If you’re traveling to Florida, then it’s likely you’re planning to spend some time on the warm, sandy beaches that the Sunshine State is known for. Of course, one of the most memorable experiences at the beach is hunting for seashells. With over 1,300 miles of coastline, it can be daunting trying to figure out the best beaches in Florida for shelling, and likewise, for families. So, what are the best beaches in Florida for shells? And where exactly are they? To answer these questions, I’ve teamed up with some of Florida’s top travel bloggers. They’re sharing not only the best beaches in Florida for shells, but local hidden gems, rare shells, and local tips. Read on for everything you need to know before you go!
Best Beaches in Florida for Shells
BEST BEACHES IN FLORIDA FOR SHELLS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
While the laws and guidelines vary throughout state, country, and county, it is important to be aware of them prior to shelling.
In the state of Florida, seashell collecting is allowed as long as the shells do not contain a living organism.
There may be additional regulations depending on the location and type of shell being collected. For the complete guide to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s regulations, visit their website here.
Rare Florida seashells
Additionally, although it is largely accepted and legal, ethics should also be considered when shelling. Travel for Wildlife, a site dedicated to responsible travel, has a great guide to ethical shell collecting.
Remember that we share our beaches with other tourists, locals, and the wildlife who call it home.
In Florida, we have a saying: Leave nothing but your footsteps.
When preparing for your beach trip, remember to act responsibly and take anything back with you when you leave. For other ideas on helping our beaches, read about simple steps you can take to clean up the ocean, some without leaving your home.
1. SANIBEL ISLAND
Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida has one of the best shelling beaches not just in the country, but in North America.
Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Sanibel Island is just about three-hour drive from Tampa and makes a great weekend trip from the city. The curve shape and unique geography of the island has resulted in a variety of shells being continuously piled up on the beaches.
Shells of Sanibel
Shell lovers from all over the world visit here to add the beautiful and rare shells of Sanibel to their collection.
The beaches of Sanibel Island have about 300 species of shells and are a paradise for shell seekers and beachcombers.
We especially love the Lighthouse Beach. Here you will find the sand littered with shells of various colors, shapes, and types – some broken and some intact. Some of the popular shells on Sanibel Island include scallops, sand dollars, gastropods, and bivalves.
Shelling beaches in Florida
Sanibel Island is also home to Bailey Matthews Shell Museum, a museum devoted to the study of seashells and conches. A trip to this museum is must for seashell enthusiasts.
The museum exhibits beautiful sea shells found around the world, including the rare Junonia shell of Sanibel Island itself.
TIP: SANIBEL ISLAND’S BEST BEACHES FOR SHELLING INCLUDE ALL GULFSIDE BEACHES.
Apart from the amazing Sanibel Island shells, the beach also has many wildlife refuge areas and is home to a variety of animals and birds, and is rich in hiking trails.
-Ketki // Dotted Globe
2. NAVARRE BEACH
Located on the pristine Gulf Coast, Navarre Beach is a lesser-known beach paradise that remains one of the best beaches in Florida for shells.
Here, you’ll find white sandy beaches, crystal clear emerald waters, and miles of ocean without the crowds of tourists found elsewhere.
Thousands of seashells wash up on the shores of Navarre Beach every day. Additionally, the clear, calm waters make it perfect for spotting shells in the shallow waters.
Pictures of Navarre Beach Florida
Due to the fact that Navarre Beach, Florida is a hidden gem, the beach here offers plenty of shelling opportunities for everyone without the competition found elsewhere.
Best of all, Navarre beaches are also home to some of the most rare and beautiful species of shells in the state.
This includes the highly coveted Junonia shells. Other common finds here are sunray venus shells, worm snails, shark eye shells, tulip shells, scallops, the common American auger, and more.
Shell beaches in Florida
TIP: SOME OF THE BEST SEASHELLS AT NAVARRE BEACH WASH UP THE MORNING AFTER A STORM.
Furthermore, Navarre Beach is home to a variety of wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and several species of fish.
Best beaches in Florida for shells
Although it is a smaller town, Navarre is nestled between Pensacola and Destin, and offers plenty of activities and attractions nearby, making it an amazing destination for family-friendly vacations.
3. MARCO ISLAND
Growing up, everyone I knew was always talking about how the incredible beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel were the best beaches in Florida for shells.
