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Quick Guide to Shelling on Sanibel Island

Shells on Sanibel Island FloridaYou’ve probably heard about the world famous shelling beaches on Sanibel Island. If you haven’t already gone on a shelling adventure, then you haven’t fully experienced everything the island has to offer. The geography of Sanibel Island makes this the perfect area to collect gorgeous shells by the handfuls. Since the island is curved with an east-west orientation and has a broad underwater shelf, the currents from the Gulf of Mexico fill the sandy beaches with shells. Sanibel Island offers some of the best opportunities to find, observe, and collect shells from the sea.

Where to Go Shelling

You’ll find the best shelling on the gulf side beaches from the Lighthouse to North Captiva. Discover a wide variety of shells and some of the best shelling in the world on Sanibel Island. Some popular shelling beaches include Lighthouse Park, Gulfside City Park, Bowmans Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and Captiva Beach.

When to Go Shelling

The best time to collect seashells is early morning during low tide when the shells are more exposed. Low tides during a full moon or new moon and right after Gulf storms are great times to find shells. You’ll be surprised at how many shells a strong wind or storm drives up to the beaches. During the low tide summer months, it’s not unusual to find 50 to 60 different kinds of shells in a day. Because the beaches change every day, you can expect a new experience every time.

What to Do

Bring a sieve and scoop to collect and sift through the shells on the beach and, most importantly, a bucket or a bag to place them in. You might want to pick up shells with your bare hands and use your fingers to filter out the sand. Keep in mind that collecting live shells is prohibited. If you want to preserve your treasure of shells, it’s important to clean and polish them.

Types of Shells

Sanibel Island has around 250 shell species, so you’ll find an abundance of different types and sizes including conch, Junonia, Lightning Whelk, cockle, scallops, murex, and many, many more! Just imagine the hundreds of thousands of seashells ready to be found. So, kick off your shoes, put your toes in the sand, enjoy the Southwest Florida sunshine, and start shelling! 

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