells that pique their attention, but a few people are quite serious when it comes to shelling. Those people spend hours on the best shelling beaches in the world, hoping for the perfect find.  

How to Find Big Shells on the Beach?

Most big shells on the beach can be found out in the water, because they haven’t been washed up onto the beach and back into the water multiple times yet.  However, many larger shells can be found on the beach itself, you just need to look carefully for them off the main path.  

15 Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

1) Sanibel Island

One of the best shelling beaches in the world is on Sanibel Island, but be prepared to arrive early to avoid the crowds.  Sanibel Island shells are definitely worth the short drive over the bridge to this island from Ft. Myers. The shape of this island is why so many shells end up on the sand, especially after a storm. 

Sanibel Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: James St. John, Flickr CC BY 2.0

The best place to find seashells on Sanibel Island is where the indentation from the “J” shape is, because that is where the waves will bring the most shells up to the shoreline. The most common Sanibel Island shells include conchs, coquinas, tulip shells, lightning whelks, and sand dollars.  

2) Navarre Beach

There are not too many glass beaches in Florida, but out of the few, Navarre Beach is the glass beach in Florida you want to visit.  The Navarre beach shells are different than the shells you will find on the other beaches in Florida,

Navarre Beach - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

because they all look and feel like glass.  You never know what type of Navarre beach shells you will find on any given day, because the wind and the sand from the sand dunes are constantly creating new pieces for you to discover.  

3) Barefoot Beach

Barefoot Beach can be found in Naples and it is one of the best places to find seashells in Florida.  There really isn’t much of a difference between Gulf Coast seashells and shells from the Atlantic side,

Barefoot Beach - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: DeaShoot, Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

but there are a few differences when it comes to the amount of shells available.  Over on this shell beach Florida, you can wander through the three hundred forty-two acres of the Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park after you find the shells of your dreams.  

4) Crab Island

Crab Island is a shelling beach in Florida that can be found in Destin.  Despite its name, Crab Island is not an island, but an underwater sandbar that can easily be reached by boat. 

Crab Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

You can spend hours out at this sandbar, as you search for the best seashells in Florida. This area is very busy during the summer months, so you may want to plan your trip carefully if you want to beat the crowds.  

5) Marco Island

There are plenty of shelling beaches on Marco Island and many of them are considered the best beaches in Florida for shells.  Marco Island shelling is usually as easy as heading over to Tigertail Beach, because that is the one that offers the best results. 

Marco Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

A few of the best shells available on Marco Island include conch shells, starfish, moon snail shells, calico scallops, and sand dollars.  South Beach is another Marco Island shelling destination and you may prefer it, because it is less crowded than Tigertail.  

6) Caspersen Beach

Caspersen Beach is one of the best beaches for shells on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  It is best to walk along the Caspersen’s nature trail to reach the lower portion of the beach, because it offers a more secluded shelling experience. 

Caspersen Beach - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Andy Montgomery, Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

This beach is more isolated than all the other beaches in Venice and while the sand is darker than the rest of the local beaches, it is not from being dirty.  Instead, it is just the color of the sand, which almost looks like black in color. It is recommended that you look in the shallow waters for shells, as that is where they usually hide at this beach.  

7) Cape San Blas

Cape San Blas contains seventeen miles of uninterrupted seashell bliss in Florida.  The seashells you will find will all look as if they could be on a souvenir shop shelf, since they are all so picture perfect. 

Cape San Blas - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

You will mostly find scallop shells at this shelling beach in Florida, because there are many scallops out in the water. In fact, you can combine scalloping with shelling when at this Florida beach if you want the most well-rounded experience.  

8) Sunset Beach in Treasure Island

It should not be surprising that Sunset Beach on Treasure Island is one of the best beaches for shells in Florida, because what other reason could there be for giving this island its name?  There are many seashells on this beach, and you have the chance to find exactly what you are looking for during a visit.

Sunset Beach,Treasure Island
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

While you can spend time at Sunset Beach at any time of the year, it is usually best to avoid the area during spring break since many college students arrive for a little time in the sun.  Therefore, plan your trip for before the time the crowds hit, or for a couple weeks after, when the sand and the shells have had time to recuperate from all the action.  

9) Anna Maria Island

There is seven miles of seashell beaches on Anna Maria Island and every single one of those miles is perfect for finding the best seashells in Florida.  You will barely be able to walk on the sandy shoreline without stepping on a seashell on these beaches,

Anna Maria Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

so you will want to use caution when you are out searching.  After all, you are not going to want to crush a big seashell into millions of pieces, simply because you didn’t see it before you put your foot down.  