While I agree that the shells there are definitely incredible and notewothy, it can be very difficult to find shells on those beaches. This is because so many people are there with the same goal as you: finding cool shells.
Did you know that most of the beaches along Southwest Florida’s coast have incredible shelling? My favorite hidden gem shelling beach is Marco Island’s Gulf-front South end.
Marco Island shells
Located only one hour south of the city of Fort Myers near Naples, Marco Island is a family-friendly, condo-studded island. On Marco, you can walk the shore while the Gulf of Mexico laps the sand and find a plethora of amazing shells.
In the past, Marco Island shelling has offered beautiful whelks, conchs, olives, angel wings, worm shells, and moon snails. In just about one hour, it’s possible to find shells that rival any Sanibel-seekers best collection.
Marco Island seashells
Half-day shelling tours from Marco Island to the neighboring 10,000 islands offer even better shells. Here, the shelling prospects are out of this world! I’ve found some great shells there and even had friends who have found junonias, horse conchs, and other rare local shells.
Don’t pass up a chance to visit Marco Island if you are interested in shells and in Southwest Florida!
-Savannah // Savvy Dispatches
4. BAREFOOT BEACH
Southwest Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, is known for its beautiful beaches and great shelling. One of our favorite shelling beaches is Barefoot Beach.
Located in Bonita Springs, a small town situated between Naples and Fort Myers, it’s easy to see why Barefoot Beach is one of the best beaches in Florida for shells.
Barefoot Beach shells
This beach is part of the Collier County Parks system and is located off of Bonita Beach Road, a few miles south down Barefoot Beach Blvd. The turn-off looks like you are going through a closed community of beautiful homes. However, if you are headed to the beach, you are permitted to pass through!
TIP: THE FEE TO PARK HERE IS $8 FOR NON-COUNTY RESIDENTS!
Barefoot Beach shells
We always find great shells at Barefoot Beach and the water is perfect for swimming and boogey boarding. What my kids love is visiting the nature shack! Volunteer docents are on hand to teach kids about local wildlife and they always have crafts and videos available.
In addition to great shells, it is very likely you will find a loggerhead sea turtle at Barefoot Beach!
-Harmony // Momma to Go
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5. CRAB ISLAND
When thinking about the best beaches in Florida for shells, Crab Island is likely not one to show up on most people’s radars. Even many locals and born and bred Floridans are not aware of the existence of this closely-guarded spot.
Fortunately, it is that same rarity that makes Crab Island a top shelling location.
The gorgeous and unique experience that is Crab Island in Destin, Florida should be one everyone’s bucket list.
Waist-deep warm crystal waters and floating restaurants, stands, and bounce houses make it a fun place to spot tropical fish and wildlife in the sparking Gulf waters. However, just a short ways away is one of the best beaches in Florida for shells.
To get there, leave Crab Island and head towards the direction of Navarre Beach and Pensacola. Almost as soon as you exit Crab Island, you can see a small sand dune covered in long grass on the left-hand side. There may even be a few other boats or snorkeling tours parked here searching for shells.
TIP: YOU CAN LEAVE CRAB ISLAND BY BOAT, KAYAK, JET SKI, OR TOUR, BUT DO NOT SWIM OUT. MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES ATTEMPTING TO DO SO AND IT IS NOT WORTH THE RISK!
In about 2 – 3 feet of water just near the shore, be prepared to find some of the most stunning and unique shells in the area.
Crab Island in Destin shelling
As mentioned previously, be sure to follow all rules and regulations regarding the wildlife. This area is full of hermit crabs. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are not disturbing any animals or their homes.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR SHELLS
Once you’ve visited at least one of the best beaches in Florida and gathered your shells, it will be time to clean and preserve them. Luckily, this is a simple task.
Since you’ve already ensured there are no animals or wildlife inhabiting your shell, the next step is to allow the shells to soak in water.
Add about one tablespoon of bleach to every gallon or so of water and allow to soak for a few hours.
Next, use an old toothbrush to scrub any dirt or tissue off of the shells, rinse, and dry.
Finally, spray the shells with a clear acrylic spray or rub baby oil on them for some shine.
Best seashell beaches in Florida
From Florida’s Southern tips, off the coastline, and up in the Panhandle, these are the five best beaches in Florida for shells. Happy hunting!