Tips for the beach­comber

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Trea­sures From the Sea

Sani­bel Is­land's beaches are world fa­mous for shelling. More than 300 shal­low-wa­ter va­ri­eties of shells can be found.


Sani­bel Is­land is part of a plateau that ex­tends for miles into the Gulf of Mex­ico and acts as a shelf upon which shells gather. Winds, storms and waves de­liver the shells to the beaches.


The best time for shelling is at low tide, and the lower the tide the bet­ter. New and full moons mean that the tide will be at its low­est, so don’t just check the tide charts, check the moon charts too. Af­ter a storm, par­tic­u­larly a win­ter storm, the shelling is at its best. The nas­tier and windier the storm, the bet­ter.


The high-tide line is where you will find the most shells, but they may be bro­ken from rolling in the surf. Shells are most eas­ily spot­ted if you walk care­fully and slowly along the muddy area of sand just be­fore the ocean. The ti­dal pool is the best place to find the largest shells. It means get­ting your feet wet, and the best thing to do is to crouch down and put your hands into the surf to feel in the sand.


The law pro­hibits the col­lect­ing of live shells. If it is still alive, please re­turn it to the wa­ter. Never take a live shell.

1 Junonia

A very spe­cial shell, the cov­eted Junonia mea­sures 3 inches. If you find one, the is­land news­pa­pers will take your photo.

2 Crown Conch

Aka King’s Crown, it’s at­tached to man­grove roots and eats oys­ters.

3 Banded Tulip

Mea­sur­ing 2 inches long, it’s named for the dark lines en­cir­cling the shell.

4 Fig

This del­i­cate shell, mea­sur­ing 3 to 4 inches, is hard to find in­tact.

5 Lace Murex

A gor­geous sou­venir, this brown, white or black shell mea­sures 2 inches.

6 Spiny Jewel Box

This white shell with long spines can some­times be found in pairs that are joined.

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