10 Best Beaches To Find Shells in Florida

Guide on finding the Best Beaches To Find Shells in Florida

A large and perfect shell is an exquisite fine with mesmerizing details and the sound of the sea.

If you love shelling and want to expand your collection with some exotic shells, the beaches of Florida offer some of the best shelling in the country.

Want to know the best shelling spots? In this article, we’ll run through the 10 best beaches to find shells in Florida. 

10 Best Beaches To Find Shells in Florida

The Florida peninsula with its barrier and satellite islands sits between the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

With all this water, it’s a no-brainer that some of the country’s most unusual shells are going to wash up in large numbers on Floridian shores.

Here are the very best beaches for finding unique and unusual shells to add to your collection.

1. Fernandina Beach

The northern Atlantic coast of Florida is usually neglected when it comes to shelling, but if you know where to look there are some pretty good finds.

Fernandina Beach
Fernandina Beach

You’re most likely to have success by taking a trip to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, just a short trip from Jacksonville. 

The selection is not going to be as remarkable as the more exotic parts of the state, but we’re sure you’ll not go home empty-handed.

Fernandina Beach is a hotspot for finding whelk shells and the most determined shell hunters can pick up a decent haul of shark teeth. 

Regular visitors to the beach advise that shark teeth consistently show up on these northern shores.


The sizes that have been found range from fingernail-sized to chompers that are as big as your fist. The largest finds usually turn up after a storm or dredging of the St. Mary’s River Channel. 

If the family is getting tired of shelling, you can always stop by Fernandina Beach park which has a children’s playground and a well-maintained lawn area for picnicking and games.

2. The Ten Thousand Islands

The Ten Thousand Islands is a well-known Florida shelling destination that attracts tens of thousands of visitors on shelling tours each year.

Looking for shells on The Ten Thousand Islands
The Ten Thousand Islands

This cluster of tiny islands are a sheller’s paradise as many of the beaches are relatively undisturbed, leaving lots of gorgeous intact shells for you to find. 

The variety of shells available to find on Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands is breathtaking.

You can be sure of plenty of rare finds including:

  • Junonia shells
  • Sand dollars
  • Conch shells
  • Worm-snail shells
  • Florida spiny jewel boxes
  • Murex shells
  • Lightning whelk shells

This island chain is most readily accessed by boat.

And for the best shelling experience, opt for one of the numerous shelling tours that will take you to the islands and guide you to a haul of unique shells. 

Let experienced guides take you to undisturbed stretches of sand for the best finds amongst these mangrove islets.

What to Expect? Shelling expeditions usually last between two and six hours, including boat travel and refreshments.

3. South Beach on Marco Island

South Beach on the gorgeous Marco Island is another destination that offers amazing shelling opportunities.

Looking for shells on South Beach on Marco Island
South Beach on Marco Island

This pristine beach offers miles upon miles of white sands and cool turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico

Many shell hunters start a day at the top of the island and work their way down to this lesser-known beach that runs along the southern edge of Marco Island.

For many it’s a surprise just how great the shell selection is despite not being that popular. 

If you take a guided trip, you may end up down here.

Here’s what you can find on South Beach:

  • Moon shells 
  • Lion’s paws
  • Clams
  • Cockles
  • Fighting conches
  • Limpets
  • Murexes
  • Cones 
  • Coquinas

In addition, you should be able to spot some interesting marine life, including urchins, horseshoe crabs, and starfishes.

Many visitors have even spotted stingrays and leaping dolphins from the shore.

4. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is probably the first beach that comes to mind when Floridians give out shelling recommendations.

The island forms part of a strand of barrier islands that sit in the Gulf of Mexico.

Looking for shells on Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island

Just a short drive from Fort Myers, the City of Sanibel is one of Florida’s premier resorts with multi-million dollar beachfront homes, celebrities, and luxury accommodations.

This exclusive Florida destination also boasts a lighthouse and of course, fantastic shelling. 

Looking for an affordable place to stay on Sanibel Island? Check the latest deals at booking.com

Sanibel Island has a great reputation for shelling.