10) Captiva Island

There is a road that connects both Sanibel and Captiva Islands, so you can easily do a little shelling on them both.  After finding all your Sanibel Island shells, you can easily drive over the bridge to the seashell beaches on Captiva. 

Captiva Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Pat (Cletch) Williams, Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Captiva Island shells will be very similar to the Sanibel Island shells, so you may want to consider starting here before venturing over to Sanibel Island.  This option can benefit you since Captiva Island is not as popular when it comes to shelling in Florida, so you may find exactly what you want in a shorter amount of time.  

11) The Ten Thousand Islands

The Ten Thousand Islands are many small islands right off the coast of Florida, not too far from Marco Island.  Not too many people visit these islands, which is why it is one of the best places to find seashells in Florida. 

Ten Thousand Islands - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Some of the more rare seashells can be found on this shell beach Florida, including the Junonia shells that serious shellers want on their shelves.  While you can easily make your way over to any of these islands on your own, it is better to take one of the shelling tours that are offered.  

12) Cedar Key

Cedar Key is towards the northern part of the state and these islands are full of seashell beaches.  Since these islands are not very well-known, you may find that you have them to yourself during your shelling adventures. 

Cedar Key - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The best part about Cedar Key is there are tidal pools and those pools keep the shells in one place after the tide shifts. It is best to visit this area during low tide, especially when you are searching for seashells.  

13) Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island shelling is the best way to spend time inside Caladesi Island State Park.  You can only reach Caladesi Island via boat, so you will need to plan your shelling trip there carefully. 

Caladesi Island State Park - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida
Credits: rcgtrrz, Flickr CC BY 2.0

It is easy to hop onto the ferry that travels to the island, but that same ferry returns to the mainland exactly four hours later so you must keep an eye on the time.  If you take your own boat, you will not need to be so concerned about how much time you are spending looking for seashells.  

14) Venice Beach

Venice Beach is one of the seashell beaches that normally gets left off a person’s list in Florida, which is a shame since it is an amazing shell beach in Florida. 

Venice Beach - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

While you will find numerous shells on this beach, it will be the numerous sightings of shark teeth that will capture your attention the most. It is also possible to find many fossils along this beach, so you will want to keep your eyes open as you are walking along the shoreline.  

15) Lover’s Key Island

There are a couple beaches over near Ft. Myers, but none of them hold a candle to the shelling beach on Lover’s Key Island.  This is one of the best shell beaches in Florida when you want solitude, because there is hardly ever anyone there.

Lover’s Key Island - Best Shelling Beaches in Florida

This may be due in part that there are no other amenities at this beach, but you shouldn’t mind since you only want to find the best seashells there during your visit.  You will definitely want to plan a little extra time for this seashell beach, because it will take you a little time to walk there from the parking area.  

Expert Tips for Shelling

When it comes to expert tips for shelling, the one thing you must know is that it is always best to look for shells in the morning.  The mornings after strong winds, or heavy storms, are even better, because more shells will be visible with the low tide.  

You should never rush when shelling, because that is how you will miss the best shells.  It is also important that you check areas that many other people will skip over. So, check out those massive boulders or by those large pieces of driftwood.  

Even if you are not planning on picking up any seashells on your trip to the beach, you will want to be prepared with a bag or a bucket.  You can use those items to store the shells you happen upon during your visit. It can also be helpful to have a small rake or shovel, because you never know when you will find a gem amongst all the broken shells.  

When you are vacationing in Florida, you should check the same seashell beaches every single day, because you never know what will wash up onto the sand.  A major storm can bring in pristine shells one day, while the next may have the majority of the shells in crumbles from people walking over them. Therefore, do not plan to search for shells just once during your time in this part of the world.  

The one thing you shouldn’t do when shelling in Florida is take home any shell that still has a live creature in it.  This is especially true with the sand dollar Florida. Removing a live shell can result in a hefty fine if you are caught, so check those shells carefully and toss any that you are unsure of back into the water.  

These are the best shelling beaches in Florida and each one offers something unique that you will love.  While you probably won’t be able to visit all these seashell beaches during your visit, you should be able to get to at least a couple from this list.  This will ensure you have the best chance to find the perfect seashell to add to your collection when you get home.  

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