Best Beaches for Collecting Shells in the United States

The United States boasts a plethora of stunning and exceptional beaches, offering a wide range of natural wonders and activities. Collecting shells is a popular activity for many beach enthusiasts, and luckily, the US has plenty of beaches that offer an abundance of seashells. No matter if you just started collecting or you are already a seasoned collector, you can find a beach that will satisfy your shell-collecting desires. This blog will explore and list some of the best US beaches for shell collecting and the types of shells you can expect to discover in each area.

1. Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is widely acknowledged as one of the most exceptional beaches in the United States for collecting shells. The island’s distinctive shape curled like a banana, generates a natural funnel that brings an abundance of shells to its shores. This occurrence, along with the island’s fine, white sand beaches and clear, warm waters, makes Sanibel a shell collector’s heaven.

In fact, shell collecting is such a common sport on Sanibel Island that it has its own term: the “Sanibel stoop.” This refers to the stance that beachgoers take when scouring the shores for the perfect seashell. Coquinas, scallops, olives, tulips, conchs, and lightning whelks are among the many shells found on the island.

If you want to go shell collecting on Sanibel Island, go at low tide or after a storm when the shoreline is guaranteed to be studded with shells. Sand dollars, starfish, and sea urchins, on the other hand, are legally protected and should be left alone. Taking these species can result in heavy fines and damage to the beach’s sensitive environment.

2. Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland

Calvert Cliffs State Park, located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, is a hidden treasure for shell collectors and fossil searchers. The soft, sandy cliffs that occasionally calve like glaciers and drop fresh Miocene-era shark teeth and snail fossils on the shore attract keen collectors from all over the East Coast. Because of this unusual geological structure, the beach is a great place to uncover uncommon and fascinating fossils.

But it’s not simply the ancient fossils that draw shell collectors to Calvert Cliffs State Park. The Chesapeake Bay’s moderate waves shove oysters and clam shells up on the sand, allowing plenty of opportunities to uncover these classic beach treasures. Visitors may come upon artifacts of human occupation, such as multicolored beach glass, charred pieces of brick, and even arrowheads, in addition to shells.

Visitors must take an easy two-mile stroll through woods and over wetlands to get to the beach. This keeps the beach blissfully deserted and adds to the sense of adventure and discovery that comes with shell and fossil gathering.

3. Point no Point Beach, Washington

Point No Point near Hansville, Washington, is a beachcomber’s delight, featuring wonderful shelling and breathtaking vistas of Puget Sound. The beach is home to Puget Sound’s oldest lighthouse, which stands guard over the evergreen-lined coast and adds to the scenic setting. Visitors at Point No Point can enjoy a rare combination of beachcombing and whale watching, as passing whales are frequently visible from the shore.

The US Lighthouse Society leases out the lighthouse keeper’s house to visitors, giving them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to spend the night in cozy quarters. The lighthouse was automated in 1977, so visitors may relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery without having to do any work. Guests who stay overnight can get their first crack at low-tide delicacies, adding to the thrill of the trip.

Point No Point also has a wide variety of shells, including dogwinkles, limpets, and geoducks, the world’s largest burrowing clams. Collectors will love the challenge of hunting for these unusual and interesting shells while admiring the gorgeous scenery.


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4. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach, located in Hawaii, is one of the world’s most famous beaches, notable for its two-mile stretch of white sand shoreline that is ideal for a variety of beach activities such as surfing, sunbathing, swimming, and shell collecting. Hawaiian shells are distinctive and unusual, making them very desirable among shell collectors and beachcombers.

Native Hawaiians have historically used seashells for a number of uses, including jewelry, ornamentation, fish hooks, and even ceremonial horns. Visitors to Waikiki Beach can get a personal look at this cultural history while looking for their own seashell treasures to take home.