This is because the ‘J’ shape of the island acts like a natural scoop and works with the Gulf currents to net large amounts of unusual shells.

Hit the beaches of Sanibel Island to find an excellent range of shell species, including:

  • False angel wings
  • Conches
  • Junonia shells
  • Scallops
  • Coquinas
  • Murexes
  • Olives 
  • Tulip shells
  • Sand dollars
  • Lightning whelk shells

One downside of the popularity of Sanibel Island is that you won’t be searching alone.

It can get pretty crowded and of course, you’ll have a lot of beach furniture and tourist traffic. 

Watch out for the alligators! The interior of the island is filled with them, so it’s not impossible to have an encounter with one. 

5. Cedar Key

Cedar Key is another cluster of islands on the Gulf Coast that is amazing for its shelling finds. It is located conveniently between Orlando and Tallahassee.

Cedar Key
Cedar Key

Though its beaches are small and a bit overlooked, they are crammed with gorgeous shells.

And because the Cedar Key beaches aren’t so popular for shelling, you’ll have a bounty of beautiful shells all to yourself!

Shell species to find at Cedar Key, Florida, include:

  • Lightning whelks
  • Baby ears
  • True tulips
  • Banded tulips
  • Augers
  • Crown conches
  • Olives
  • Pear whelks
  • Shark eyes
  • Florida horse conches
  • Dove shells 
  • Tampa drills
  • Angel wings
  • Florida rock shells
  • Prickly cockles
  • Lucine
  • Sunday clams

Take advantage of the numerous tidal pools that fill with shells to fill your pockets and bags.

The shells tend to be smaller than in other locations, but shifting tides keep the variety high. 

6. Tigertail Beach

Tigertail Beach on Marco Island is a popular shelling hotspot where you’ll find the most shell species in Florida.

It is more accessible than some of the other beaches on Marco Island, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll miss out if you go!

Looking for shells on Tigertail Beach
Tigertail Beach

Amazing shells you can find on Tigertail Beach include:

  • Fighting conch shells
  • Horse conch shells
  • Sand dollars
  • Calico scallops
  • Moon snail shells
  • Lightning whelk shells 

Tigertail beach is also a great destination for families or group trips.


This is because those who get bored with shelling can find something else to do easily.

There’s lots of space for lounging, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking and birding. Kids can enjoy the playground, and y’all can picnic for a great day out!

7. Caladesi Island State Park

Caladesi Island State Park is on Caladesi Island in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Clearwater Beach.

You can get to it across St. Joseph Sound, right next to Honeymoon Island which is also great for shelling.

Caladesi Island State Park
Caladesi Island State Park

A ferry runs between the two islands and is the only access to Caladesi unless you take a canoe or kayak. 

Shelling pros love Caladesi Island. As it’s a state park wildlife is protected and thrives.

Even though the state park gets a lot of tourists you’ll find an abundance of beautiful shells on Caladesi’s shores.

Among the 40 shell species  you can find on Caladesi Island are:

  • Clamshells
  • Clam quahogs
  • Scotch bonnet shells
  • Sand dollars

There are lots of opportunities to spot marine life while you hunt shells on Caladesi Island.

You’ll probably see some hermit crabs, urchins, sting rays, dolphins anemones, along with diverse seabirds.

Bring the family along to enjoy the excellent amenities of the state park, including some beautiful inland trails. 

8. Captiva Island

Captiva Island is the twin island to the more famous Sanibel island mentioned above.

The two are joined by a road, for the ultimate shelling experience. Because Sanibel Island is so popular you’ll find that Captiva Island has less footfall.

Captiva Island
Captiva Island

Even though the narrow strip of Captiva Island does not have the best shelling compared to Sanibel, it has beautiful sands and is quieter. 

Like Sanibel, you’ll still find a magnificent array of shells washing up on the shores of Sanibel.

On this isolated shoreline, you can find:

  • False angel wings
  • Conches
  • Junonia shells
  • Scallops
  • Coquinas
  • Murexes
  • Olives 
  • Tulip shells
  • Sand dollars
  • Lightning whelk shells

Any groups you encountered on Captiva Island are likely to be shelling.

