Where to Find Shells on Sanibel Island

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Are you trying to find out where to find shells on Sanibel Island?  You came to the right place. There is not a better place to go shelling than the Seashell Capital of the World. Sanibel Island is home to more than 250 species of shells.

When you want to find out where to find shells on Sanibel Island, you need to go to Lighthouse Beach and Blind Pass, especially during low tide to find the best Sanibel shelling opportunities. 

We’ve got you covered with the tips you need to find perfect shells.

shells on the beach

One of the best times to find shells on Sanibel Island is in the early morning hours.

Where Can You Find Shells on Sanibel Island?

The first tip we will give you is Gulf-side beaches are the best places to find shells on vacation. All of the area’s beaches from Lighthouse Beach to North Captiva Island are great shelling locations. They contain thousands of shells you can find. Locations to go shelling include:

  • Causeway Beaches
  • Gulfside City Park
  • Bowman’s Beach
  • Blind Pass Beach
  • Turner Beach at Blind Pass
  • Captiva Beach, Tarpon Beach
  • Lighthouse Beach

Best Places to Find Seashells in Sanibel

Shells can be found anywhere on Sanibel Island as we mentioned above. However, there are two places that locals know where to find some really good shells:

  • Lighthouse Beach: Take a stroll on a beach with a view of the Sanibel Lighthouse on the east end of Sanibel Island, taking in the scenery and scooping up tons of shells. Shelling tip: Get in the water and scoop up shells that like to collect in and around the Sanibel Fishing Pier.
  • Blind Pass: Currents bring sand and tons of shells into Blind Pass. Shelling tip: A jetty on the Captiva Island side of Blind Pass is known for catching and securing shells in place until your shelling hands scoop them up!

Typically, you will find smaller shells on the Lighthouse part of the island area and larger shells and conch shells closer to Captiva Island and on North Captiva Island, which is only accessible by boat.

What is The Sanibel Stoop?

Sanibel Island is such a shelling hub that there’s an unofficial phrase for shelling named after Sanibel Island: The Sanibel Stoop. That’s the stoop locals and visitors call people bending over searching for coveted seashell treasure along the shoreline.

What is the Best Month for Shelling on Sanibel Island?

Avid shell collectors should circle October through November, when the tides in the area are at their lowest, making it a great time to discover new shell treasures.

You can find great shells in the summer months too, including the month of May.

Best Times to Find Shells

There are certain times of the day you can find the best shells washing ashore. If you want the pick of the litter, go shelling during:

  • Low tide
  • After a storm
  • During a strong current
  • Early in the morning
  • A full moon or a new moon

It’s during these times that new shells wash up onto the beach for beachgoers to find. A Sanibel Island tide chart to keep tabs on low tides can be found here. Keep tabs on a moon phase calendar too.


We have the tips you need to find shells on Sanibel Island.

What Do You Need to GO Shelling?

There is a ton of awesome shells to find on the shores of Sanibel Island. Don’t look like a first timer. Come prepared with a bucket or bag to hold your shell loot and a small rake or shovel to rake through the shells to find the keepers among the broken shells, which are also known as throwback shells. We also recommend a mesh bag to sift out the sand.

Best Shells to Find on Sanibel

With more than 250 species of shells to search for on Sanibel Island, shelling can get overwhelming. Here are some shells you can keep a lookout for to get you started:

  • Coquinas
  • Whelks
  • Sand dollars
  • Scallops

Seashell Finding Tip: Try shuffling your feet in the water to help move and bring half hidden shells to the surface.

What is the Rarest Shell in Florida?

The rarest shell is the Junonia, also known as the Scaphella junonia. The great news is you can find it here on Sanibel Island. They are hard to find though. They are typically found a foot beneath the sand, closer to dunes.

Shelling tip: A Junonia is one of the most coveted shells you can find on Sanibel Island. That’s because it’s rare to come across one. When you find one, shout it from the beach and watch as other beachgoers bow down to praise you and crown thee “shelling aficionado of the day.”

Is it Illegal to Take Sand Dollars from the Beach in Florida?

You might not know this but it’s illegal for residents and tourists to remove live sand dollars from the shore. The Florida Department of Protection prohibits you from taking live sand dollars, sea stars, sea urchins and sea stars from the water.

If the sand dollars you find are gray and has a noticeable spiny texture that is moving, the sand dollar is alive. Live sand dollars also leave a yellow tint on your skin from a pigment they excrete called echinochrome. If the sand dollar is whiter with no noticeable spine movement, the sand dollar is no longer alive and can be collected.

What You Need for Shelling

It’s easy to get lost in shelling and spend a good portion of the day looking for shells as you listen to the waves hit the shore. Come prepared with:

  • A hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Water
  • Buckets for your shells

All of these items  will help your adventure, keep you comfortable and keep you safe from the harsh UV rays.

shells on the beach

Come prepared with a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and water while you look for shells.

How Do You Dig for Seashells?

It’s not as hard as it seems. Sometimes you should look for shells off the beaten path where everyone looks along the shoreline. Try these tips:

  • Go early in the morning
  • Look where the sand is wet further away from the coastline where everyone is walking
  • Bring a decent size shovel and a gardening spade to scoop up the sand

What is the Best Way to Clean Seashells?

When shelling commences, it’s important to clean your shells before they are proudly displayed. Here’s what you need to know to clean them up:

  • Soak the sea shells in water or a 50/50 solution of water and bleach to get the sand out of them.
  • Take them out of your soaking solution, scrub them and rinse them with water.
  • Let the shells dry on some paper towels in the sun.

How to Display Your Seashells

Once you have cleaned all the shells, spread out your loot and be proud of your shelling accomplishments. Engage in a shell trade with relatives and use some of the smaller shells you or your children acquired to make a shell necklace. Remember your shelling adventure forever by filling mason jars with shells you can keep some place special at home or fill up an empty glass lamp with your Sanibel shells. Don’t be afraid to show off your shelling collection, which will also remind you to take another adventure soon to Sanibel Island!

Did you know collecting shells and placing them on your window sills is good luck and good energy as well? That’s another great reason to collect shells.

Can You Tell How Old a Seashell Is?

Did you know you can tell how old a seashell is? Once your shells are clean, have some fun and find out their ages. All you have to do is count the number of ridges and divide that number by 365. This answer tells you how approximately how many years the seashell was with a live mollusk before it either passed away or just left its shell for your collection!

Rent a Boat at Port Sanibel Marina

Now that you have the tips you need to find perfect shells, all you need to do next is rent a boat or schedule a charter to take you out and about on the outer islands for a shelling excursion offered through our charter partners at Port Sanibel Marina! Utilizing a boat is a great way to spend the day while shelling and enjoying nature on Sanibel Island. Need a place to stay? Book a fully furnished condo at Royal Shell Vacation Rentals. Call us at 239-437-1660 to plan your trip and water sports activities today!