During low tide, this is the best time to look for shells on Waikiki Beach because the shells are exposed and clearly visible. Walking in the surf as the tide comes in is also a terrific method to find recently washed-ashore shells. Cowrie shells, which Hawaiians use as octopus baits, are common on Waikiki Beach. Visitors may also encounter cone shells such as the Hebrew cone, the spiteful cone, and the golden yellow cone. Other shells found on the shore include swollen bubbles, Adam’s bubbles, and paper bubbles, which are popular for jewelry-making due to their brilliant hues.

5. Cumberland Island, Georgia

Georgia’s Cumberland Island is a shell collector’s heaven. The island, which can only be reached via ferry, offers visitors a beautiful natural setting as well as a plethora of seashells. Dungeness Beach, located south of the ferry pier, is one of the best shelling spots on the island. 

The beach is remote and serene, making it ideal for a leisurely day spent searching for shells. Visitors to Cumberland Island can also examine the ruins of the Carnegie family’s Dungeness home, which was established and built in the late 1800s during the Gilded Age.

Shell collectors might expect to find coquinas, disc clams, augers, shark teeth, olives, heart cockles, ark shells, and moon snails at Dungeness Beach. The shells are available in multiple colors and sizes, making them ideal for crafting or home décor. Cumberland Island, with its natural beauty and abundance of shells, is a must-see trip for shell collectors and nature aficionados alike.

6. Galveston Island, Texas

Galveston Island, off the coast of Texas, is a popular beach location for both beachgoers and shell collectors. Galveston’s nearly 30 miles of shoreline provide a variety of seashells, including several that are unique to the area. The western edge of the island is frequently the greatest area for shell collection, and many locals recommend going after a “blue norther” or a storm.

Hay’s Rock shells, lightning whelks, murex, marsh snail, shark’s eye or moon snail, zebra periwinkle, and several types of clams and scallops are among the most regularly encountered seashells on Galveston Island. These shells can be seen scattered throughout the beach, especially early in the morning when the tide is low.

Visitors to Galveston Island can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and fishing in addition to the shell collection. There are also a number of restaurants, stores, and attractions on the island, like the old Pleasure Pier amusement park and the Moody Gardens nature reserve. 

7. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

Ocracoke Island in North Carolina is a beachcomber’s dream, luring people eager to traverse the length of the Outer Banks to enjoy its wild and unspoiled beaches. Even during the peak summer season, Ocracoke’s beaches are less congested than those of many other East Coast locations. 

The island is a great site to look for seashells, and North Point Beach has a variety of gems. This area is well-known for its shells, which range from small, butterfly-like coquinas to stunning Scotch bonnets.

For the most interesting finds, go to the beach in the mornings following large squalls, especially nor’easters, which bring in a variety of seashells. During your stay, you may come across olives, sand dollars, whelks, baby’s ears, and cowry helmets. 

If you visit during the off-season, like in spring or fall, you will most likely have the beach to yourself and will be able to take your time gathering shells and relaxing in the serene surroundings.

8. Shipwreck Beach, Hawaii

Shipwreck Beach on the island of Lanai is a great place for beachcombers hunting for strange treasures. This eight-mile-long beach, which can only be reached by foot or four-wheel-drive vehicles, is famous for the flotsam and jetsam washed up by strong currents and vigorous trade winds. The beach provides stunning views of Molokai across the channel, adding to the charm of this remote location.

Shipwreck Beach is a beachcomber’s paradise full of natural and man-made marvels. Some of the shells found here include coral, violet snails, leopard cones, and imperial cones. 

Sea slug shells and textile cones, whose cross-hatched pattern of browns is reflected in Polynesian fabric designs, can also be found on the beach. Aside from these natural treasures, the beach occasionally offers unusual artifacts, such as blown-glass floats from Japanese fishing nets.

In conclusion, the US is home to some of the best beaches for collecting shells. Whether you’re looking for the exotic shells of Hawaii or the historical treasures of Cumberland Island, there’s a beach out there waiting for you. So grab your bucket and shovel, put on your sun hat, and head out to these amazing beaches to start your collection of beautiful and unique seashells!