Select Page

You might have known that June 21 is the first day of summer. It also happens to be National Seashell Day, making now the perfect time to head to Florida. One of the best places for collecting shells—or shelling, as Floridians call it—is in Lee County on the Sunshine State’s west coast.

Plan your own shelling getaway, and celebrate summer on one of the best beaches for finding hidden treasures.

Sanibel Island

With 15 curvy miles of beach, Sanibel Island scoops up shells like no other, making it among the best places on the planet to hunt for scallops, sand dollars and other finds.

shelling in Florida - Sanibel Island

There’s even a name for the posture beachcombers assume as they search for treasures: the “Sanibel stoop.” For shelling and relaxing in general, you can’t go wrong with any of Sanibel’s beaches; even leashed dogs are welcome. One of the island’s most beloved waterfronts is Bowman’s Beach, featuring miles of unspoiled shores that are worth the 5-minute trek from the parking lot. While you’re in Sanibel, stop by the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum—the only shell museum in the United States.

Captiva Island

Just north of Sanibel is the smaller Captiva Island, boasting more than 250 species of shells. In addition to shelling, Captiva is ideal for couples and families seeking a low-key getaway.

shelling in Florida - Captiva Island

Come out of your shell to try stand-up paddleboarding; dig into a grouper sandwich at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, named after the protagonist in Randy Wayne White’s crime novels; and comb Captiva Beach for a rare junonia shell. If you find one, take a selfie and send for the local newspaper. Because they’re that rare.

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach is packed with shelling and fun for all ages, from watersports and dolphin eco tours to shopping, dining and nightly entertainment at Times Square.

shelling in Florida - Fort Myers Beach

Save room on your itinerary for a visit to Mound House, a museum built atop a 2,000-year-old Native American shell mound. In addition to gallery tours, the museum offers lectures on Calusa Indian culture, guided kayak excursions and more.

Tips for successful shelling

No need to shell out big bucks for the perfect souvenir. With a few pointers, you can find seashells, seaglass, sea beans (yes, those are a thing), fossils and other free treasures on the beaches of Lee County, Florida.

  • When: During summer, the best time to go beachcombing is in the morning, at low tide.
  • Where: Concentrate on the wrack. This is the wet sand area just above the high tide line—usually marked by a line of seaweed and debris—down to the edge of the water.
  • How: First, make sure the shells you’re collecting don’t contain live animals. In Florida, you need a license to harvest live seashells. To clean dead shells, soak them in a 50-50 solution of bleach and water. And be patient. You can find dozens of shell varieties in a day, but you’ll likely have to spend a few hours and explore multiple beaches. But hey, that’s half the fun.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Pin It on Pinterest