Start your day on the beach early to make the most of the morning and late afternoon or early evening low tides.

The change in tide brings a fresh selection of shells to pick, and the evening tide is considered the best time to hunt.

If you visit Captiva rather than Sanibel first, you’re likely to have the best shells to yourself, with Sanibel shelling visitors heading over to Captiva later in the day. 

9. Shell Island

If you’re heading for the excitement of Panama City Beach, take a few hours to head over to Shell Island, a delightfully uninhabited island that is right next to the beach.

Looking for shells on Shell Island
Shell Island

This barrier island couldn’t be more different from the busy city, and anyone who loves shelling makes a point of heading there for some fantastic finds.

You’ll have a 7-mile stretch of shoreline to roam that sits between the Gulf of Mexico and St Andrew’s Bay. 

Given the name of this island, the pickings aren’t as great as they used to be, but if you stay close to the waterline, make the most of low tides, or frankly wade in, you’ll find some excellent shells, including:

  • Moon snails
  • Conches
  • Pin shells
  • Whelks
  • Olive shells
  • Periwinkles
  • Sand dollars

Once you get to Panama City, you can reach Shell Island using the shuttle. Others in your party may want to sunbathe, snorkel or spot dolphins while you hunt for shells.

Other great wildlife on Shell Island include deer, ghost crabs, and green sea turtles. If you head west along the beach you’ll reach St Andrew’s State Park Shell Island Panama City, Florida.

10. Jupiter Island

Let’s head back over to the Atlantic side of the state for our final pick.

The Gulf Coast is just so rich in shells that the Atlantic shoreline is often overlooked.

Jupiter Island is one of the best areas for shell hunting by the Atlantic Ocean.

Looking for shells on Jupiter Island
Jupiter Island

It is a narrow island that is close to the city of Jupiter, near the Jonathan Dickinson State Park. 

This destination shouldn’t be underestimated, with over 200 shell types on this island.

Floridians head over to this island to curate a varied shell collection that includes favorites like:

  • Lion’s paws
  • Coquinas
  • Sand dollars
  • Spectral bittersweets

Spectral bittersweets, in particular, are abundant on the beaches of Jupiter Island.

You can locate some of the best finds around the limestone boulder reef in Coral Cove State Park.

Last-minute tips for finding shells in Florida

Shelling is a great beach pastime and is popular with many Floridians.

It is a great destination if you’re serious about collecting shells.

Useful Tips For Finding Shells In Florida
Tips For Finding Shells In Florida

Before you go, here are some tips that will ensure you have a safe and productive time:

  • Use a shell net: If shells are few on the sand, you can still find some great shells by using a shell net, to net empty shells from shallow water. These lightweight bait nets are cheap and easy to pack. Wade out a little, toss your net, and see what you drag in. 
  • Carry a shell bag: A shelling bag is a breathable mesh bag that you can use to stow the shells you collect. When your bag is full, you can dip the entire bag in the water to wash off the bag. These waterproof polyester bags are strong and easy to clean. 
  • Return living creatures to the sea: This is a must for Florida as it is illegal to take living mollusks and other sea creatures from the sea. If it crawls or squelches, toss it back! Florida Department of Environmental Protection Rule 46-26 bans shellers from taking living marine life away from the beaches without a permit. Shellers and tourists can face hefty fines or go to prison for falling foul of this rule. 
  • Cover your feet: Urchins, sharp shells, rocks, and even stingrays can inflict a nasty injury on the feet. Wear footwear that covers the soles of your feet. 
  • Protect yourself from the sun and stay hydrated: It’s easy to forget how long you’ve spent in the sun while you’re on an exciting hunt for your favorite shells. Don’t forget to take water with you, wear a hat, and use sunscreen on exposed skin. 

In conclusion

Clean, warm waters, soft sands, and tropical vegetation have put Florida’s beaches on the map. What better place could you choose to spend a few hours searching for beautiful shells?

Plan a great trip to the Florida beach of your choice. If you’re still unsure where to go, a guided tour can help you find the best shells! 

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